The Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, showed up yesterday at the Accra Financial High Court, in respect of two separate cases filed against him and six others by the state.
The charges against the lawmaker, who came to court in the company of colleague minority Members of Parliament (MPs), were not read because of two pending applications before the court presided by Justice Effia Serwah Asare-Botwe.
The applications, filed by his counsel, Godwin Kodjo Edudzi Tamakloe, are seeking the court to strike out the charge sheet and another charge not read in court.
Before proceedings began, Mr Tamakloe drew the court’s attention to a certificate issued by the Speaker of Parliament, Mike Aaron Quaye, filed with the registrar of the court to the effect that Mr Ayariga was attending Parliamentary proceedings.
The said certificate, which was issued pursuant to Article 118(2) of the 1992 Constitution, suggested the accused could not be arraigned while he attends to Parliamentary business.
Article 118(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that “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.
Clause (2) further provides that, “The certificate of the Speaker that a member or the Clerk is attending the proceedings of Parliament is conclusive evidence of attendance at Parliament.
But ruling on the certificate, Justice Asare-Botwe held that the legislator was in court as an accused, and not a witness, therefore, the two scenarios are distinct and should not be confused.
This is the first case filed by the office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), Mr Martin Alamisi Amidu, since the office was established two years ago.
Meanwhile, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, who led a team of National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs, said the judge was not clothed with the jurisdiction to interpret the constitution.
Mr Iddrisu said the Minority would invoke the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the interpretation of Articles 118, 122 and 117 of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr Ayariga and Mr Amidu had a back and forth over the latter’s abuse of public office. This is the first case the OSP 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.
The Ghanaian Times gathered that one of the charges also relates to breach of procurement regulations for the purchase of ambulances for a health facility in the lawmaker’s constituency.
According to the writ sighted, “Mahama Ayariga, 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 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 official duties as a Member of Parliament to Kendrick Akwasi Marfo of ATLAS-Rent-A-Car at a price of GH¢40,000 each”.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA