Review Of The 1992 Constitution – An Observation
My heart leapt for joy when I read on the front page of the Monday, August 17, 2009 issue of the Daily Graphic that the Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has made a proposition for the review of some aspects of the 1992 Constitution.
This is clearly a laudable proposition and welcome news. It is an undeniable fact that having worked with the 1992 Constitution for quite some time now, certain provisions have become outdated and for that matter, are no longer in consonance or consistence and reflective of the contemporary values of the society.
As a citizen of Ghana and for that matter a resilient constitutional crusader, I would like to bring to the fore for consideration, certain articles, clauses, sections and sub-sections of the 1992 Republican Constitution which need to be amended or reviewed.
For instance, Article 243 (1) states that there shall be a District Chief Executive for every district who shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.
This provision of the Constitution makes the position of the District Chief Executives subservient and answerable to the President who appointed them and not the electorate.
For the District Chief Executives to be answerable to the electorate, this provision of the Constitution should be amended and the position of the District Chief Executives be made an electable one to make them accountable to the people whom they exercise their power and authority.
Article 88(1) stipulates that there shall be an Attorney-General of Ghana who shall be a Minister of State and the principal legal adviser to the Government. Section (3) further states that the Attorney-General shall be responsible for the initiative and conduct of the prosecutions of criminal offences.
Here, the Attorney-General is an integral part of the Executive and for that matter part of the ruling Government. He is both a referee and a player. His position is very dicey.
What is the guarantee that he would not compromise his position by being partial, bias, or reluctant to prosecute when cases involving his ministers or members of his government are brought before him for prosecution.
Because of the possibility of this situation arising, there is the need for the separation of the position of the Attorney-General from that of the Minister of Justice.
On the composition of District Assembly, Article 242(b) states that, the member or members of parliament from the constituencies that falls within the area of authority of the District Assembly as members without the right to vote. Section (d) of the same provision further states that, other members not being more than 30 per cent of all the members of the District Assembly, appointed by the President in consultation with the traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district.
Here, I will propose that Section (b) of Article 242 be amended so as to give the right to member or members of parliament from the constituencies to vote on matters affecting the interest of the people they serve or represent.
Section (d) of the same provision should be amended to make the 30 per cent Government appointees electable one. The District Assemblies are supposed to be non-partisan by nature, but that is not the case.
District Assembly elections are conducted on party lines. It is an open secret that the Assemblies are partisan in nature.
And it is obvious that it will be impossible to impose a partisan structure on non-partisan structure, it cannot stand, and it will definitely wobble.
Article 71, Sections and its sub-sections on the determination of certain emoluments to certain categories of people in the state need serious amendment.
This provision of the constitution makes certain categories of people in the state look more Ghanaian than the others. The national kitty belongs to all Ghanaians, so in the distribution of the national cake, care should be taken so as not to make it look as if those who do not fall within these category of people but have served the nation for a number of years do not matter in the state.
The President wields excessive power and authority under the 1992 Constitution. He makes numerous appointments under the Constitution.
He is the commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces. For instance, under the constitution he makes the following appointments; the Chief Justice, Inspector General of Police, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Commissioner for Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justcie (CHRAJ) and his deputies, the Auditor-General, the District Assemblies Common Fund Administrator (DACFA), the chairmen and other members of the Public Services Commission, the lands commission, the governing bodies of Public Corporations, National Council for Higher Education, the Chairman, Deputy Chairmen and others members of the Electoral Commission including a host of other appointments. For me, there should be some limitation of the powers of the President. Such excessive power that the President wields could lead to arbitrariness.
On the Transitional Provisions in the constitution, especially Articles 34 & 35, I will advocate for their removal so as to discourage other future coup plotters from holding the nation to ransom.
There was a national reconciliation to heal the wounds of the nation and for the nation state to make a fresh start.
I will advocate that the good citizens of Ghana should not rake the past but should put the past behind them and allow the sleeping dogs lie.
If the good citizens of Ghana decide to rake the past it will not auger well for us but rather go a long way to erode the modest democratic gains so far made and ultimately impede our developmental agenda so far made to propel the nation forward.
Article 276(1) of the 1992 constitution debars Chiefs from taking part in active of the party politics. Even though, this provision of the constitution debars the chiefs from doing active party politics, yet, we find some of these Chiefs dabbling seriously in active party politics.
This provision of the constitution as well infringes on the fundamental human rights and freedoms of Chiefs under Article 21(e) of the Constitution which states that all persons shall have the right to freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest.
Even though Article 276 of the Constitution stipulates that any Chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin. This provision of the constitution should be amended to enable those Chiefs who are interested in politics to do so.
The writer is a Deputy Chief Registrar-in-charge-of Lower Courts – Western Region and National Vice President of the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG)