Majority Leader cautions handling of MPs’ immunity

The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu, has cautioned against handling of the issue of immunity of Members of Parliament (MPs) and some senior staff of the House.

He noted that the matter must be handled in a manner that would not lead to contempt of Parliament, while at the same time the case progresses in court saying, “Apart from being an MP in Ghana’s Parliament for Bawku Central, Mr Ayariga is also a member of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja, Nigeria, where he has been actively discharging his duties.”

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, stated that Mr Ayariga was unable to attend to an ECOWAS parliamentary committee meeting taking place outside Abuja, as result of the ongoing trial.

His comments follow deadlock between two arms of government, the Judiciary and Legislature, following rejection of the Speaker’s certificate to the High Court Judge, Justice Afia Asare-Botwe, who urged respect for MP’s privileges in the prosecution of Mr Ayariga.

“On the face of Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution, MPs enjoy “tremendous immunity” that insulates them from civil or criminal prosecutions, I think as Parliamentarians, we should come together and be informed of best practices elsewhere.

“Parliament is considering instituting a committee to look into the development in order to find middle ground, so trial can proceed without having necessarily interrupt MPs parliamentary duties,” Mr Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu, who is MP for Suame in the Ashanti Region stressed.

The court for the second time dismissed letters from Professor Mike Oquaye, premised on Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution, asking for scheduling of trial to be done without conflicting his parliamentary duties, since he is facing trial for allegedly using public office for private benefit, after the court dropped three earlier charges.

Mr Ayariga has been charged with fraudulent evasion of customs duties, taxes, dealing in foreign exchange without license, transfer of foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer, but these charges were dropped.

However, the judge stressed that the rules of her court are entirely within her discretion and would not be dictated by an MP’s privileges. -myjoyonline.com

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