Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) on Wednesday voted to suspend one of its members, Mr Carlos Kingsley Ahenkora for six months for obstructing the lawful work of officers of the Assembly.
Mr. Ahenkorah, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tema West and a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, is barred from dealing with the Assembly, and the Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE) is directed not to transact any business with him on behalf of the Assembly.
So what was his offense; what did he do wrong? Mr. Ahenkorah is accused of obstructing the demolishing of some ‘containers’ which had been sited in front of the Cocoa Village, a site which is under construction to house workers of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) at Community Two, Tema.
According to the TMA, the COCOBOD had written several letters to the Assembly to the effect that the siting of the ‘containers’ posed security threat to their facility as it could be a launching pad for criminals to access the village.
Indeed they complained that even debris from the construction posed threat to the lives of the squatters who had taken over the piece of land for their businesses.
And so the TMA thought that as a Member of the Assembly, in his right as an MP in Tema, he did not only obstruct their work but disrespected the Assembly and the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) by his actions.
This of course leads to many questions. Why would the decision of an Assembly be met with resistance from a Member of Parliament resident in the Metropolis. Was he not aware of the decision, and why did we allow things to deteriorate this far?
Perhaps it is because of a culture that is developing within our body-politic. And this culture is fueled in a way by the kind of constitution we have given to ourselves.
A Member of Parliament has three basic functions which are deliberative, legislative and supervisory which must be exercised honourably and tactfully. In fact, the hybrid system we are practicing confuses the story because we have legislators who double as members of the executive, giving them undue powers within our democratic setting. In our thought and practice, a member of the executive is rated higher than a member of parliament.
Things are even worse with the issue of the MP’s Common Fund. This is because we make our MPs also development agents which more or less supplants the authority of the legitimate developments agents, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and their Chief Executives.
The situation is worse still when we want to look at the MPs as elected representatives of the constituents which make them appear more legitimate leaders of the people than the MCEs who are appointed by the President of the Republic.
And so the trouble begins. It becomes practically impossible for the Member of Parliament resident in a metropolis, municipality or district to submit themselves to the authority of the MMDAs because the Constitution has made it so.
Perhaps Nana Yaw Opoku Danso, Assembly Member of the Kaizer Electoral Area, Community Five, Tema, puts it better. Speaking with a passionate tone he said, “The Metro Chief Executive’s seat is a no go zone to anybody who would want to disrespect it or do something contrary to what the MCE instructs.”
He burnt his fury further during the hearing of the Public Relations and Compliance Committee’s (PRCC) report to the General Assembly to suspend the MP by saying that “the Metro Chief Executive of TMA is the President of Tema and therefore all members are under him because he represents President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo. When I say ‘under’ I mean with respect to the Assembly, when it comes to leadership of the Assembly of which all Members of Parliament are part.”
So it is clear that there is a clash of the powers because we have allowed unnecessary overlapping of the roles of the MCE and the MP.
It is time we made Members of Parliament play their traditional roles instead of giving them jobs others may be doing already, if we want to end the feud that exists between Members of Parliament and the MMDAs.
It is also worth noting that MPs should tell their constituents the truth about the realities on the ground so it does not force them to defend them at all cost. Rather they should tell them they would hold Sector Ministers responsible or monitor projects such that the voter gets value for money during campaigns and not tell that they will build roads and other amenities.
What is happening in Tema is only a wake-up call to the nation to ensure that we define boundaries well so the differing powers of the State complement themselves instead of clashing.
The MCE of Tema, Mr. Felix Mensah Nii Annan-La in his maiden speech to the Assembly put forward what he called the ‘Tema Restoration Agenda.’ It is obvious this agenda would mean going against certain citizens who are also members of an MP’s constituency in his attempt to rid the city of filth and unauthorized structures that have reduced the beauty of the city and hindered development.
This is a aloudable idea and he would need the support of everybody, most importantly the MPs resident in Tema. This is perhaps an appeal to all those concerned to ensure that they rally their resources, powers, influence and ideas to help salvage the many problems confronting us as Ghanaians.
By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah