The Minority in Parliament has refuted claims made by the Defence Minister about its no-show during Saturday’s parliamentary sitting.
In a statement issued Saturday, the Minority described the Minister’s utterances as “an uncharitable, spurious, and ridiculous attack.”
According to the Minority, their refusal to be part of Saturday’s sittings was that, “Parliament was being abused by the ruling majority for narrow political gain as their only motivation was to accumulate days for the Electoral Commission’s Constitutional Instrument on the December 2020 elections to mature.
“This the NPP majority was pursuing without recourse to the health and safety of Members of Parliament during these times when it is crucial to contain and limit the spread of a Covid-19 pandemic.”
Parliament was supposed to sit on Saturday to debate a one billion cedis Coronavirus Alleviation Programme to cushion Ghanaians as government tightens measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
President Akufo-Addo who announced the package on Friday said the amount would lessen the impact of the pandemic on businesses and households as the country enters a partial lockdown starting Monday.
However, Parliament last Saturday was unable to debate the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme.
Below is the Minority’s statement;
The attention of the NDC Minority in Parliament has been drawn to uncharitable, spurious and ridiculous attacks from the Minister responsible for Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul.
Verified media reports confirm that Mr Nitiwul has described the Minority’s refusal to be part of an ill-conceived and insincere Saturday sitting of Parliament as a stab in the back of Ghanaians, reckless and unpatriotic.
In addition to the Defence Minister’s vituperations, he shockingly calls on the Minority to apologize to Ghanaians. One wonders the kind of thought processes that will lead any person aware of the facts to make such claims.
The Minority states for the record that contrary to the very irresponsible effusions of Mr Nitiwul, our refusal to sit on Saturdays has absolutely nothing to do with turning our backs on a Coronavirus economic mitigation debate.
Indeed, no such Coronavirus economic mitigation debate took place in Parliament on Saturday neither did the Finance Minister make any related presentation to the House on the day in issue.
Our checks reveal that only a World Bank coronavirus loan facility of US$35million was laid for later consideration. A remarkably bizarre spectacle in this time of crisis for a Government preaching “Ghana Beyond Aid.”
We note with profound sadness that the President’s much-touted US$100million which was claimed to be available has still not found its way to Parliament.
The Minority states emphatically that our refusal to be part of Saturday sittings which we clearly communicated to the Right Honourable Speaker and the entire House after making the same point at the Business Committee was that Parliament was being abused by the ruling majority for narrow political gain as their only motivation was to accumulate days for the Electoral Commission’s Constitutional Instrument on the December 2020 elections to mature. This the NPP majority was pursuing without recourse to the health and safety of Members of Parliament during these times when it is crucial to contain and limit the spread of a COVID-19 pandemic.
A disease which has proven to be no respecter of persons and has infected many MPs across the world including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several of his colleagues and some 23 MPs in the Iranian Parliament out of which two have already died.
Per the Standing Orders of Parliament, sittings of the House are from Tuesdays to Fridays. Contrary to this, Mondays have been added which we have fully supported because we were made to believe that there was a lot to attend to on the agenda. As it turned out, not much business was ready for the House to conduct much to the frustration of even Mr. Speaker as many hours and days were literally wasted.
The Saturday sittings were an imposition and a blatant ambush by the majority in flagrant violation of parliamentary due process and conventions.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Minority remains a diligent, conscientious and patriotic group as has been our reputation and we are always ready to carry out our mandate to the people of Ghana, however, we refuse to be party to a crude abuse of the parliamentary process simply because all what is on the mind of the NPP Members is the next election and not protecting the lives of Ghanaians.
Mr. Nitiwul is aware that we in the Minority have consistently demanded a debate on Ghana’s Coronavirus response plan and economic mitigation programme. Only last Friday, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu indicated that the only matter which will compel the Minority to cooperate with a Saturday sitting was an appearance by the Finance Minister to debate and approve economic measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Ghanaians.
That same Friday, our colleague on the Minority, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa demanded that the Minister for Health be made to brief the House on the latest update in the war against COVID-19.
Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa also appealed to the Speaker to welcome debate on a lockdown, take statements and urgent questions which Minority Members have long filed on this apocalyptic development in the history of humankind. The official records of Parliament will bear us out.
In the absence of any serious business in the House on Saturdays, the Minority rather resolved to better utilize Saturdays and Sundays by supporting public health education in our constituencies and by making significant donations towards defeating the pandemic seeing that Government’s response has so far been late and abysmal to say the least.
Mr. Nitiwul must be made to understand that this is not the time for cheap shots and opportunistic jabs. In other jurisdictions, Defence Ministers are absolutely busy with military deployments and military logistical support to combat the pandemic, however, pathetically in Ghana our Defence Minister is so clueless to the extent that his only contribution to winning the war against COVID-19 are comical effusions targeted at the opposition. Really tragic!
We urge President Akufo-Addo to call members of his Government, particularly, the Defence Minister to order and place lives above political power and use parliamentary time in the best interest of Ghana, especially in these extraordinary times as we also urge him to assign important roles to his ministers in this collective war so that they wouldn’t have time on their hands for needless, disgraceful and dubious propaganda.
Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini
[Ranking Member, Committee on Communications]