Mahama Ayariga trial put on hold… pending suit challenging Special Prosecutor’s eligibility

An Accra High Court has put on hold the trial of Mahama Ayariga, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, over alleged tax evasion and procurement breaches.

This is because of a pending suit at the Supreme Court, challenging the eligibility of Special Prosecutor (SP), A.B.K Martin Amidu, to hold public office.

Mr Ayariga had filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal for stay of his ongoing prosecution at the high court.

In ruling on the application on Wednesday, Justice Effia Serwah Asare-Botwe, said she would put the trial on hold until the determination of the suit before the SC challenging the capacity of the SP.

On June 17, the high court dismissed a preliminary legal objection and a motion seeking to strike out the charge sheet by the defence.

The accused, charged with seven others in two different cases, wanted the court to rule that the Special Prosecutor (SP) is not qualified to prosecute him.

The MP contended that the charges filed against him are statute barred and that the SP had exceeded his prosecutorial powers.

It is also the case of the accused that lawyers, who work for the SP should have a solicitor’s licence before they appear in court.

But, ruling on the applications, the presiding judge, Justice Asare-Botwe, took the view that the offences fall within the mandate of the SP.

She stated that Mr Amidu was duly recognised as the SP, until the SC determined otherwise, the suit against his qualification.

The judge noted that Mr Amidu, a staunch anti-graft campaigner, could investigate and prosecute other corruption offences in accordance with the law.

But lawyers for the MP, filed three motions at the Court of Appeal for an order for the release of the ambulance and to stay proceedings before the high court.

Godwin Kudzo Tameklo said should the SC hold that Amidu does not have or is not qualifed to occupy the office the entire case would come to an end. 

Michael Baafi opposed the application and said it was a rehash of defence’s earlier application to dismiss the charge sheet which was refused by the court.  

In the first case, Mr Ayariga was granted GH¢100,000 self-recognisance bail and asked to deposit his passport with the registrar of the court, and to notify the court in writing anytime he needed the passport to travel with.

His alleged accomplices, Hajia Hawa Ninchema, Sumaila Ewuntoma Abudu, Alex Vadze, Alhaji Abdul-Mumuni Jesewunde, Mary Stella Adapesa and Yakubu Mumuni Nambe have been granted GH¢50,000 bail each with two sureties.

The facts according to the prosecution are that Hajia Ninchema, Abudu, Vadze, and Abdul-Mumuni Jesewunde are the Municipal Chief Executive Officer, former Municipal Coordinating Director, the Procurement Officer and the Municipal Finance Officer, respectively of the Bawku Municipal Assembly, while Adepesa is the former Municipal Health Director of the Assembly.

The prosecutor, Mr Michael Baafi, said, Mr Nambe is the Assembly Member of South Natinga electoral area of the Bawku Municipal Assembly.

He said Hajia Ninchema, Abudu, Vadze, Abdul-Mumuni Jesewunde  are members of the procurement entity of the Assembly.

The court heard that in February 2018, the Assembly and the Bawku Municipal Health Directorate acting through Hajia Ninchema and Adepesa discussed with Ayariga the need to procure an ambulance to ensure quality delivery of health services in the municipality.

He said an agreement was made to use the MP’s Common Fund for the procurement of a Mercedez Benz Sprinter ambulance at a dollar equivalent of GH¢92,000.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

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