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General News of Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Plan court proceedings to allow Ayariga to attend sitting - Speaker

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, has asked the High Court to programme its proceedings in a way that will enable the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayiraga, to stand trial and at the same time represent his constituents in Parliament without interruption.

The release of Ayariga by Parliament yesterday to stand trial at an Accra High Court follows an application he put before the House on whether to honour an invitation to appear in court yesterday.

Parliamentary immunity

Following the application, both the Minority and the Majority Leaders of the House asked the Speaker to make a determination on the matter. They emphasised that the determination should be in the interest of the rule of law, while protecting parliamentary immunity.

When the House resumed sitting after it was adjourned for some time, the Speaker quoted Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution, and called on state institutions or agencies to respect the Separation of Powers granted in the Constitution, even as the House recognised that no person was above the law.

He said the MP was not above the law. Besides, the House was not in session all-year round and there were times that Parliament was not in session. He suggested that MPs could be invited to court on days when the House was not sitting or was on recess.

He indicated that no parliamentarian was above the law and that the 1992 Constitution gave some privileges but it also allowed space for the trial of a parliamentarian, citing the case of Dan Abodakpi.

Three arms of government

According to Prof. Oquaye, the Constitution enjoined the three arms of government to work independently, without obstruction.

Mr Ayariga has been dragged to court by the Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu, to stand trial for alleged tax evasion and procurement breach charges in the purchase of personal vehicles and an ambulance for a municipal assembly.

However, Mr Ayariga, in a letter dated June 2, 2019, to the Special Prosecutor indicated that he could not be present in court on Tuesday, since he was an MP and would be in Parliament.

When the case was called in court yesterday morning, Ayariga was in Parliament. He moved a motion in the House, describing the court order as having been served on him in breach of his parliamentary immunity.