Privileges War Breaks Out In Parliament

The referral of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, to the Privileges Committee of Parliament, has triggered counter petition to the same committee.

Barely 24 hours after the opposition NDC instigated the action against the tough-talking NPP MP, a ruling party MP has also ‘returned fire’ by reporting the NDC Communications Officer Sammy Gyamfi, who is not an MP, to be investigated by the same Privileges Committee.

It all started when the Speaker of Parliament, Alban of S.K. Bagbin, on Wednesday, directed the Privileges Committee to look into allegations of breach of parliamentary privileges against Mr. Agyapong.

It followed a submission by the NDC MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, that his colleague from the NPP had breached the privileges of parliamentarians for “continuously bringing the name of Parliament into disrepute through conducts that affront the dignity of the House.”

The NPP MP was said to have made statements that Multimedia Group have said it amounted to threats on the life of one of its reporters with Luv FM in Kumasi, Erastus Asare Donkor.

Following Alhassan Suhuyini’s report, the Speaker, Mr. Bagbin, then exercised his discretion under Order 27 of the Standing Orders of the House and referred Ken Agyapong to the Committee on Privileges which is chaired by the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Wusu.

In the ensuing heat, the Second Deputy Majority Whip, Habib Iddrisu, NPP MP for Tolon, has drawn the attention of the House to “contemptuous” comments made by Sammy Gyamfi.

The young MP said the NDC Communication Officer made unsavoury comments against the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin and the leadership of the Minority group.

According to the applicant, Sammy Gyamfi stated in a Facebook post that Speaker Bagbin and the NDC MPs “defied the leadership of the party [NDC] and betrayed the collective good for their selfish interests” when they approved of the nomination of some Ministers of State.

During the vetting, the NDC MPs had served notice to oppose the then Ministers-designate for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Information, and Food and Agriculture, Hawa Koomson, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, and Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, but all of them got approval after voting by the House, thereby angering Sammy Gyamfi who attacked the Speaker and the NDC Minority leadership, saying they did not have integrity.

The applicant said Sammy Gyamfi, by words of scorn and opprobrium, singled out the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, and the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka for the abuse.

The Second Deputy Majority Whip submitted that the comments by the NDC Communication Officer constituted an attack on the Speaker and leadership, and therefore contemptuous of the House.

He, accordingly, prayed the Speaker to refer the conduct of Sammy Gyamfi to the Committee of Privileges for investigation and report.

Second Deputy Speaker, Andrew Amoako Asiamah, who doubles as Independent MP for Fomena, who was presiding on Thursday evening when the application was made, then took the decision to defer the referral on the matter.

Already, the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin has insisted that procedural process was not followed in the Assin Central MP’s case.

Pointing to an error in the procedural process, he prayed for the Speaker to request the applicant to ‘particulise’ the substance of the allegation of breach for a prima facie case to be established first before the referral, which request was turned down by the Speaker.

Mr. Afenyo-Markin said that the applicant, Alhassan Suhuyini, only made reference to a “supposed letter” from Joy FM to the police without procuring the substance of the breach of parliamentary privileges.

He then cautioned that the House “may be sacrificing procedure” to create a “new path” that might set precedence for the future, but the Speaker ignored him, intimating that he was compelled by the circumstances to direct that the matter be referred to the Committee on Privileges for investigation and report to the House.

“This is my first time hearing this matter. As it is now, I am compelled to refer it to the Privileges Committee. It is a matter the Privileges Committee will have to go into and then report to the House, and it is for the House to decide whether the Honourable Member is contemptuous of the House,” the Speaker stated.

He continued, “In the circumstances, I direct that this matter be referred to the Committee on Privileges for investigation and report to the House, I so direct.”

Before Mr. Babgin’s ruling, the NDC’s Deputy Minority Whip, Ahmed Ibrahim, had asked the Speaker to overrule the application for prima facie, saying, “I want to emphasise that it is the House that will take the decision.”

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