NPP Interface With Media – January 2010 (Part One)
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Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media. We have invited you here to join us in evaluating the performance of the NDC administration under His Excellency Professor John Evans Atta Mills one year after the swearing-in. The aim is to appraise commissions and omissions and to help reform policies and programs where required towards the collective good of this country.
Elections and Swearing-in
After both the first round and second round of voting in December 2008 results in the Presidential elections were still inconclusive and tension was being heightened by the deliberate peddling of falsehood and incitement to violence. The vote in Tain settled who the majority of Ghanaian voters wanted to preside over governance. The verdict, even though by the slimmest of margins, went to Professor Mills and the NDC.
That slim margin of victory is unprecedented in the political history of Ghana, in Africa and, perhaps, the entire world. The management of the handing over via the Transitional Team however left much to be desired and rather unfortunately got this Fifth term of the Fourth Republic to start off in acrimony. Accusations and counteraccusations flew about and poisoned the atmosphere. Some of the incidents were understandable given the zeal, posturing and commitment displayed by various personalities during the electioneering campaigns and the elections. Many, however, were avoidable and inexcusable. It certainly must be one area that the nation must look at and reform, to enable the outgoing administration to peacefully exit and the incoming government to smoothly settle into the saddle.
A new Parliament was sworn-in and a new Speaker, the first Lady Speaker in the history of this country was sworn-in after an election by consensus from both sides of the political divide in Parliament. That certainly marked a return to convention and a departure from the rather bizarre incident which marred the election of the former Speaker. At that time a contest ensued when the then Minority nominated another person to contest the nomination from the then Majority. Madam Speaker, thus far, has proved that she deserves the honour bequeathed on her. One could only hope that she would continue on the path of impartiality which has, to a very large extent, been her pursuit.
Not too long after the inauguration of the new Parliament, Professor J.E.A. Mills was sworn-in as the fifth President albeit the third person to lead the Fourth Republic.
Vehicle Snatching and Dismissals
In the President's inaugural address to the nation he made certain bold statements, pledges to this nation and it is important to flash back and reflect. The President was very loud when he said “As I have always said, I would be President for all Ghanaians, whether they voted for me or not and irrespective of their political persuasion and the parts of the country that they come from”. That clearly is a noble intent but significantly even before the echo in that declaration could peter out members and activists of the ruling party had descended and appropriated to themselves the manning of lorry parks, public toilets from suspected supporters and sympathizers of other political parties, but especially those of the NPP. Many were assaulted and battered and it appeared the President turned a blind eye and a deaf ear, to the protestations and the groaning of the victims. Not a good beginning for “the President for all Ghanaians”.
We need to remind ourselves of dismissals which have been effected on many public officers since January 7, 2009 during the Transition period when NADMO officials including but in particular its Chief Executive as well as others who were handed dismissal letters by persons who were non-ministers but who purported to be acting on behalf of the President.
The other arbitrary dismissals involved the Heads of School Feeding Programme, the National Identification Authority, the National Health Insurance Authority and many other departments and agencies in the public service.
Loyalty to NDC, Loyalty to State
The President in his inaugural address “(urged) Members of the Judiciary, the security and public services to be loyal and committed to…our dear nation”. One thought that loyalty to the nation or state is completely different from loyalty to a political party which finds itself in government. It is for this reason why one finds it strange that the President, himself as Associate Professor of law should now openly canvass the position that public and civil servants who do not agree with the ruling NDC government shall have to leave their positions. Nothing could be more dangerous to our democracy than to equate the state with government. Whereas as per Article 3(1) the Constitution disables Parliament from enacting a law to establish a one-party State, clause 2 of same article prevents any person including the president from suppressing or seeking to suppress the lawful political activity of any other person or class of persons. What is more pitiable is that the same President who pledges to be father of all Ghanaians has directed his political appointees to give special attention to members of the NDC.
Public and Civil Servants are required to be loyal to the State. They are required, in the performance of their duties, to demonstrate neutrality and impartiality; they are not required to demonstrate loyalty to a ruling party! It is however good that the President has provided us with an insight into his perspectives of good governance. To President Mills “if you are not with us, you are against us”. This principle undoubtedly has informed the many dismissals from office which this nation has witnessed since January 7, 2009. These commissions are certainly at variance with the assurances of Professor Mills at his swearing-in: “we intend to pursue a consensus driven agenda”.
