The constitution didn’t say 15 consecutive days – Speaker schools CSOs on absentee MPs

Speaker Alban SK Bagbin

The Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin has said the 1992 constitution did not say a Member of Parliament who is absent for more than fifteen consecutive days should be removed.

He explained that the term used in the Constitution is vacation of the position of Member of Parliament and the circumstances are clear, when an MP is absent for fifteen sittings of Parliament in a meeting.

A meeting of parliament, he said, is three months, but some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are calculating based on a session which is 12 months.

“The term used in the Constitution is vacation of the position of Member of Parliament and the circumstances are clear, when an MP is absent for fifteen sittings of Parliament, in a meeting, and a meeting is three months, it is not a session which is 12 months.

“Those are the words of the constitution. Now, the genesis of this provision is from the days of Nkrumah where RB Okyere, who was one of the opposition members had to run to Cote D’Ivoire and whiles even in Cote D’Ivoire, he was sending leave of absence which were always automatically approved and he was to be there for over two years enjoying all his conditions of service and claiming to be attending medical treatment. The gentlemen who pleaded guilty in the 1963 treason trial is the one I am referring to.

“That is where the genesis started, that time it was twenty days, now it is fifteen days. Some parliaments, it is ninety days some even more.

“Our constitution did not talk about it being consecutive but I have been getting reports from Civil society calculating it on session and just adding your days of absence and saying that you should have vacated your seat. But when I read a lot of cases in other jurisdictions they said consecutive, fifteen consecutive sitting days in a meeting.

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“That is the circumstances under which Speaker will be called upon to refer the matter to the privilege’s committee who will invite the member to come and explain why the absence without the permission from the speaker.

“If a reason is given that is reasonable, then the person will not have vacated she or his seat. It is when the committee decides that the reason is not reasonable then they will report to the House, the House will debate it and the decision will be taken. That is the process we go through, we haven’t gone there yet but there is a call for removal.

“When I hear my colleagues in the NPP say that they have removed Adwoa Safo I ask, do you have that power? You can use your party to take her off as a member of your party and that can trigger some constitutional consequences but you cannot just go and sit down and say you have removed her because it is only the Speaker that can declare the seat vacant.”

A Former Kumbungu Member of Parliament, Ras Mubarak, has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to discipline four New Patriotic Party (NPP) lawmakers for absenting themselves from Parliament for more than fifteen days.

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.

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“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.”

By Laud Nartey||Ghana