International legal luminaries, Prof. Henry Kwasi Prempeh, Executive Director of Center for Democratic Development and a member of Ghana’s legal team in the ITLOS case and American Based Ghanaian Law Professor, Kwaku Asare have questioned the bases behind the refusal of Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga, not to honour invitation sent to the speaker of Parliament by the Special Prosecutor, Martin ABK Amidu.The The Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu has sued the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central for evasion of duties and taxes among others.
Mr. Ayariga is facing five different counts of case. In the writ filed by the special prosecutor, it stated that “Mahama Ayariga aged 44 years in November 2017 at Tema in the Greater Accra Region did fraudulently evade customs duties and taxes by paying GH¢6,062.86 instead of the approved duties and taxes of GH¢36,597.15 to clear three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers.”
Mr. Ayariga is also accused of allegedly abusing his office as a public officer for his private benefit by “selling three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers with registration numbers GR 2220-18, GR 2221-18 and GR 2222-18 meant to be used for your official duties as a Member of Parliament to Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car at a price of GH¢40,000 each.”
Again, Mr. Ayariga is being accused by the Special Prosecutor of transferring “foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer contrary to sections 15(3) and 29(1) of the Foreign Exchange Act 2006, Act 723.”
The court is set to sit on 4th June, 2019 and Mr. Amidu has subsequently written to the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Ocquaye to “release” the Bawku Central legislator to face trial.
But in an “epistle” of a response written to Mr. Amidu, Mr. Ayriga stated that he is not obliged to honour the invitation because Parliament will be in session and sitting.
He said “Any conduct on your part that in any way impedes or obstructs my right to be in Parliament on 4th June and represent the good people of Bawku will amount to Contempt of Parliament.”
Responding to Mahama Ayariga’s claim, Prof. H.K Prempeh questioned the basis of Mr. Ayariga’s refusal. He asked on what basis were past MPs such as Adamu Sakande on Dan Abodakpi convicted.
Posting Mr. Ayariga’s letter, Prof. Prempeh said “Interesting. This elastic, extrajudicial reading of the Constitution would mean, in effect, a grant of term-of-office or, at the minimum, duration-of-session immunity from criminal proceedings to all MPs, roughly similar (in justification) to the one the Constitution expressly grants the President during his tenure as president.
Wasn’t a former MP (Bawku Central) by the name Adamu Sakande charged, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed for 2 years in 2012 while a member of Parliament? Or was Parliament not in session, and did Parliament not sit, during the entire trial? Ditto Dan Abodakpi’s prosecution and conviction while an MP?
Were those prosecutions unconstitutional acts then? Or those MPs and their lawyers didn’t know or didn’t assert their sweet privileges and immunities? Anyway, it is for the Honorable MP to raise his objections before the trial judge at the High Court when he appears to answer the charges. An open love letter to the prosecutor is not the appropriate place to raise these objections.”
On his part Prof. Kwaku Asare popularly referred to as Kwaku Azar emphantically stated that “A court date is not an invitation from a prosecutor that a defendant can decline. It is an order from the Chief Justice to appear in court at the pain of contempt.”