President Akufo-Addo speaks on Supreme Court Ruling on voting rights of Deputy Speakers
President Akufo-Addo has said he is so surprised that so much energy has been “wasted” on the debate about whether or not Deputy Speakers of Parliament could vote on the floor of the House when presiding over a matter, since, in his view, that debate was unnecessary since the 1992 Constitution clearly provides for it.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s 7-0 unanimous decision arrived at on Wednesday, 9 March 2022 that Deputy Speakers can vote on matters on the floor even when presiding over the proceedings of the House, the President told Daily Guide’s Charles Takyi-Boadu on the sidelines of the Expo 2022 in Dubai on Thursday, 10 March 2022: “Firstly, the noise that was generated over this at the time, I was extremely surprised because as far as I can see it – and I think the Supreme Court has confirmed it – the matters involved in this thing are open and sharp; they are black and white”.
“There can be no dispute about the issues that the gentleman took to the Supreme Court”, he asserted, arguing: “It is there for anybody who wants to see in Articles 102, 104 of the Constitution” which “make it absolutely clear, in black and white that the Deputy Speakers – I’m not speaking of the Speaker; I mean the Deputy Speaker – when they are presiding, have the right to participate in the vote of the parliament”.
In the President’s opinion, “the whole structure of the Constitution and, indeed – and I believe that being part of the reason of the court, all the legislatures of the world where the presiding person is a member of the legislature, like our Deputy Speakers are, like the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States or the President of the Senate in the United States or the Speaker of the British Parliament; all of those have the right to speak because they are members of the Assembly”.
Unlike the Deputy Speakers, however, the President noted: “Our Speaker is expressly not a member of the Assembly that’s why he doesn’t have the right to vote”.
In fact, he indicated, “he’s a referee; making sure that the debate is conducted properly and the rules of procedure and the orders of the house are complied with; that’s his role – in all strictness speaking, not to be part of the proceedings of the house”.
“That is not the case with the Deputy Speakers and that matter is transparent on the face of our Constitution”, he stressed.
Indeed, the President added, “even the presiding members of our district assemblies have the right to vote – look at the District Assemblies Law –because they are members of the Assembly and once you are a member of the Assembly, you are representing certain constituencies. If you are denied the right to vote, it’s tantamount to denying the right of the people you represent to have a say in the decision of the Assembly. That will not be right”.
“So, I don’t understand what this furore and controversy that was artificially-generated [was all about]”, the President said.
Both the Minority Caucus and former President John Mahama have described the decision of the court as an interference in the work of parliament.
In response to those criticisms, Mr Akufo-Addo said: “I’m not quite sure that the people who are saying this have actually taken the time to read the Constitution of our country; it says so in black and white”.
He said the work of the Supreme Court, as far as interpreting the Constitution is concerned, is part of the checks and balances instituted to ensure power is not saturated in one arm of government.
“The legislative power of the state that is vested in parliament is subject to the provisions of the Constitution. All organs of the Ghanaians state, including me, as head of the executive, are subject to the teachings of the Constitution”, the President argued.
“There’s nobody in the Ghanaian state that is above the fundamental law of the land. It will lead to the very matter that we have striven, for so long, to avoid – the concentration of unregulated power in our state. We don’t want that. We’ve had that experience before and we brought about this Constitution in order not to allow that to reoccur, so, I’m astonished about how much public energy has been wasted – and I say so with the greatest of respect – in an area on an issue where there’s so much clarity and I’m happy that the court – and, as far as you’re aware, the Supreme Court, when it is declaring the meaning of the Constitution and it does so unanimously, that is the most emphatic way which the court can pronounce”.
The President urged all Ghanaians to put the matter “behind us” and move on now that the apex court has spoken.
“I believe with the decision from the judges, the unanimous decision declaring what the constitutional position is; at least, we have an opportunity now to put this matter to rest and continue with the work of our parliament and the work of the ordering of our state”.
“To suggest that somehow rather that parliament is beyond the scrutiny of the Supreme Court with an issue of interpretation is to suggest that parliament is a law on itself. The whole principle of judicial review was developed by the judges, both in America and in England to be able to check the activities of parliament”, he noted.