The Parliament of Ghana was on Wednesday, December 1, in a state of chaos after the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu, suspended proceedings of the House for an hour.
This was after the Minority Caucus had petitioned the Speaker through a motion to set aside the approval of the 2022 budget statement which was approved by the Majority on Tuesday, November, 30, but Joseph Osei-Owusu popularly known as ‘Joe Wise’ refused.
He explained to the MPs that, “There are a few matters which I wish to clarify. That first, it must be clear that a Deputy Speaker is not a Speaker.
"Indeed, article 96(1) of the Constitution says, and I quote: ‘There shall be two deputy speakers of Parliament who shall be elected from the Parliament’ and to contrast that, Mr. Speaker is not a Member of Parliament.
“I am a member of Parliament and the Second Deputy Speaker is a member of Parliament, and our role is to assist the Speaker in managing the house. So, any attempts to read and interpret the Constitution to include the Deputy Speakers is a misreading,” he said.
“Honourable members let me put on record that I am a member of Parliament, I was counted to form the quorum but I did not vote. I did not vote whiles presiding. Therefore, the request for application is refused,” he ruled.
2022 budget approval and matters arising
The MPs had arrived in the House on Wednesday to further discuss the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy which was first disapproved by the Minority Caucus and later approved by the Majority Caucus. Both Caucuses believe that what the other did in their absence was unconstitutional.
Haruna Iddrisu, the MP for Tamale South and also the Minority Leader, first of all, raised an objection against the approval of the Budget by the Majority-only House, the previous day.
He said, the House on Tuesday, lacked the required quorum to nullify the decision the Minority took on Friday, November 26 pursuant to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament.
He noted, it was wrong for the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who assumed the powers of the substantive Speaker, to count himself as a member of the House present and voting.
Haruna, therefore, filed a motion for a rescission of the approval of the Budget, calling for a quashing of same. The motion was subsequently seconded by Mahama Ayariga, MP, Bawku Central.
The motion was admitted by the House. As it has always been done, the MPs began to have a debate on the motion. They [MPs] advanced their respective arguments regarding the motion with three members from each side of the House to present their argument.
This generated some legal exchanges and spirited counterarguments by the MPs in the Chamber.
For the Minority, Dr Dominic Ayine and Mahama Ayariga supported Haruna Iddrisu’s motion for the rescission of the approval of the 2022 Budget.
On the other side of the House, the likes of Samuel Abu Jinapor, and Joe Ghartey rose to punch holes in the legal arguments from the Minority Caucus.
These legal exchanges prolonged for a while.
Amidst the back and forth, Sarah Adwoa Safo, who was accused of not being in the House on Tuesday, when the Majority approved the rejected budget, caught the eye of the Speaker. She refuted the claims which have been raised by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
She described the allegations by Okudzeto Ablakwa, as “an insult to womanhood”. She stated she was in the House the previous day when the 2022 budget was approved and subsequently demanded an apology from her colleague.
The debate on the motion continued after Adwoa Safo’s intervention until it was time for the House to vote on the issue.
Joseph Osei-Owusu in his remarks before suspending the House stated, ‘a Deputy Speaker is not a Speaker’.
This triggered a stern objection from Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka. He argued that there was a pending motion to be voted on, and therefore the Speaker could not unilaterally rule on the motion and order a suspension of proceedings.
The House, then turned into a ‘dishonourable’ House when the MPs started heckling each other.
In a heated mood in the Chamber, Ernest Norgbey, MP for Ashaiman, whisked away Speaker's chair.
Why the Speaker’s chair was whisked
The MP for Ashaiman explained to Joy News that he was preserving the seat of the Speaker (Alban Bagbin) until his return “we have to preserve the seat for Mr. Speaker to come.
“I didn’t just take the Speaker’s chair. I did that on the notion and the ruling of the speaker [of Honourable Joe Osei Owusu] who is the deputy speaker. He said a deputy speaker is not a speaker so he’s not the Speaker.
“But I was of the view that if you are not the speaker, why then do you overturn the ruling of a Speaker. That is my point. And if you are not a speaker, why are you sitting in that chair?
“Then the best thing is that we have to preserve the seat for Mr Speaker to come. [I wasn’t going to attack him] That time he had left. I won’t have attacked him…nobody would have attacked anybody.”
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