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03.05.2006 Crime & Punishment

AMOATENG FOR FAST TRACK COURT

By Ghanaian-Chronicle

...As US-based prof. seeks declaration of Nkoranza North seat vacant.

AN ACCRA FAST TRACK Court yesterday granted leave to a professor of accounting in the United States of America (USA), Prof. Stephen Kwaku Asare, to serve the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkoranza North in the Brong Ahafo Region, Mr. Eric Amoateng, a writ of summons and statement of claim through the Clerk of Parliament.
With a successful service of the court documents on Mr. Amoateng, he would be required to answer to the claims either in person or through his lawyers, to justify why he should continue to hold himself up as Nkoranza North MP.

This is because the accounting professor is seeking an order of the court, directing the Speaker of Parliament to direct the Clerk of Parliament to declare the Nkoranza North seat vacant to the Electoral Commissioner, for a bye-election to be conducted and cost among others.

Mr. Theophilus Adejupo, Counsel holding brief for plaintiff counsel, Mr. Ebow Bonzie Simpson, informed the court presided over by Justice E. K. Ayebi, that they have been able to serve the Attorney General, Speaker of Parliament and the Electoral Commission, with the writ and statements of claim.

He said that all attempts to serve the MP for Nkoranza North with the documents however, have proved futile, due to the fact that even though they know he is in detention in the USA, they do not know where he is being held.

According to Mr. Adejupo, since Mr. Amoateng has received dispensation from Parliament because of a letter he wrote through the Clerk, it would be proper for service to him to be made through the latter (Clerk), since he is the best person to know his whereabouts.

Even though the court granted the ex-parte motion for order for substituted service on Mr. Amoateng, it did not accept counsel's argument that the Clerk of Parliament is an agent of the MP.

Prof. Stephen Kwaku Asare is expressing dissatisfaction over the continued absence of the MP from Parliament, following his arrest and detention by US security personnel on narcotics charges, since November last year.

According to the plaintiff, the “continued and indefinite absence” of Mr. Eric Amoateng from Parliament for a period of more than fifteen Parliamentary sittings, supported by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee, is unconstitutional.

Further, plaintiff was of the view that the purported dispensation to be absent from Parliament, granted the MP in late February or early March 2006 by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee after the expiry of the statutory fifteen days stipulated under the law, is incompetent, void and of no effect, as the MP for Nkoranza North is constitutionally barred from holding himself as MP for the constituency as well as member of the august House.

In a writ issued on March 14, 2006 against the Attorney General, the Speaker of Parliament, the Electoral Commissioner and Mr. Eric Amoateng through Ms. Comfort Asamoah, his lawful attorney, the US-based professor of accounting indicated that the Nkoranza North MP neither sought the permission of the Speaker of Parliament nor offered any reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee for his absence from Parliament.

Plaintiff in his statement of claim asserted that Mr. Amoateng was apprehended in the US in or about November last year on narcotic charges and had since been in a US detention facility and by virtue of his absence beyond the fifteen days stipulated under the law, no dispensation could be granted to the MP or any other person who had absented himself or herself from Parliament as a member of the August House without reasonable explanation.

Prof. Asare noted that in late February this year, he wrote a letter through his counsel to the Speaker of Parliament expressing his grave concern of the violation of Article 97 (1), as a result of the continued absence of the member for Nkoranza North Constituency.

Plaintiff alleged that if the court does not grant the relief set out in his writ, the defendants would consciously and unintentionally be acting in breach of the unambiguous dictates of the constitution.

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