Brutalities, Murders and Impunity
The President did pledge to the nation on January 7, 2009: “I will heal wounds and strive to ensure the unity of our country”. Again, one regrettably observes rather painfully that far from healing old wounds, new wounds have been opened under the watch of President Mills. The case of Appiah Stadium who was assaulted and was bundled in his own car by known NDC operatives and whose car was set ablaze by the same gang is well documented; the case involving the gruesome murders of three traders and workers in the Agbogbloshie market – Alhassan Fuseini from Tamale; Soale from Yendi and Sule J.Y from Tolon by persons close to the NDC including one Sule, Sahana Mohammed Ayatu, Awal Voulina Naa, Sule Nabiya, Abdalla Say and Abdalla Rasta cannot be forgotten. This nation is still waiting on the President to heal these wounds. The NDC has written in their manifesto that they will “ensure the prosecution of the persons found to be responsible for the murder in police custody of Alhaji Issah Mobila, the Northern Regional Chairman of the CPP in December 2004”. The NDC should also investigate the murder of Alhassan Fuseini, Soale and Sule J.Y. and the mysterious death of, Mr Salifu Ahmed Mikankan, the other young man who was assaulted in front of the BNI cells and died the following day. They are all Ghanaians.
And as we speak today, four persons, Messrs Yahuza Yakubu, Mr Majeed Alhassan, Habib Adagbana, Shaibu, and Moro Gundana have been in detention in the past one year. What wrongs have they committed?
The nation can also not forget the declaration of “Jihad” by Mr. Baba Jamal the Deputy Eastern Regional Minister which occasioned the shocking incidence of barbarism and thuggery displayed by NDC members and supporters in the run-up to and during the
re-run of elections involving six polling stations at Akwatia. Severe injuries were inflicted on fifteen (15) NPP supporters and four of them were admitted to Akwatia and Asamankese hospitals. Severe damages were done to ten vehicles belonging to NPP officers and leaders including the Land Cruiser of the Minority Leader by an NDC mob at the main Akwatia Lorry Station. Other leaders whose vehicles were destroyed included Hon. Gifty Klenam, Hon. Elizabeth Agyeman, Hon. Isaac Osei, Hon. Kiston Akomeng Kissi, Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, Hon. Daniel Botwe and Nana Ohene Ntow were manhandled on the day of voting. The nation is yet to know of what the President who has pledged to heal wound has done or will do in respect of these cases. Certainly if Members of Parliament could be treated with such impunity and the perpetrators cannot be apprehended what assurance can the President give to ordinary Ghanaians that he is “a father to all Ghanaians”?
The President pledged to the nation that in his administration “there will be no room for political vendetta…..no room for witch-hunting….”. Not long after, the brouhaha over the issue of cars most of which had been bought and paid for by former Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other government functionaries ensued and many former functionaries had their vehicles snatched away from them even whilst they were driving these vehicles. In one particular case the Managing Director of a reputable bank was forced out of his vehicle and the vehicle taken away. The immediate-past Presidential candidate of the NPP had his private vehicle taken away from his driver on suspicion that it was a government vehicle that he had acquired.
Then Kufuor's four vehicles were withdrawn and taken away from his house even though former President Rawlings at that stage in his life as former President had not less than sixteen vehicles in his pool of vehicles. Former President Kufuor would not be allowed the use of four cars by President Mills. The Greenstreet Recommendation made no provision for cars for a former Vice-President. President Kufuor allowed then former Vice-President Mills the use of not less than two vehicles.
Then the nation witnessed a contrivance when some so-called Ga Youth purportedly resolved not to allow former President to use an office facility which had been acquired for his use as office and library. President Mills's government waded into the contrivance and took the office away from ex-President Kufuor. The Chinnery-Hesse Committee Recommendations which had duly been approved by Parliament in respect of Article 68 especially clauses (4), (5), (7) and (9) and Article 71 of the Constitution made specific proposals relating to gratuity, pension, allowances and other facilities including vehicles, house-helps and office and residential facilities and Endowment Fund. All these as per the Chinnery-Hesse Committee recommendations, even after approval by Parliament, are subject to ability to pay by the State. All that was required to have been done was for the President on the basis of ability or in-ability of the State to pay, to have engaged the potential beneficiaries on the way forward.
Gratuity & Other Facilities
Today, Members of the Fourth Parliament and most Ministers, Deputy Ministers and some Article 71 office holders who served under the Fourth Parliament/President have been paid part of their gratuity. After the payment to the former MPs and Ministers what happens to former President Kufuor and ex-Vice President Aliu Mahama? What of the components of the office and residential facilities, vehicles and other prescribed privileges? What happens to the other Article 71 office holders who have thus far not been paid anything at all?
The President insisted that he acted upon the recommendations of the Ishmael Yamson Committee because there was a vacuum. In other words, there was no report and hence no approval was given. It is instructive to note that both the Majority and Minority Leaders of Parliament had jointly declared before the Ishmael Yamson Committee that indeed the report came to Parliament and Parliament duly approved of it. From where comes the conclusion that there was no report which was approved? It is important to remember that when the cacophony over the Ex-gratia broke out the comments from government officials were that the recommendations were outrageous and that Kufuor was a self-seeker! Today, we are witnessing the shifting of the goal post. If Kufuor cannot be provided a house and an office facility because the nation cannot afford it, can the nation afford the two houses at the prime area of Ridge which ex-President Rawlings has been using for the past twenty odd years? President Mills therefore has to calculate rent in order for ex-President Rawlings to pay for the twenty plus years he has used the facility because the nation cannot afford residential facilities for former Presidents. Rent has to be calculated for the use of the office facility at Ridge by President Mills “the father for all Ghanaians”. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.
