Parliamentary immunity: Majority Leader urges caution

Parliamentary immunity: Majority Leader urges caution
Source: Ghana | | Jerry Tsatro Mordy
Date: 18-06-2019 Time: 02:06:04:am
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu says Mahama Ayariga missed an ECOWAS Parliamentary committee meeting as a result of the ongoing trial.

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensa Bonsu, is calling for careful handling of the issue of immunity of Parliamentarians and some senior staff of the House.

On the face of Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution, Members of Parliament enjoy “tremendous immunity” that insulates them from civil or criminal prosecutions, Mr Kyei Mensa Bonsu stressed.

His comments follow the deadlock between the two arms of government -Judiciary and Legislature -- following the rejection of the Speaker’s certificate to High Court Judge, Afia Serwah Asare Botwe, urging respect for MP privileges in the prosecution of Mahama Ayariga.

The Judge for the second time in a week dismissed the letter by Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, asking that scheduling of the trial of Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga, be done without conflicting his Parliamentary duties.

The MP is facing trial for allegedly using public office for private benefit after the court dropped three earlier charges.

The Bawku Central legislator had been charged with fraudulent evasion of customs duties and taxes, dealing in foreign exchange without a license and transfer of foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer. But these were dropped.

Prof. Oquaye’s letters were premised on Article 117 of the Constitution which says: “Civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or a member or the clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.”

However, Justice Afia Serwah Asare Botwe on Monday stressed, the rules of her court are entirely within her discretion and shall not be dictated by an MP’s privileges.

Commenting on the issue on Top Story on Joy FM, the Minority Leader, who is also Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, wants the matter to be handled in a manner that will not lead to contempt of Parliament while at the same time the case progresses in court.

The Suame MP noted that Mr Ayariga, apart from being an MP in Ghana’s Parliament, is also a member of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja, Nigeria, where he has been actively discharging his duties.

“So apart from that work he does for Ghana Parliament, he also does some work for the ECOWAS Parliament,” he said.

Court strikes out three charges Martin Amidu filed against Ayariga

Mahama Ayariga

The Bawku Central MP, Mr Bensa Bonsu stated, was unable to attend to an ECOWAS Parliamentary committee meeting taking place outside of Abuja this week as a result of the ongoing trial.

He said Parliament is considering instituting a committee to look into the development in order to find the middle ground so that the trial can proceed without it having to necessarily interrupt the MPs Parliamentary duties.

“So I think that as a Parliament, we should come together and be informed of best practices elsewhere,” he added.