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45 timelines, incidents and scandals that defined Ghana’s 7th Parliament

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Wed, 6 Jan 2021 Source: Joseph Opoku, Contributor

The life of Ghana’s 7th Parliament which started on the dawn of 7th January 2017 with the swearing-in of Prof. Mike Ocquaye as Speaker, will come to an end on the 6th of January 2021 to make way for the 8th Parliament the day after.

This 7th Parliament has survived bribery and visa fraud scandals, 11 walkouts, the gunning down in cold blood of a member and death of another through illness, COVID-19, as well as a street clash between some members and armed men and women of the Ghana Police Service.

Two MPs were reprimanded as well for committing contemptuous acts against the 7th Parliament.

Here is a catalogue of 45 timelines, incidents and scandals that defined Ghana’s 7th Parliament.

27th January 2017: The Agyarko/Ayariga Bribery Scandal

Exactly 20 days after the new MPs were sworn into office, NDC MP for Bawku Central Mahama Ayariga alleged in an interview with Radio Gold, and subsequently Joy FM, that members of the Appointments Committee had been bribed 3,000 Cedis each to approve the nomination of Boakye Agyarko as Energy Minister. He claimed Chairman of Parliament’s Appointments Committee Joe Osei Owusu and Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak were the conduits.

The two denied the claim. NDC MP for North Tongu Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and NDC MP for Tamale North Alhassan Suhuyini publicly backed Mr. Ayariga’s allegation, insisting the bribe money got to them but was subsequently returned. Parliament set up a committee to investigate the allegations chaired by Second Deputy Speaker of the 6th Parliament, Joe Ghartey.

31st March 2017: Joe Ghartey Committee reports there is no evidence of bribery in Parliament

After almost 2 months of work, a five-member investigative committee that looked into allegations of bribery at the Appointments Committee submitted its report on the floor of parliament. The report of the committee chaired by Essikado Ketan MP Joe Ghartey concluded claims by Mahama Ayariga that MPs had been bribed to approve the nomination of Boakye Agyarko as Energy Minister were untrue.

The committee said it found no evidence to back the claim. Joe Ghartey told the house “a multiplicity of rumours does not metamorphose into a fact.” The committee found him guilty of contempt of parliament and recommended that he be reprimanded and made to apologize. He contested the recommendation. After a long, dragged back and forth with Speaker Mike Ocquaye on the floor, he said; “if you want me to apologize, I apologize.” Majority MPs rejected the apology, insisting it was not remorseful.

7th April 2017: Mahama Ayariga renders “proper” apology

On the floor of parliament, NDC MP Mahama Ayariga read out an apology letter he had written to the Speaker over his bribery allegation. In the letter, he apologized to then Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko, Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak and first Deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu, for accusing them of corruption without evidence. He also apologised to all MPs for lowering the image of the house. The Speaker told Mr. Ayariga; "go and sin no more."

3rd February 2017: Minority stages first walkout over Otiko Afisa Djaba’s appointment

The Minority in Parliament’s first walkout was a partial one. Maybe, they were now warming up to the game. It was over the approval of former Women’s Organiser of the NPP Otiko Afisa Djaba as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.

The Minority refused to support approval of her nomination at the Appointments Committee after she stood by comments describing former President John Mahama as wicked and evil. They also did not understand why she should serve as minister when she hadn’t done her mandatory national service in the past. As parliament approved her nomination, all Minority MPs except 10 members of the appointment committee left the chamber.

The committee members stayed on to argue against her approval. A vote in the house saw 152 Majority MPs vote in favour to approve her nomination.

15th March 2017: Minority stages second walkout

The Minority in Parliament staged the second of what would be several walkouts as the house approved the NPP government’s first budget statement delivered by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta. The minority protested cuts to the District Assembly Common Fund and what they claimed was inefficient planned use of the country’s oil resources in the budget. The walkout was after they lost a vote on the floor that approved the budget.

