The 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government was on Friday rejected by Parliament but the Majority caucus said the decision overseen by the Speaker of the House, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, is “null, void and of no effect”.
Led by the NPP Member for Suame, OseiKyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority caucus walked out of the House leaving their 137 Minority colleagues in the House to reject the budget.
This was after a request by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to have a meeting with the extended leadership of the House was shot down.
The House was scheduled to vote on the budget after thedebate is concluded by Majority and Minority Leaders, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and HarunaIddrisu, NDC Member for Tamale South, on that day.
The Minority Leader in his debate said his side would not vote in favour of the budget primarily for four reasons; the e-levy, the intended reintroduction of the controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalties deal, and the non-provision of funds for the completion of the Blekusu Sea Defence Project to protect residents of Keta, Aflao and Anloga who were recently displaced by tidal waves.
Before the leaders took the podium to debate, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu had applied to the Speaker for the Finance Minister to be heard; a request Speaker Bagbin refused noting that Mr Ofori-Atta would have the last word before the question is put whether or not the House should approve the budget.
When he took the stage after the leaders concluded their debate, Mr Ofori-Atta prayed the House to have a meeting withleadership before the question is put.
Speaker Bagbin, sought the leave of the House if the prayer should be granted. Putting it to a voice vote, the Speaker ruled that the Minority won, effectively rejecting the Finance Minister’s request.
Unconvinced that the Minority had won the voice vote, the Deputy Majority Leader and NPP MP for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, coming under Standing Order 113(2), challenged the Speaker’s ruling and called for a division; a Parliamentary method of taking a vote that physically counts members voting.
“In the case of a division, Mr Speaker shall direct that the lobbies be cleared, and upon such direction being given the division bells shall be rung for one minute. After a lapse of two minutes from this direction, he shall put the Question, and Mr Speaker shall declare whether in his opinion the Ayes or Noes have it…..” Order 114(1) reads.
In line with the above provision, Speaker Bagbin directed that the lobbies be cleared of all non-MPs on the floor for the process to begin.
Incensed by the directive which affected the Finance and Transport Ministers and a Minister of State, the Majority unofficially requested that the General Secretary of the NDCand a Board Member of the Parliamentary Service, Johnson AsieduNketia, who was seated in the public gallery, also leaves.
Even before Speaker Bagbin would respond to that ‘unofficial’ request, the House descended into disorder as Members on the Majority side started banging their desks and walked out.
Suspending the House for five minutes, ostensibly, to engage the agitated Majority Members who were within the precincts of the Chamber Block of the House, Speaker Bagbin returned in about 30 minutes and reiterated that he was within the law to ask non-MPs too leave the floor for the division.
To be sure there was a quorum for a decision to be taken, Speaker Bagbin requested for a head count to which 137 MPs, all Minority Members, were present, 45 members more than the 92 needed to form a quorum.
When he finally put the question as to how many wanted the budget approved, there was a deafening silence from an empty Majority bench but a rapturous ‘NO’ swept through the Minority side when he asked all those not in favour of budget to say ‘NO’.
But addressing the media after the decision, the Majority Leader said the budget still stands and properly before the House.
“That whole procedure was unconstitutional. As far as we are concerned, it is null, void and has no binding effect on anybody.
The motion on the budget, as far as we are concerned, hasn’t been pronounced on by Parliament, and is still standing in the name of the Finance Minister and in the fullness of time, a properly constituted House, not one presided over by the Rt Honorable Speaker will make the decision,” Mr Kyei-Mensah Bonsu said.
He argued that per article 104 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, “matters in Parliament shall be determined by votes of the majority of members present and voting, with at least half of all the members of Parliament present”.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI
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