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General News of Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Amidu ‘wins’; Mahama Ayariga’s ‘immunity’ excuse floored by court

Member of Parliament for Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga will henceforth be obliged to make appearance at every court sitting regarding his trial, this is per an order by the Financial and Economic Court 2 Division of the Accra High Court.

Mr. Ayariga who is in court for alleged tax evasion and abuse of office had previously indicated that he could not honor the court’s order to appear Tuesday for the hearing owing to the fact that he was a Member of Parliament and was responsible for representing his constituents at the chamber same day.

This was despite Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu’s prior notice to the Speaker of Parliament as required by law, given the conditions surrounding the invitation of MPs.

According to him (Ayariga), “Absenting myself from sittings of Parliament for a certain number of days without the Speaker’s permission could be grounds for my removal from Parliament.”

The Speaker, he went on, has no right to release an MP so he can appear before a court of law, a constitutional issue which paves the way for a debate. “Be informed that any conduct on your part that in anyway impedes or obstructs my right to be in Parliament on 4th June and represent the good people of Bawku will amount to contempt of Parliament,” Mr. Ayariga stated, citing article 122 of the 1992 Constitution.

He nonetheless appeared before the court Tuesday afternoon at 1pm after the presiding judge Justice Afia Botwe ordered that he made appearance by all means for proceedings to continue.

Mr. Ayariga whose counsel; Godwin Edudzie Tamakloe had presented a Certificate of the Speaker of Parliament to the court, standing on the orders of article 118 of the 1992 Constitution, explained that Mr. Ayariga’s prior absence was ‘not out of disrespect for the court but on the basis of the fact captured in the certificate issued by the speaker”.

Lawyer Tamakloe further made reference to a letter written to the High Court Tuesday 4th June 2019 and addressed to the Registrar, to the effect that Mr. Ayariga was attending proceedings in Parliament and was hence unable to appear before the court.

Justice Afia Botwe however rejected the certificate issued by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, ruling out the effect of the referred article 118 on the trial. Her arguments were that the article which says;

(1) Neither the Speaker, nor a member of, nor the Clerk to, Parliament shall be compelled, while attending Parliament to appear as a witness in any court or place out of Parliament.

(2) The certificate of the Speaker that a member or the Clerk is attending the proceedings of Parliament is conclusive evidence of attendance at Parliament….
was non-applicable to the Bawku MP because he was appearing in this case as an accused person and not a witness as the clause defined.
She therefore ruled that Mr. Mahama Ayariga henceforth will be required to appear for every sitting regarding the case adding that court proceedings will be dealt with per law and the due seriousness attached.

The court also adjourned the case to the 10th of June to ensure that the defendant is duly served the affidavit from opposition and given ample time to prepare for the trial.



Background

This is the first case the Office is pursuing in court since its formation more than a year ago.

Joined to the suit is one Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car company.

According to the writ sighted “Mahama Ayariga aged 44 years in November 2017 at Tema in the Greater Accra Region did fraudulently evade customs duties and taxes by paying GH¢6,062.86 instead of the approved duties and taxes of GH¢36,597.15 to clear three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers.”

He is also accused of allegedly abusing his office as a public officer for his private benefit by “selling three Toyota V8 Land Cruisers with registration numbers GR 2220-18, GR 2221-18, and GR 2222-18 meant to be used for your official duties as a Member of Parliament to Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car at a price of GH¢40,000 each.”