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General News of Friday, 30 July 2021


Major controversies that shook the first half of 2021

One of the controversies happened on the morning of January 7, 2021, during the election of speaker One of the controversies happened on the morning of January 7, 2021, during the election of speaker

• Since January this year, many stories have made the headlines

• From the good to the bad, that half of the year has been quite packed

• Here are highlights some of them

In a few days, this month would have expired, getting us even deeper into the second half of the year but that shouldn’t mean that we have closed the chapter on happenings of the first part of the year yet.

And without even trying so hard at it, it is obvious that the first part of this year has been bombarded with quite a lot of headlines, much more predominant than even the Coronavirus pandemic on its own.

As a reminder of some of those major happenings, we highlight a number of them:

Commotion in Parliament over election of Speaker

The night of January 6 into January 7, 2021, became an unforgettable one, not because it was when the new Parliament was instituted, but because of the circumstances that surrounded the election of the Speaker of Parliament.

Aaron Mike Oquaye, who was at the time the substantive Speaker, went head-to-head with the most experienced Member of Parliament, Alban Bagbin of the NDC, for the slot as the third most powerful person in Ghana.

Already being a hung Parliament – a situation that was being experienced in the country for the first time, the election surprisingly went to Alban Bagbin, creating another situation that would be the first.

It was the first because that was the only time in the country’s history that the leader of Parliament was a member of the minority side of the House.

But then also, that wasn’t the most controversial thing that happened in those hours in Parliament.

First, as the elections were ongoing, the Member of Parliament for Tema West, Carlos Ahenkorah, snatched the ballot papers from the Clerks of the House and bolted but he was timeously tackled by Muntaka Mohammed, the MP for Asawase.

This erupted into major chaos on the floor of the Chamber, leading to the other major controversy that happened on the floor of Parliament that morning of January 7, 2021.

Fully-dressed soldiers, all of sudden, moved onto the floor of Parliament, causing such a riot as it was the first time any such thing was happening particularly too because aside from MPs, no other foreigner is permitted onto the floor of Parliament.

2020 Election Petition

On January 7, 2021, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, took the presidential oath of office for the second time, beginning his last term as president but that victory wasn’t without any legal tussle surrounding it.

The main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), led by its presidential candidate in the 2020 general elections, John Dramani Mahama, took the president and the Electoral Commission to court, challenging the results of the elections.

In what was the second Election Petition in the country since the dawn of the Fourth Republic, the Supreme Court of Ghana, sat for 42 days, eventually delivering its verdict on March 4, 2021, where it upheld the declaration of the EC that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo won the elections.

Some of the highlights of the entire ruling included a number of applications by the NDC, led by lawyer, Tsatsu Tsikata, struck out by the court; the testimonies of General Secretary of the NDC, Asiedu Nketiah, and that of the NDC’s Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, who was in the EC’s Strong Room.

Also, there were the highlights of how the NDC wanted the EC Chairperson, Jean Mensa, to appear in the witness box, to be interrogated on a number of matters the NDC sought answers for; and the Supreme Court’s slapping of contempt of court on former Attorney General, Dominic Ayine.

The Rastafarian Boys vs Achimota School

Two Rastafarian boys made the headlines in the early part of this year when their story broke.

What was that story? The Achimota School refused admission to Tyrone Iras Marhguy and Oheneba Kwaku Nkrabea in March 2021 over their hairstyles after they were allocated slots by the Computerized School Selection & Placement System.

The family of the two students subsequently sued the school for discrimination and asked the court to compel the school to admit them, citing their religious beliefs as the the basis for keeping dreadlocks.

With a back and forth from the school and the Ghana Education Service, civil society groups taking interest in the matter, religious perspectives, and a huge interest from the public, this case became a keenly followed one all the way till it got to the court.

Justice Gifty Addo, the High Court judge who sat on the case, ruled that the fundamental human rights of the two students could not be limited.

She stated that on the probabilities of the evidence that were adduced before the court, she didn’t think the Achimota SHS and its proponents made a compelling argument as to why those two students should not be admitted, especially given their rights to education as well as their rights to express their religious freedom.

The Achimota School was therefore ordered by the court to admit the two boys with immediate effect, somewhat bringing the case to an end.

