The Eighth Parliament, which ushered in Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin as Speaker, was in itself ushered in with violence and disturbances. The whole world watched on as those who were titled, honourables, re-enacted their secondary school days when students run riot by singing of war songs before violence begun.
All through the Fourth Republic, Parliament was known to be such a peaceful place with the only act of violence, if itcould be called violence, jaw-jawing and hostile verbal exchanges.
There was a recorded act of violence once and that took place on the floor of the House at exactly 10:15 am on Friday July 27, 2007. The Daily Guide reported that Hon. Alhaji Abdul-Rauf Tanko Ibrahim, NDC Member for Yagaba-Kubori, landed a hefty slap on the left cheek of Hon. Sampson Ahi, NDC Member for Juaboso. That was in the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic.
That was then and this unjustifiable act of violence did not spill over to create a free-for-all brawl.
Unfortunately, this Eighth Parliament has come to make history. With its hung nature where the Majority Group is only one seat ahead of the Minority, many Ghanaians believed that proper independent and non-partisan work was going to take place in the House. But, certainly not so under the stewardship of Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin.
Here is a Speaker who at the least opportunity, will keep reminding Ghanaians that he is the Speaker and has powers, even powers exceeding those of the First Gentleman of the land, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. He bragged the other day that he could remove the president but the president cannot remove him. If it were in some other country he could be arrested and charged with treason, because he has no such powers. The laws are there on how a president can be removed constitutionally and nowhere was the speaker of Parliament mentioned as part of the process.
Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin could also come out to warn the Police that it cannot just serve notice to invite any MP to go and explain charges levelled against that MP. He seemed to have portrayed Parliament as a House of the Untouchables.
There were times when the Speaker’s speeches clearly revealed a partisan nature in him, which could be speculated that he wanted to bring the ruling government down, After all, he is the Number Three Gentleman in the land and keeps reminding us about that.
This partisan nature clearly showed up during the vote on the acceptance of the 2022 Budget. The NPP MPs knowing they did not have the numbers on their side walked out before the vote, leaving behind 137 NDC MPs. That number fell short of the constitutional minimum requirement of 138 members.
The Speaker went ahead and presided over a vote on the acceptance or otherwise of the 2022 Budget, knowing very well that it was wrong and unacceptable since it was an act against the Supreme Law of Ghana. He cannot claim ignorance on this matter, because of the following:
1). Assuming he was new in the House, he should have gone through the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana and the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana and here specifically in areas that dealt with the Legislature.
Rt. Hon Alban Bagbin would then know that Standing Orders 109 and Article 104 (1) speak of the same thing and it is that with such a decision facing the House at least half of the total number of members must be present first before decision is made.
2). Moreover, we have a speaker here, who had served in Parliament for twenty-eight straight years. He could certainly have drawn on experience to deal with the matter that faced the House on that Friday of November 26, 2021.
3). And thirdly, talking about tapping from experience, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin, could refer to what took place on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday December 22, 2015 when Rt. Hon. Doe Adjaho was speaker.
There was a decision taken with a total of 133 of the 275 members of the House and when his attention was drawn to this, Rt. Hon Adjaho had this to say, “Hon. Members, you are aware that this House is not supreme. We are subject to the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana…. There is quorum to do business and that is one-third of the House and there is a quorum to take decision. The quorum to take a decision is regulated by Article 104 (1) … The fundamental question is that, at the time that the vote was taken, did we have at least half of the Hon. Members present? If we go by the result of the headcount… we would get 133. Therefore, there is a serious constitutional issue there… we do not have the number, constitutionally speaking, to take a decision. Therefore, no decision has been taken.”
This cannot be lost on Rt. Hon Alban Bagbin, because as MP then, even if he was not in the House at the time of that vote took place, he would have read the developments in his copy of the Hansard.
Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin presided over an illegality and fled town to Dubai for medical review or treatment. Meanwhile, in his absence, the Majority Group met on Tuesday November 30, 2021 to reverse the illegality that took place on the Friday before. The Minority also boycotted that proceeding.
Back in the House, the Minority raise objections to that fact that constitutionally what the Majority did was wrong since only 137 of them were legible to vote, since, Hon. Joseph Osei Owusu, who is the first deputy speaker, had taken over the chair of speaker thus he could not be counted as the 138th member in the House.
Strangely, so after all the NDC MPs knew about this minimum requirement and yet voted without the constitutionally mandated number to reject the budget? Another brawl took seat in Parliament and one MP attempt to abduct the Speaker’s chair.
The 2022 Budget was thus accepted by the House and debates and votes on its specifics started. Soon or too soon it got to the controversial E-Levy and for some reasons, Rt. Hon Alban Bagbin was not able to conduct the vote. He had to retire to office and then left Parliament House to the comfort of his home.
Another brawl took place and this is where Ghanaians must sit up and if possible, replace all the MPs, especially the grossly violent ones, on the next parliamentary ballot papers. How could an MP come to House armed with a sharp razor and in an attempt to maybe slit the throat of a member on the opposite side, luckily just slashed his lip? Are Ghanaians going to sit quietly as our MPs will start carrying assault rifles, ground-to-ground missile launchers, bazookas and armoured tanks into the House, before we all cry foul and start thinking of what to do?The question is what was that razor blade doing in the pocket of that MP when he set off from home to the House?
This is the Parliament, which the Rt. Hon Alban Bagbin is administering or presiding over. And he is the seventh speaker of the House and we all believe that seven is a sacred number which is holy and divine. Well, what does it matter? Rt. Hon Alban Bagbin is the second Catholic to become speaker but Catholics would naturally not do these things.
The Vote on Anti-LGBTQ+ Law
On the Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill maturing in Parliament, many Ghanaians are praying and hoping that the conduct of the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Mr Alban Bagbin against the NPP MPs and the NPP government, will not compel parliamentarians of the ruling Party to vote against it. The Speaker has clearly demonstrated his passion for that bill to be passed into law. He went ahead and made it clear that it would be successfully passed under his watch. With that comment, the NPP member for Mpraeso, Hon Davis Ansah Opoku, reminded him that, as speaker he could not predetermine results of a vote placed on the floor of the House.
We only pray that the Majority Group will not throw this NDC initiated Bill out of the window because of how the Speaker and the NDC MPs are conducting themselves against the NPP.
Education on E-Levy Required
The NDC has started issuing out interpretations of the E-Levy to Ghanaians which will do government lots of harm. For example, we are now being told that there is a hidden charge of 34% of total transactions in a year which will be paid by people. Meaning after paying the 1.75% on each transaction as mandated, one will have to pay 34% on total transactions made in a year.
The fact is that any new tax, if not well explained can lead to public protests. We should have the VAT and the Kume Preko demonstrations in mind, by now.
As an end of year message to the Government of Ghana, I will humbly suggest that even before the year ends, government must begin education on the E-Levy and how it will operate. This is very essential, since at the moment Ghanaians are very gullible to accept any falsehood as the truth so far as this E-Levy is concern.
Hon Daniel Dugan