The Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, Alexander Afenyo-Markin has said that his colleague Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa’s questioning of President Akufo-Addo’s travels is borne out of political mischief.
This, according to him, is because the North Tongu MP, during the tenure of former President John Mahama and President Mills, did not raise any objection to the use of chartered flights by the former Heads of State or the travel costs of their Ministers.
Speaking on Top Story, Wednesday, Mr Afenyo-Markin said that “he (Ablakwa) himself, some weeks back when talking about luxury travels, said that Ministers of state were flying business. Has he put together the cost of all the ministerial travels? Why didn’t they insist on flying economy but flew business?”
“He didn’t have any issue with that for the eight years that they were in office. Whatever he is doing is borne out of political mischief. Why is Mr Ablakwa not talking about President Mahama’s official travels by use of chartered aircraft? He has not talked about it, not once.”
The Effutu MP said that Mr Ablakwa, with his “luxury flights” allegations, is creating the impression that this is the first time a President of Ghana has chartered flights for international travels.
Mr Afenyo-Markin stated that despite what the North Tongu MP says, President Akufo-Addo on some occasions does use the presidential jet. However, in cases where a flight is chartered, it is not done for luxury but there are reasonable purposes.
“In May when ECOWAS held a session in Abuja, he travelled to Abuja using the presidential jet. The decision to use another aircraft [for other travels] was well-founded. I expect him (Ablakwa) to at least, give us some minimum respect,” he said adding that the President, knowing the current economic crisIs will not misuse public funds,” he added.
This comes after Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa revealed he is set to file another urgent question in Parliament to demand full disclosure on the cost of the President’s foreign travels.
The Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs Committee alleged that President Akufo-Addo’s three recent foreign trips cost the taxpayer a whopping GH₵10 million.
Mr Ablakwa, in his latest statement, is accusing the President of chartering a luxurious jet costing the taxpayer GH₵3.7 million for his current trip to the United States.
Speaking on Joy FM’s NewsNight Tuesday, the legislator said “the fundamental objection to this chartering of luxurious aircraft is that we have a functioning Presidential jet. It is in a pristine state, it has not gotten to the end of its lifespan.”
However, Mr Afenyo-Markin believes that the North Tongu MP should be fair in his criticisms about the Presidential travels adding that he does not think the use of chartered flights by the President for some of his trips is as a result of the need to have luxury.
“With all the considerations available, to the government, there are more good reasons to rely on other available means for travel other than the one he thinks should have been the approach at all cost. If it is all about our presidential jet not being used for certain travels, it did happen in the government he served.”
Mr Afenyo-Markin said the conversation would have been more productive if Mr Ablakwa had admitted that during the NDC government’s reign, there were occasions when the Presidents used other flights, but, call for a review of such practice.
However, Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa has dismissed the claim that NDC Presidents used chartered flights for travels, stating that the Deputy Majority Leader is peddling falsehood.
“This is the first time, President Kufour always flew commercial. President Mills never chartered an aircraft. President Mahama had occasion to charter an aircraft once when the falcon had been sent for servicing and he did not charter a luxury VIP jet.”
The North Tongu MP added that Ministers of state using business class during travels has always been the norm even before he joined the government.
“Is he suggesting that by serving government and flying business class, I cannot speak to these matters? Some of their Ministers are flying first class is that the issue? That is not the issue. This is a fallacy of ad hominem, it is an old trick in the book. If you can’t deal with the message, go after the messenger.”
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