- Sarah Adwoa Safo, Henry Quartey and Kennedy Agyepong to be busted with absenteeism
The fight over the control of the Parliament, which started on the eve of January 7, 2021, with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) losing the Speaker position to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), is still raging high in the House and will consume four legislators.
While, the government side, has almost succeeded through judicial to oust the NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North, James Gyakye Quayson from performing parliamentary duties, the NDC on the other hand, has also gotten the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin to refer three MPs on the NPP ticket to the Privileges Committee for absenting themselves for over fifteen sittings of the House.
According to the Speaker, the absence of the three MPs namely; Sarah Adwoa Safo, Henry Quartey and Kennedy Agyepong, without his permission constitutes a breach of the rules of the House; a situation already adjudicated on by the Court of Appeal that any many MP who automatically absents himself for 15 working days without permission forfeits his seat.
In the case of James Gyakye Quayson, he had had the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, joining the NPP lawyer and DVLA Board Chairman, Frank Davies, as well as a lawyer for the Electoral Commission (EC) in getting the Supreme Court set April 13, 2021, to rule on an injunction application filed by an NPP supporter, Michael Ankomah Nimfah, against performing his parliamentary duties.
The interlocutory injunction was filed on January 27, 2022, after a High Court Judgment declaring James Gyakye Quayson’s seat vacant by the Cape Coast High Court, following the issue of dual citizenship on July 28, 2021.
James Gyakye Quayson, a philanthropist, had made history in the 2020 election by winning the Assin North seat which had been a safe seat for the NPP.
He has since not known peace, facing issues of his Canadian citizenship. The technical issue is that he did not renounce his Canadian citizenship at the time of filing to contest for the seat.
What is compounding this matter is that both the NDC and NPP have 137 seats each in Parliament, and the ruling party, wants to undo that by going into a by-election to get back the seat for a simple majority in the House.
The cases of Sarah Adwoa Safo, Henry Quartey and Kennedy Agyepong, all of the NPP, have had Mr Bagbin, urging the Privileges Committee of Parliament to provide its report to the House two weeks after the House reconvenes from recess.
This follows a petition by the former MP for Kumbumgu Constituency, Ras Mubarak, to the Speaker of Parliament to deal with the matter of absenteeism in the House by disciplining the lawmakers for absenting themselves from Parliament without permission.
In his petition, he said “It has come to my notice through parliament’s Hansard, and newspaper and radio reports that some four Members of Parliament, namely Hon. Sarah Adwoa Safo, MP for Dome-Kwabenya; Hon. Henry Quartey, MP for Ayawaso Central; Hon. Ebenezer Kojo Kum, MP for Ahanta West; and Hon. Ken Ohene Agyapong, MP for Assin Central have all absented themselves from Parliament for more than fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament without the permission of Mr. Speaker in writing.
“In view of this reported breach of the constitutional provision, I respectfully petition your high office to direct for their conduct to be referred to the Privileges Committee for consideration and necessary action.”
He said the MPs, had flouted provisions of Article 97(1) (c) of the Constitution and Parliament’s Standing Order 16(1) which frowns on Members absenting themselves for 15 sitting days without permission from the speaker.
Per Article 97(1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution, a Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat “if he is absent, without the permission in writing of the Speaker, and he is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet.”
Mr Mubarak in his petition, said Parliament’s Hansard has captured the MPs, as having flouted the rule on absenteeism and should be made to appear before the Privileges Committee of the House.
Meanwhile, the NDC MP for Asawase, Muntaka Mubarak, has challenged the decision by the Speaker to refer the three MPs to the privilege’s committee of Parliament.
Mr Bagbin during proceedings yesterday, referred the NPP MPs after receiving a petition against them for absenting themselves from Parliament.
But Muntaka contested the Speaker’s ruling and said if the decision is allowed to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent which can be used by a “dictator speaker” in future to hurt lawmakers.
“If we allow this to stand it will become a precedent, tomorrow it may hurt all of us,” he said.
But the Speaker in his reply defended his decision, saying “you don’t want the speaker to be a dictator, but you are prepared to create room for committees to be dictators. When the committee decides then that is it.
“The matter is before the House, it is not just before the Committee. I can’t come and sit here to declare a seat vacant without following a procedure.”
He added that the matter will be submitted to the House and the House, will take a decision on its report.
“Privilege’s committee, you are so directed, handle the matter, report back to the House,” Mr Bagbin said.
In the Supreme Court yesterday, the panel of seven Justices presided over by Justice Jones Victor Dotse with Justice Agnes Dordzie, Justice Nene Amegatcher, Justice Mariama Owusu, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, Justice Henrietta Mensah Bonsu and Justice Yonni Kulendi, fixed the date after hearing the parties.
Earlier the Apex court, had dismissed a review of application blocking the hearing of the injunction filed by Michael Ankomah Nimfah.
A resident of Assin Bereku in the Central Region, filed a petition at the Cape Coast High Court, seeking to annul the declaration of Mr Gyakye Quayson as the MP for Assin North, whom he had insisted that Mr Quayson, had dual citizenship prior to filing nominations to contest for the Assin North parliamentary seat during the 2020 polls.
Counsel for the MP, Tsatsu Tsikata, withdrew the motion on stay of proceedings after which it was struck out by the court.
The Supreme Court yesterday told the venerable Tsatsu Tsikata to stop wasting its time and to assist the Court to make progress on the Assin North election-dispute-related application before it.
The Court presiding over the Gyakye Quayson case, said it had the duty to manage the case to a smooth and fruitful determination, while Mr Tsikata, insisted on “Counsel’s right to be on the record”.
The exchanges between Mr Tsikata and the bench started when the President of the Court, His lordship Jones Dotse, announced that the panel had decided to hear a preliminary objection to an injunction before it at the same time as it heard the interlocutory injunction itself.
The venerable lawyer who was already up on his feet to move his preliminary objection, however, insisted that it would be prejudicial to hear the substantive injunction application without first hearing the preliminary objection.
This insistence and back and forth with the President of the Court, drew Her Ladyship Agnes Dordzie in to try to explain the situation.
Her Ladyship explained that the Court was constrained for time as there were many other cases waiting to be heard.
“People have travelled here for their cases, and you cannot have the whole day. It is our duty to manage the case, and we have decided to hear it this way, and so shall it be,” Justice Dordzie added.
“Enough of all this,” she concluded, sternly.
But, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, would not let it lie.
“Enough of the law? Enough of authorities? Enough of what binds us? Your lordships can proceed whichever way, but it is also the right of counsel to be on record on why the way you’re proceeding is prejudicial”, he argued.
The Court, in the end, ruled that the preliminary objection filed by Counsel should be argued after the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction has been moved.
The Cape Coast High Court subsequently declared the 2020 parliamentary election held in the Assin North Constituency as null and void, as it upheld that Mr Quayson breached the provisions of the constitution with regard to dual citizenship.
Mr Quayson subsequently appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal in Cape Coast, but the case was subsequently dismissed.
Michael Ankomah-Nimfah, also dragged the issue to the Supreme Court in a bid to have Mr Quayson, prevented from carrying himself as the MP for Assin North.
The Supreme Court will on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, rule on the motion seeking to stop James Gyakye Quayson from holding himself out as the Member of Parliament for Assin North.
Arguing the motion before the 7-member Supreme Court panel on Tuesday, the lawyer for Michael Ankomah-Nimfah, Frank Davis, said his client has established grievous breaches of the 1992 Constitution, and the other electoral laws against the disputed MP.