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Speaker writes to court over Ayariga’s immunity

Prof Mike Oquaye – Speaker of Parliament

Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, the Speaker of Parliament has written to the High Court in Accra, where Mr Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central is in trial over financial impropriety, to respect the lawmaker’s privileges granted under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

According to the letter, seen by the Ghana News Agency (GNA), the Speaker drew the court’s attention to provisions in 1992 Constitution of Ghana, and urged it to respect the privileges accorded a Member of Parliament in the constitution.

Mr Ayariga is being hauled by the Martin Amidu led Office of Special Prosecutor to the court over alleged tax evasion and procurement breaches.

Mr Ayariga indicated his willingness to be in court to clear his name, but however appealed to the Speaker last Tuesday to give a ruling, and direct on whether the invitation by the court did not interfere with his parliamentary privileges.

Mr Ayariga also wrote back to the Special Prosecutor indicating that he cannot be present in court on Tuesday since he is an MP and will be in Parliament.

The Speaker ruled that the court should schedule his appearance in court to enable him to make his defence and at the same time continue with his parliamentary duties uninterrupted.

The court presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, has however ordered the embattled MP to make himself available throughout his trial.

The court further indicated that it was aware of the immunity accorded lawmakers, including the guidelines issued by the Speaker of Parliament on how the Arms of Government dealt with one another.

It however argued that since the MP was not hauled before the court as a witness but as an accused person, the certificate issued by the Speaker as well as the provisions of Article 118(2) are not applicable to him, and, therefore, must appear before court at all times in relation to the trial.

The presiding judge further explained that Article 118(2) of the 1992 Constitution is explicit on the matter, hence the Bawku Central MP cannot hide under that law for prosecutorial immunity.

The judge did not agree with the Speaker for the MP only to honour court invitations when he is not undertaking any parliamentary activity, but the Speaker, in the letter reminded the court to uphold the dictates of the constitution while holding the MP to account.

“In my ruling, I underscored the need for the recognition of the usefulness and relevance of the constitutional privileges and immunity that are accorded the Speaker, Members of Parliament and Clerk to Parliament and indeed other members in other arms of government.

The combined effect of the provisions on privileges and immunity is to ensure the smooth administration of the judicial legislative and executive governance of our Republic. I provided in my ruling that I trust that the Court will honour these time tested privileges and immunity and to judicially manage the case so as to ensure that ends of justice are met and yet equally that the work of Parliament as an Institution, and the representative function of the Member of Parliament for the people of Bawku Central will not be impeded,” the Speaker wrote.

The Speaker referred to Article 117, 118 (1) and 122 of the Constitution that grants, the Speaker, the Clerk or the MP immunity from being served or summoned to court on their way to or from parliament.

Source: GNA

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