26th April 2017: MPs involved in alleged visa fraud

Joy News’ Kojo Yankson broke the story of a confidential letter from the UK High Commissioner Jon Benjamin to Speaker of Parliament Prof. Mike Ocquaye, which detailed alleged visa fraud involving some 3 MPs in the 7th Parliament. NDC MP for Bia East Richard Acheampong, NPP MP for Ntotroso Joseph Benhazin Dahah and NPP MP for Ahafo Ano South West Johnson Kwaku Adu, were the alleged culprits.

A former MP for Asunafo South George Boakye was the fourth. The letter claimed the four had allegedly facilitated the illegal entry and illegal stay of people they claimed to be their relatives in the UK.

The High Commission said some of the actions could be considered criminal, but it was hoping to work with the speaker’s office to encourage MPs to desist from such acts. The letter said the four will not be granted visas to enter the UK for at least 10 years.

The Speaker, Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, all promised thorough investigations and that those found culpable will be dealt with. But nothing has been heard of the case since May 2017.

29th July 2017: Minority unhappy as police raids homes of NDC MPs

On the floor of parliament, the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak demanded that the Speaker invokes constitutional protection of MPs from arbitrary police action. This was after former Deputy Attorney General Dr. Dominic Ayine, former Power Minister Dr. Kwabena Donkor and former Deputy Power Minister John Jinapor who are all MPs, had their homes raided as part of investigations into controversial AMERI power deal.

The speaker promised to invite security officials for the necessary conversations, so things are done right next time.

1st August 2017: Minority MPs stage third walkout over AMERI deal

Minority MPs staged their third walkout of parliament over what they said was the Speaker’s illegal admission of a motion filed by Adansi Asokwa MP K. T. Hamond. Mr. Hammond’s motion asked parliament to rescind the approval it gave to the controversial AMERI power deal back in 2015 at the height of the energy crisis.

After power changed hands in January 2017, the Philip Addison led committee set up by Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko to investigate the deal concluded it was allegedly inflated by US$150 million. K. T. Hammond’s motion for parliament to withdraw its approval claimed there had been gross misrepresentations in the original deal.

Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu was unhappy the Speaker admitted the motion and referred it to the Energy Committee, insisting it was illegal for the 7th parliament to take a fresh decision on work done by the 6th parliament. The Minority MPs walked out just before the speaker went ahead to admit the motion.

21st December 2017: Parliament okays request by Ministry for Special Development Initiatives to spend a whooping GH¢800,000 on website development

Parliament approved the 2018 budget of the newly established Ministry for Special Development Initiatives, which included a request for a whooping GH¢800,000 to pay for the development of the ministry’s website. The Minority insisted the amount is bloated and it amounted to corruption. But the majority approved the request. The Majority subsequently clarified the figure should have been 8,000 Cedis and not 800,000 Cedis.

27th December 2017: Emergency recall of Parliament over cash-for-seat scandal

A few days after parliament had taken its Christmas and New Year break, Minority Chief Muntaka Mubarak, North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and about 80 Minority MPs wrote a memo to the speaker requesting an emergency sitting of the house. The suggested agenda was for the house to deliberate on a motion for parliamentary probe into allegations the Ministry of Trade and Industry had charged business people unapproved fees of between US$25,000 and US$100,000 to grant them access to President Akufo-Addo. The move came after the president cleared the Trade Minister of any wrongdoing in facilitating the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards which was organized by the Millennium Excellence Foundation. For the first and the last time in the history of the 7th parliament, the Minority MPs invoked provisions in order 38 (1) of the Standing Orders of parliament which allows at least 15% of all MPs to cause a meeting of the house. All other summons have been at the behest of the Speaker.

5th January 2018: Parliament sets up 5-member committee to probe cash-for-seat scandal

Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak at Parliament’s emergency sitting moved a motion for the house to set up a committee to investigate what had come to be known as the cash-for-seat scandal. After long periods of deliberation, Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu reluctantly backed the request allowing for the establishment of the 5-member committee. The majority could have used its numbers to shoot down the motion, but the Majority Leader said for the sake of transparency, his side will allow the probe to happen. Majority Chief Whip in Parliament Kwasi Ameyaw Chremeh was to chair the committee.

8th February 2018: Cash-for-seat Committee exonerates Trade Ministry officials; Minority stages fourth walkout

A 146-page report of the committee that investigated the cash-for-seat scandal exonerated Minister for Trade and Industry Alan Kyeremanteng, and other ministry officials. The majority report concluded that “there is no merit in the allegation.” Minority MPs on the committee led by Bolgatanga East MP Dr. Dominic Ayine also produced a minority report that concluded the president had been used to extort money from business people. The minority staged a walkout of the house as the majority report was approved.

23rd March 2018: Parliament approves Ghana – US Defence Agreement; Minority stages fifth walkout

Parliament approved the controversial Ghana-US defence cooperation agreement which provides the United States access into the country to camp its military forces and equipment. The approval was done by only Majority Members of Parliament because the Minority staged a walkout. The Minority insisted the deal amounts to “a sale of Ghana’s sovereignty.”

12th April 2018: Police CID question MPs for allegedly taking double salary

Several Minority MPs including Inusah Fuseini, Rashid Pelpuo and Comfort Doye Ghansah reported at the Police Criminal Investigation Department for interrogation for allegedly receiving double salaries when they served in the previous parliament, and as ministers of state. The MPs denied any wrongdoing insisting it was only an attempt by government to intimidate them.

6th June 2018: Assin Central MP Kennedy Agyapong hauled before Privileges Committee

Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak moved a motion on the floor asking the house to refer Assin Central MP Kennedy Agyapong to the Privileges Committee for committing contempt of parliament by calling the house useless. The house approved the motion which was supported by both majority and minority MPs. Days later, a disagreement between the two degenerated. Mr. Agyapong threatened Mr. Mubarak with a show down and called him dumb and unintelligent.

In response, Mr. Mubarak told the media in an interview; “If I meet him at the corridors of parliament and he tries to mess up with me, I will beat him up mercilessly. I am a Zongo boy and Zongo boys are not cowards. I will deal with him ruthlessly, who does he think he is? If Ken Agyapong thinks he is a man like me, he should bring it on and I will shut him up for Ghanaians to see he is not the only man in the country.” The Minority Chief Whip subsequently apologized for the comment.

26th July 2018: New AMERI deal that will cost Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko his job laid in parliament

A new power agreement between the government of Ghana and the Africa Middle East Resources Investment (AMERI), which will subsequently cost Boakye Agyarko his job as Energy Minister, was laid in parliament for approval. The original deal was signed by the previous NDC government in 2015. Mr. Agyarko claimed it was bloated by some US$150 million.

The revised deal was to correct the alleged inflation. Parliament’s Joint Finance and Energy Committees pulled breaks on approving the agreement until other substantial documents including the Attorney General’s advice on it was made available to parliament. The Minority said the new deal will cost the nation US$1 billion loss. The African Center for Energy Policy and Volta River Authority staff called on parliament not to approve it.

Days later, the presidency which had earlier given executive approval to the deal before it went to parliament backtracked. The presidency said the president had been misled into greenlighting it. But Mr. Agyarko stood his ground that there was nothing wrong with it. On 6th August 2018, the president relieved Mr. Agyarko of his position after an ultimatum to him to resign expired.

21st November 2018: MP for Ayawaso West Wugon dies

NPP MP for Ayawaso West Wugon Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko died in the USA after a short illness. The Electoral Commission announced there will be a by election to elect a new MP.

6th December 2018: New AMERI deal withdrawn from parliament

New Energy Minister Peter Amewu withdrew the Boakye Agyarko version of the AMERI deal from parliament. He laid a new, enhanced one on the floor for approval that same day. That new agreement was eventually approved on 22nd December 2018.

13th December 2018: Controversial drone blood distribution service approved by Parliament

Parliament by a majority 102 to 58 vote approved an agreement between government and Fly Zipline Limited, for drone distribution of blood and emergency health products to remote parts of the country. The Minority in Parliament, Ghana Medical Association and other groups opposed the US$12 million deal given to the US based company. But the government used its majority numbers in parliament to approve the deal.

