‘Senior Minister’ position unconstitutional - Mahama Ayariga writes to Akufo-Addo

‘Senior Minister’ position unconstitutional - Mahama Ayariga writes to Akufo-Addo

Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga has written to President Nana Akufo-Addo asking him to re-designate ‘Senior Minister nominee.

‘Senior Minister’ position unconstitutional - Mahama Ayariga writes to Akufo-Addo

‘Senior Minister’ position unconstitutional - Mahama Ayariga writes to Akufo-Addo

According to him, the constitution does not recognise the position of the Senior Minister.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament argued in his letter that theSenior Minister role is ver alien to Ghana;s constitution.

"I write to draw your attention to the constitutional issue arising from your nomination of Hon Yaw Osafo-Marfo for vetting to be appointed “Senior Minister”. I tried to raise the issue in Parliament and at the preparatory meeting of the Appointments Committee of Parliament. My motives are purely to promote adherence to the dictates of our Constitution that Mr. President swore to “… at all times preserve, protect and defend…” I also swore to do the same thing in my Oath of Allegiance as a Member of Parliament."

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Read Mr. Mahama Ayariga’s full letter to President Nana Addo below;

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Flagstaff House

Kanda – Accra

Through: Rt. Hon Speaker, Parliament of Ghana

IN THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL NOMINATION OF HON YAW OSAFO-MARFO FOR APPOINTMENT AS “SENIOR MINISTER”

Mr. President.

I have taken time to write you this letter because you have asked us to be “citizens not spectators”. Citizens insist on fidelity to the Constitution, which is the basis of every constitutional authority and power exercised. “Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution”.

Ghanaians should be made aware that every constitutional power and authority exercised by a President is spelt out in the constitution (or some other law) and the manner in which it is to be exercised is equally laid down. It should therefore not be confusing to non-lawyers when they are told that a power bestowed on a President has been exercised in a manner not laid down in the Constitution. Constitutionalism is concerned with both form and substance.

I write to draw your attention to the constitutional issue arising from your nomination of Hon Yaw Osafo-Marfo for vetting to be appointed “Senior Minister”. I tried to raise the issue in Parliament and at the preparatory meeting of the Appointments Committee of Parliament. My motives are purely to promote adherence to the dictates of our Constitution that Mr. President swore to “… at all times preserve, protect and defend…” I also swore to do the same thing in my Oath of Allegiance as a Member of Parliament.

Remember that breach of the constitution is one of the grounds on which you may be removed from office. We, therefore, have a common duty but sometimes we may have an uncommon understanding of the true meaning of the dictates of the words that enact the authority and powers of a President or any other officer created by the Constitution.

The nomination of any person to be vetted for the post of a “Senior Minister” constitutes a constitutional aberration. The simple reason is that nowhere in the Constitution does the office of ‘Senior Minister’ exist. The Senior Minister post which you have created is demonstrably analogous to the office of Prime Minister. I will show, from a review of the history of the enactment of the 1992 Constitution that there was a very conscious decision to avoid creating any office similar to that of a Prime Minister. The idea of having a Prime Minister was explicitly turned down.

Chapter 8 of the Constitution of Ghana 1992 establishes the Executive branch of government and spells out the offices, which shall constitute that branch. Articles 76, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 88 and 256 of the constitution deal with matters relating to the posts of a ‘Minister of State’ and a ‘Deputy Minister of State’. Some of those provisions often refer to the term ‘Minister’ or ‘Deputy Minister’ when making references to the post of a ‘Minister of State’ or a ‘Deputy Minister of State’ respectively and omitting the expression: ‘of State’.

A ‘Minister of State’ is not the same creature as a “Senior Minister”. A “Senior Minister” suggests the existence of a hierarchy among Ministers of State. There is no hierarchy among ‘Ministers of State’ appointed under articles 58 and 256. At best, there could be informal seniority protocols within government once approval as Ministers of State is given by Parliament. I am not operating in the realm of protocols now. I am asking that we pay attention to the dictates of the language of our Constitution when communicating to other constitutional bodies and arms of government. Co-equal arms of government are guided in the exercise of their own functions by the dictates of the same Constitution. Remember that in the case of the requirement of ‘prior approval’ by Parliament, the Supreme Court said in Mensah versus Attorney-General that Parliament had to respect the language and act accordingly and not just retain Ministers of the previous government because that was not what ‘prior approval’ meant.

Literally and ordinarily the word ‘senior’ means ‘higher in standing or rank’ relative to another Minister of State. But our constitutional governance architecture only recognizes a ‘Minister of State” who the Constitution sometimes refers to as a ‘Minister’. Ordinarily also, the word ‘senior’ is used to show that one person is more advanced in age than another. The Constitution does not make that differentiation when it comes to ministerial appointments. Being advanced in age does not entitle you to be vetted by Parliament and given the accolade of ‘Senior Minister”.

Mr. President cannot simply say that appointing someone as “Senior Minister” means nothing. If that is the case then simply nominate him to be a ‘Minister of State’. Why the discrimination? You consciously seek to elevate Hon Yaw Osafo-Marfo to a status akin to that of a Prime Minister. I have, myself, heard Hon Yaw Osafo-Marfo grant interviews and say on radio that he is going to oversee the work of other Ministers of State you have nominated, especially for the economic sectors. That is to say that he will superintend over the work of other Ministers of State. That interview betrays the real motives for creating the ‘Senior Minister’ post. It is going to function very much the same way as a Prime Minister. Hon Yaw Osafo-Marfo does not understand that you don’t intend to breach the Constitution by creating a Prime Minister status for any one particular Minister of State, if mu assumption is right. For him, it is not a mere accolade based on his age and wealth of experience.

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