Presidential Pledges – Internal Security
The President promised the nation on his inauguration that “no Ghanaian should live in fear of armed robbery”. This pledge was against the backdrop that under the NPP people could not move around for fear of being attacked! Professor Mills had made this assertion at many places during his electioneering campaigns. The question then is whether it is true that today no Ghanaian lives in fear of armed robbery. The truth is that not long after the swearing-in of President Mills the nation witnessed an upsurge of armed robberies and vehicle-stealing. Into the middle of the year about forty vehicles were provided to the police. The police and the armed forces responded by intensifying their joint patrol duties. About two weeks ago another thirty (30) vehicles have been given to the police. Without doubt this will further strengthen the arm of the police to combat armed robberies; and the police and the armed forces must be commended for their rapid response, having regard to their contrivance in the use of the scarce and meagre resources at their disposal.
The statement that “no Ghanaian today lives in fear of armed robbery” is hyperbolic and a palpable untruth. The NDC led government must better resource the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Armed Forces to enable them aggressively combat armed robbery through foot, motorbike and vehicle patrols to assure public safety. Even then it is important to state that by the end of the first year of Kufuor's administration three hundred Peugeot cars and considerable number of motorbikes had been provided to the police.
Professor Mills has promised to pursue good governance based on the rule of law and an “open and honest government”. Noble declaration, without doubt, but then during the transition an operative of government who was not a minister issued a constitutional instrument in obvious breach of Article 58(5). That certainly was not in accordance with the rule of law and good governance. The President for the second time revised the Budgetary Estimates of the Judiciary before his Finance Minister laid it before Parliament contrary to the clear provisions of article 179(5) of the Constitution. The vigilance of the Parliamentary Committee on Judiciary averted the Presidential breach of the Constitution.
President Mills, as presidential candidate criticized President Kufuor's anti-corruption program in respect of public officers appointees because of the requirement that only allegations of corruption/wrongdoing against public officer/appointees supported by evidence would be given attention.
However, President Atta Mills in his January 7th 2010 media interface has set an even higher bar of requirement of “credible evidence” before allegations against his political appointees would be considered in answer to a question on his former Minister for Youth and Sports.
Clearly and as usual, the President has reneged on a campaign promise to set a higher standard in his fight against corruption in respect of political appointees. He has moved from “evidence” per se to “credible evidence”. Whilst we agree that there is the need for evidence to support allegations of impropriety against political appointees for appropriate action; the determination of credible evidence falls within the ambit of the Judiciary. What is even worse is that, the investigative forum which dealt with the case of the ex-Minister for Youth and Sport is the office of the National Security Coordinator instead of the regular CID of the Ghana Police Service.
For good measure, the President then introduced a concept of “indiscretion” to describe a situation which is clearly illegal. How can any person describe an act of misrepresenting facts in bad faith to enable another person enjoy benefits which would otherwise not accrue to that person as mere indiscretion?
In the circumstances, the President has not only failed to be a better crusader against corruption than President Kufuor but has introduced double standards in the criminal jurisprudence of Ghana, to wit, that criminal acts by his appointees are acts of indiscretion but for others, prosecution before a court of competent jurisdiction.
To dilate on the issue of double standards, permit me to state that there appears to a difference between the President's political appointees and other Ghanaians in respect of the investigative institution which was employed to investigate allegations of impropriety.
Furthermore, where the President's appointee is clearly culpable, the President deprives the Judiciary of its role to pronounce on same but rather acts as a “judge in his own cause” to declare that such acts are a result of mere “indiscretion”. By so doing the President who has sworn, to among others, protect and defend the Constitution of Ghana, purports to usurp and exercise judicial power which is vested in Judiciary only. That action or pronouncement by the President is in obvious breach of Article 125(3).
The commitment of the Office of the President to fight corruption and/or not condone corruption was dealt a further blow by his handling of the Mabey and Johnson Bribery affair and specifically the appointment of the Ghana High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria even though the said High Commissioner has been mentioned in the said affair for impropriety or is it another instance of “indiscretion” by the High Commissioner to warrant his appointment?
Appointment of Ministers
The President in accordance with Article 78 and 79 nominated Ministers and Deputy Ministers for approval by Parliament. Parliament considered the nominees at its Appointments Committee and the nation witnessed the calibre of persons entrusted with authority to join our President in managing the affairs of State over the succeeding three more years. It is unfortunate that the provision on proficiency in English language which used to be part of all the earlier Constitutions was omitted from the 1992 Constitution. It is good that the current Constitution is to be reviewed, we may have to look at this together with other eligibility criteria which will test the competence of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament. The next consideration may perhaps be approving Ministers and Deputy Ministers for specific sectors so that if they do not perform to satisfaction they would then be given the sack and not be reshuffled to positions they have not been assessed in.