29th January 2019: Kennedy Agyapong referred to Privileges Committee for a second time

Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak moved a second motion in seven months on the floor of parliament seeking the support of colleagues for Assin Central MP Kennedy Agyapong to be referred to the Privileges Committee for contempt. The motion drew the house’s attention to comments by Mr. Agyapong made, inciting members of the public to beat up investigative journalist Ahmed Suale, who was subsequently shot dead.

Mr. Agyapong had circulated Mr. Suale’s picture on TV and urged people who saw him to beat him up. “I make this complaint of contempt of Parliament against my own colleague for the embarrassment and uncalled for comments and incitement of the public against a member of the public that unfortunately led to the death of the gentleman,” Mr. Mubarak said as he moved the motion. The motion was approved with support from both majority and minority MPs. The committee never sat on this second case. Neither did it ever report back to the house on it.

31st January 2019: Kennedy Agyapong and Muntaka Mubarak trade insults on the floor

As MPs waited in the chamber for sitting to begin, Assin Central MP Kenedy Agyapong confronted the Minority Whip Muntaka Mubarak over the referral of Mr. Agyapong to the Privileges Committee for contempt of parliament. Both were restrained by colleague MPs. But the two hurled insults at each other. They called themselves animals. And used the F-word on each other in the Twi language.

13th February 2019: Parliament’s Privileges Committee finds Kennedy Agyapong guilty of contempt

A report of Parliament’s Privileges Committee’s after weeks of deliberation concluded Kennedy Agyapong was guilty of contempt for describing the house as useless. When he appeared before the committee, Mr. Agyapong claimed he used the word “cheap” in the Akan Language in an interview on Net2 TV which he owns. But the committee concluded he actually used “useless,” which it said was disparaging and contemptuous. The committee recommended that he be suspended or reprimanded. The house voted to reprimand him after he offered an apology on the floor.

5th February 2019: Lydia Alhassan sworn in as MP; Minority stages sixth walkout – Marches to Police Headquarters

Lydia Seyram Alhassan of the NPP was sworn in as MP for Ayawaso West Wugon to replace Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko who died in November 2018. This was after she won the 31st January 2019 by-election there which was marred by violence. Ningo Prampram MP Samuel George who was in the constituency to monitor the elections for the NDC was slapped by a security operative.

Clad in red and black, Members of the Minority walked out of parliament before she was sworn in. They marched on the streets from Parliament House to the police headquarters to petition the Inspector General of Police to investigate the violence that marred the polls. Before marching to the Police Headquarters, they shouted “bloody widow” at the Ayawaso West Wugon MP.

5th March 2019: Minority stages seventh walkout

The Minority in Parliament staged its seventh walk out of parliament over an amendment to the Public Holidays Act. The amendment made January 7 (Constitution Day) and August 4 (Founders’ Day) public holidays. The amendment scrapped 1st July (Republic Day) and 25th May (Africa Union Day) as holidays and made them commemorative days. The Minority served notice a future NDC government will reverse the changes.

26th March 2019: RTI Law passed by parliament

After two decades, the Right To Information Bill was eventually passed into law by the 7th parliament. The law operationalises the right to information which is enshrined in the constitution so members of the public and the media can hold government more accountable and ensure transparency. The bill was first drafted by the Attorney General’s office in 1999. An updated version got introduced in parliament in 2010 but was not passed before the 5th parliament’s life expired. It eventually got approved by the 7th parliament.

3rd May 2019: Controversial Aker-AGM Petroleum deal approved by parliament

Parliament approved the controversial government of Ghana and Aker - AGM Petroleum Limited deal, which the Minority said was a “sell off” of Ghana’s oil fields. The deal was first signed and approved by the NDC administration. The NPP government re-negotiated the deal and brought a new agreement to the house. Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu claimed the new deal will cost Ghana a US$10 billion loss.

