Minority urges local government Minister to retract “unconstitutional” directive to Assemblies

Collins Dauda
Collins Dauda

The directive by Alhaji Collins Dauda, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, for Assemblies to elect one of their members to preside in the absence of an elected presiding member, is illegal and unconstitutional, the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) said on Monday.

Some District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies, are yet to elect Presiding Members, since the last local level elections were held last September.

The Minister consequently in a directive asked the Assemblies to elect one of their members to preside over the Assembly if they were unable to elect Presiding Members, something the Minority Caucus on Local Government described as illegal and unconstitutional.

The Caucus, at a press conference in Accra, therefore called on Alhaji Dauda to retract the directive.

Mr Akwasi Amoako Atta, Spokesman for the Caucus and MP for Atiwa West, in reference to Article 244 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, said “the District Assembly shall have a Presiding Member who shall be elected by the Assembly from among its members.

“The Presiding Member shall be elected by at least two-thirds majority of all the members of the Assembly.

“The Presiding Member shall preside over the meetings of the Assembly and perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law,” he said.

Mr Amoako-Atta added that “Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1993 (Act 462), restates the above constitutional provision,” and pointed out that the combined effect of the two provisions is that “no Assembly meeting can be convened and conducted in the absence of a substantive Presiding Member.”

He said the only exception was where the secretary to the Assembly or (the District Co-ordinating [U1] Director) was empowered by Order One of the Standing Orders of the District Assemblies to convene the inaugural meeting at which the Presiding Member was to be elected.

“Where the Assembly fails or is unable to elect a Presiding Member, the Secretary to the Assembly shall convene the subsequent meeting(s) for that purpose only until a Presiding Member is elected,” Mr Amoako-Atta stated.

The Minority Caucus on Local Government made similar references to sittings in Parliament, noting that Article 101 provided for the Speaker to preside in Parliament at all sittings, and that “no business shall be transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker, at any time when the office of the Speaker is vacant.

“Accordingly, when the Clerk to Parliament summons the first sitting of a new Parliament, he the Clerk, presides to transact a single business; that is to elect a Speaker and no other business,” Mr Amoako-Atta said.

He added that in much the same way, “when the Secretary to the Assembly convenes the first meeting of a new Assembly, the sole agendum is the election of the Presiding Member and none else”.

The Minority, therefore, faulted the Minister for the directive to the Assemblies ‘to proceed to elect one of their members by simple majority of the members present and voting by presiding over the assembly for the duration of sitting only.’

“In our considered view, the Minister is engaging himself in an unconstitutional and an illegal venture by circumventing the constitutional requirement of two-thirds of all the members of an Assembly to elect a Presiding Member,” the Minority said.

It added that; “any activity carried out by any assembly pursuant to the directive of the Minister must be deemed null and void,” and further cautioned that it would use every legitimate option to straighten up the Minister and the Government.

Source: GNA

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