The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has elaborated Article 97(1)c of the 1992 constitution of Ghana following calls from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and a former MP to declare some Parliamentary seats vacant.
Article 97(1)c of the 1992 constitution of Ghana stipulates that a member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament (c) “if he is absent, without the permission in writing of the Speaker and he is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet”.
Reacting to this, Bagbin said unlike, in some countries where the constitution looks at consecutive absence, our constitution never calls for a declaration of a seat vacant when there is an absence from 15 CONSECUTIVE sittings.
“The term used in the Constitution is vacation of the position of Member of Parliament and the circumstances are clear, when an MP is absent for fifteen sittings of Parliament, in a meeting, and a meeting is three months, it is not a session which is 12 months“, he said.
He highlighted that, “Our constitution did not talk about it being consecutive but I have been getting reports from Civil society calculating it on the session and just adding your days of absence and saying that you should have vacated your seat. But when I read a lot of cases in other jurisdictions they said consecutive, fifteen consecutive sitting days in a meeting.
“That is the circumstances under which Speaker will be called upon to refer the matter to the privilege’s committee who will invite the member to come and explain why the absence without the permission from the speaker.
“If a reason is given that is reasonable, then the person will not have vacated she or his seat. It is when the committee decides that the reason is not reasonable then they will report to the House, the House will debate it and the decision will be taken. That is the process we go through, we haven’t gone there yet but there is a call for removal.
Former Kumbungu Member of Parliament (MP) Ras Mubarak has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to enforce Article 97 (1)c over the absence of Hon. Sarah Adwoa Safo, MP for Dome-Kwabenya; Hon. Henry Quartey, MP for Ayawaso Central; Hon. Ebenezer Kojo Kum, MP for Ahanta West; and Hon. Ken Ohene Agyapong, MP for Assin Central.