13th June 2019: Man attempts suicide in parliament

A 35-year-old gentleman attempted committing suicide in parliament. Kojo Mensah who sat in the public gallery in an NPP embossed T-shirt with the picture of Kwesimintsim MP Joseph Mensah, was the victim. He shouted: “I will kill myself, I will kill myself,” as he tried to jump from the gallery one storey up, into the main chamber. Security officials restrained him and took him away.

28th June 2019: Speaker announces work on new 450-seater parliamentary chamber will begin soon

Speaker of Parliament Prof. Milke Ocquaye announced plans to construct a new 450 seat parliamentary chamber, sparking a #DropThatChamber campaign. UK-based architect David Adjaye joined the speaker to unveil the design of the structure which was estimated to cost between US$150 million and US$200 million.

4th July 2019: Ernesto Yeboah arrested in parliament over #DropThatChamber Campaign

Former Convention Peoples Party Youth Organiser Ernesto Yeboah was arrested in the public gallery of parliament for interrupting proceedings with the #DropThatChamber campaign. “We don’t need any discussion on this, drop that chamber,” he screamed from the public gallery. He and one other protester were whisked out by security operatives afterwards.

8th July 2019: Plans for new chamber dropped

Director of Public Affairs in Parliament Kate Addo told Joy News the Parliamentary Service Board has #DroppedThatChamber. She explained the board has decided to put the project on hold due to public sentiments against it.

21st December 2019: Minority stages eighth walkout as parliament approves Electoral Commission’s budget

Minority MPs walked out of Parliament as the house approved the budget of the Electoral Commission. The Minority was protesting among others, plans by the EC to compile a new voters’ register.

20th January 2020: Public Accounts Committee causes arrest of 2 District Finance Officers on live TV

Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee James Klutse Avedzi caused the arrest of Isaac Akowuah and James Essilfie, the former and current Finance Officers of the Sefwi Akontombra District Assembly when they appeared before the committee. The chairman accused them of attempting to deceive the committee and invited the police to arrest them and take them to the station for investigations for deceit of public officers. They were handcuffed by the police and taken away even as the entire sitting was streamed on live TV.

20th February 2020: Minority stages ninth walkout, this time around, on Akufo-Addo

Minority MPs walked out of parliament moments before President Akufo-Addo delivered the 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA). They were clad in red and black when they showed up in the chamber. The Minority Leader and other leaders earlier went out to welcome the president to the house.

Just when he was about speaking, the minority started chanting war songs and walked out. They said they were protesting the violence perpetuated by militia groups during the Ayawaso West Wugon by election. The Minority MPs also did not partake in parliament’s debate of the SONA which lasted for about a week.

26th February 2020: Speaker bars journalists from conducting interviews on the premises when proceedings are on

Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye incurred the wrath of the media when he warned them against conducting interviews on the premises whilst proceedings are ongoing, else their accreditation will be withdrawn. Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu complained that members of the press corps had abandoned proceedings in the house the previous day to interact with NDC MP for Ellembele, Kofi Buah. The Speaker warned: “…you are here as guests by my permission. Because of the importance, this House attaches to the inking profession, any such humiliation will make you an unwelcome guests and your welcome will be duly withdrawn.” The warning drew widespread condemnation from the Ghana Journalists Association and the Media Foundation for West Africa. That threat was however never carried through as journalists have continued to conduct interviews even when the house is in session.

21st March 2020: Speaker directs all MPs to wear masks over COVID-19 fears

When COVID-19 hit, parliament responded. Speaker of Parliament Prof. Mike Ocquaye directed all MPs and staff to wear masks in the house.

23rd March 2020: Minority stages tenth walkout of parliament

Minority MPs led by its Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak walked out of parliament during consideration of the Cooperate Insolvency Bill. “We do not have quorum to take the decision and you are still carrying on. You are abusing the privilege of this house and you are making the house lawless Mr. Speaker. What you are doing is wrong,” he said. After he was ignored by the speaker, he walked out. And his colleague minority MPs followed him.