Akufo-Addo’s Presidential Jet Saga

It was the Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who first drew the country’s attention to what would become another major topic for discussion in the country.

In a Facebook post, the lawmaker presented a breakdown of what he said was the expenditure the president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had made during his three-nation trips to France, Belgium, and South Africa in May of this year.

“On 11th May 2021, President Akufo-Addo traveled to Kampala, Uganda in his capacity as Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State of ECOWAS. He flew in the Presidential jet to Entebbe Airport, a journey of at least 5 hours duration. He returned the next day on the same aircraft just four days before he chartered the magnificently luxurious Airbus ACJ320neo for £15,000 an hour.

“An aircraft that is not airworthy would not have been allowed to fly at all, let alone transport the President of Ghana. The Falcon can fly for 8 hours non-stop and reach any European capital from Accra,” his post read.

In the weeks to follow, an urgent question from Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, in Parliament, would be filled, requesting the Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, to answer questions on why the president had to pay so much for a private jet when the country has its own presidential jet, in a good working condition.

Eventually, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, was also hauled before Parliament to present a breakdown of the expenditure by the president on those trips, which, eventually ended in the minister responding to a number of questions as being national security matters and for which he could not provide details.

#FixTheCountry Campaign

Following several years of silent agitations and complaints by the citizenry on the basic needs in the country, a campaign codenamed #FixTheCountry took root on Twitter.

@KALYJAY who has been credited for starting the campaign, got tens of thousands of especially the youth, to jump onto the campaign, leading trends for days.

The tweets and eventually, Facebook posts, were all aimed at getting the government to respond to their cries for the fixing of the many things they regarded as inadequacies.

That, however, was besides the few interventions that the government has made with initiatives like the Nation Builders’ Corp (NABCO), the National Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), and other commitments towards investing in the growing human capital.

As a way of registering these concerns further, a planned demonstration was scheduled but was upheld by the police for reasons that it would undermine the executive instrument against the gathering of persons in line with measures to curb the Coronavirus pandemic.

The matter then moved from there to the court and back and forth until the court gave the green light to the group to proceed with their planned demonstration.

Presidential Spousal Salaries

Early July, the news of a proposal by the Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee to officially pay the spouses of the president and his vice, made huge headlines.

The announcement meant that the First and Second Ladies would be paid salaries by the government of Ghana, equivalent to those paid to cabinet ministers.

This was after the government adopted a recommendation by an emolument committee which was approved by the seventh parliament.

The news was not received well by everybody and as expected, social media trends started rocketing on the matter, forcing the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and then eventually, the Second Lady, Samira Bawumia, to issue statements to reject the proposal.

Following this and the public uproar that accompanied it, the First Lady went on to announce that she was going to return all the monies she has been paid since she assumed the office on January 7, 2017, to date.

This, she did, returning a total of GH¢899,097 to the state, through a cheque she wrote to the Chief of Staff.

The Second Lady has, however, not yet returned her money although she has served notice that she will do so.

Sputnik V Procurement

At the peak of the Coronavirus, and when the government was moving around to get vaccines for its citizenry, a Norwegian tabloid, Vergens Gang, in an investigative report, cited Ghana for purchasing the Russia-made vaccines from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) through some businessmen at $19 instead of US$10.

In a press release reacting to the report, the Ministry of Health explained that the US$10 price per dose was the ex-factory price but the government was unable to buy directly from the Russian government, hence, the use of the private office of one Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It was also reported that the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, had entered an agreement for the supply of 3.4 million doses at a unit cost of US$19.

This move has not gone done well with some stakeholders, including the Minority in Parliament calling for the abrogation of the procurement contract.

CJ Bribery Scandal

A lawyer, Akwasi Afrifa, accused the Chief Justice of demanding a five million dollars bribe from his client to influence the final judgment of a case at the Supreme Court.

The allegation by Akwasi Afrifa was in response to a petition filed at the General Legal Council (GLC) by the chief cum businessman, Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI.

The Chief Justice has since denied the allegations and reported the lawyer to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.

After appearing before the CID on Monday, July 19, 2021, Akwasi Afrifa said, he has told the police what he knows.

“I came here voluntarily. No nobody arrested me and I have come to finish my business. All I will say is that I have not done anything wrong. If you look at the accusations against me, I have given my response,” he said.

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