The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin has questioned the authority of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on the MP for Dome-Kwabenya, Sarah Adwoa Safo.
He said suggestions by the NPP to declare the seat of the MP vacant because of absenteeism is not possible.
Alban Bagbin said the Speaker of Parliament is the only one who has the authority to declare the seat of a lawmaker vacant.
He explained that if a lawmaker acts in ways that can lead to his or her removal, the privileges committee of Parliament will invite the person and listen to explanations for the conduct. If the committee finds the action justifiable, then they will allow the person to go unpunished but if otherwise, they will refer the matter to the house for a debate on it.
After the debate, the Speaker will then decide whether or not the lawmaker should be expelled, he added.
“The term used in the Constitution is the vacation of the position of Member of Parliament and the circumstances are clear, when an MP is absent for fifteen sittings of Parliament, in a meeting, and a meeting is three months, it is not a session which is 12 months.”
“Those are the words of the constitution. Now, the genesis of this provision is from the days of Nkrumah where RB Okyere, who was one of the opposition members had to run to Cote D’Ivoire and whiles even in Cote D’Ivoire, he was sending leave of absence which were always automatically approved and he was to be there for over two years enjoying all his conditions of service and claiming to be attending medical treatment. The gentleman who pleaded guilty in the 1963 treason trial is the one I am referring to.”
“That is where the genesis started, that time it was twenty days, now it is fifteen days. Some parliaments, it is ninety days some even more.”
“Our constitution did not talk about it being consecutive but I have been getting reports from Civil society calculating it on the session and just adding your days of absence and saying that you should have vacated your seat. But when I read a lot of cases in other jurisdictions they said consecutive, fifteen consecutive sitting days in a meeting. That is the circumstances under which Speaker will be called upon to refer the matter to the privilege’s committee who will invite the member to come and explain why the absence is without permission from the speaker.”
“If a reason is given that is reasonable, then the person will not have vacated she or his seat. It is when the committee decides that the reason is not reasonable then they will report to the House, the House will debate it and the decision will be taken. That is the process we go through, we haven’t gone there yet but there is a call for removal.”
“When I hear my colleagues in the NPP say that they have removed Adwoa Safo I ask, do you have that power? You can use your party to take her off as a member of your party and that can trigger some constitutional consequences but you cannot just go and sit down and say you have removed her because it is only the Speaker that can declare the seat vacant.”
Adwoa Safo has been missing in Parliament since December and there have been allegations that she is sabotaging the government.
Some prominent members of the party including Kennedy Agyapong have called for her expulsion from Parliament.