5th April 2020: Minority Leader describes Speaker as “Walking Illegality.”

Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu described Speaker Prof. Mike Ocquaye as a walking illegality during a press conference after the Speaker suspended sitting of the house instead of adjourning it. The speaker insisted the house cannot take a definitive break because it has to be on standby to approve measures aimed at dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

27th May 2020: Muntaka accuses Parliament of lying and hiding COVID-19 cases

Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak told Joy Prime’s Daniel Dadzie parliament lied in a statement issued the day before, denying media reports that no COVID-19 cases had been recorded in the house. He insisted 2 MPs and 13 staff had tested positive for the virus and had been asked to self-isolate.

14th August 2020: Parliament approves controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty agreement; Minority stages eleventh walk out

Parliament approved the controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited agreement despite a walkout by the Minority. This was the Minority’s eleventh walk out since January 2017. Minority MPs led by Cassiel Ato Forson addressed a media briefing in parliament house to demand the withdrawal of the agreement, claiming it will give private individuals 49% ownership of the country’s mineral royalties which will be against the interest of the state.

9th October 2020: Mfantseman MP killed by gunmen

Gunmen shot and killed NPP MP for Mfantseman Constituency, Ekow Quansah Hayford. He was killed as he returned from an overnight campaign activity in his constituency.

13th October 2020: MPs to get armed police bodyguards

Interior Minister Ambrose Derry, following a closed-door meeting with Members of Parliament, announced at a media briefing that all MPs will henceforth be provided with armed police bodyguards. This was after he was summoned by the speaker to provide a detailed plan on how MPs will be protected following the killing of their colleague member for Mfantseman, Ekow Hayford.

7th November 2020: NPP MP for Fomena Andrew Amoako Asiamah expelled

NPP MP for Fomena Andrew Amoako Asiamah was expelled from parliament. Speaker Mike Ocquaye declared his seat vacant following a request from the Ashanti Regional branch of the NPP which said he had been sacked from the party over his decision to contest the upcoming 2020 election as an independent parliamentary candidate. The party requested that the speaker invokes the Article 97 of the Constitution and declare the seat vacant, which he obliged.

18th December 2020: Parliament passes first-ever private member’s bill

Parliament passed into law the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2020 which introduces stiffer punishment for road traffic offenders whose actions lead to the death of an unborn child. This was the first time in history a private member’s Bill proposed by Members of Parliament (MPs) had been approved by Parliament.

All other laws approved by parliament have come from the President, through his Ministers. Kumbungu MP Ras Mubarack, Chairman of Parliament’s Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee Ben Abdallah, Majority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah–Bonsu and Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu were the joint proponents of the bill.

MPs expressed confidence the passage of the Bill will open more room going forward for Parliament to propose legislations and get the House to pass them. They questioned why the lawmaking arm of government had never made any laws on its own, all these years.

22nd December 2020: Minority MPs clash with police

Minority MPs marched from Parliament House, broke through a barricade mounted by the police at the Ridge Roundabout, and walked to the headquarters of the electoral commission to petition the Electoral Commission boss. The MPs petition demanded collation of Techiman South 2020 parliamentary election results. The EC boss did not step out to receive the petition. A scuffle ensued between the police and the NDC legislators.

4th January 2020: Police charge 20 Minority MPs over walk to Electoral Commission Headquarters; summon them before Accra Magistrates Court

Police charged 20 NDC MPs including Minority Leader in Parliament Haruna Iddrisu with two offences against the state for walking to the headquarters of the Electoral Commission on 22nd December 2020 to present a petition. They were asked to appear before the Accra Magistrate’s Court over the charges but they refused to show up. They insisted the leave of the speaker must be sought before criminal and civils court processes are executed against them.

The court adjourned the case indefinitely. The police in a statement of offence accused the minority MPs of failing to notify the police before holding a special event contrary to sections 1, 2 and 9 of the Public Order Act. The police also charged them with unlawful assembly contrary to section 202 of the Criminal Offences Act.

Source: Joseph Opoku, Contributor
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