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Nominations to Council of State: Dewornu, Obeng stir Parliament

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The nomination of two members of the Council of State, Lt Gen Seth Obeng, a former Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and Mr C.K. Dewornu, a former Inspector-General of Police, as members of the Council of State, Friday generated a heated debate on the floor of Parliament.

The nominations were announced by the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, in Parliament Friday.

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Under Article 89 of the 1992 Constitution, the President is required to nominate, in addition to the two, a retired chief justice, but currently Ghana does not have a retired chief justice.

The nomination of the two, however, reignited an old debate over whether the nominees are required to be vetted like ministers of state and their deputies.

Order 172(1) of Parliament states: “There shall be a committee to be known as the Appointments Committee composed of the First Deputy Speaker as Chairman and not more than 25 other members.”

Order 172 (2) states: “It shall be the duty of the committee to recommend to Parliament for approval or otherwise persons nominated by the President for appointment as ministers of state, deputy ministers, members of the Council of State, the Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court and such other persons specified under the Constitution or any other enactment.”

But the 1992 Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, does not require the President to appoint members of the Council of State with “prior approval” of Parliament as it does in the case of ministers of state and their deputies.

It states that the President shall appoint members of the council, “in consultation” with Parliament.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Sekondi reignited the debate when the announcement was made yesterday, reminding the House that it had failed to adhere to Standing Order 172.

But the Majority Leader, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, doubted whether the standing order could be used to address the issue, saying there was the need for the house to hold discussions on which path to chart.

The MP for Manhyia, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh (NPP), said since Ghana was consolidating democratic rule, there was the need to outline a process which the nominees for the council would go through.

The MP for Tamale South, Mr Haruna Iddrisu (NDC), said consultation and approval were not the same or did not mean the same thing, adding that when it came to ministerial nominees, the law clearly stipulated that they needed the prior approval of Parliament.

In the case of members of the Council of State, he said, the law required the President to appoint, in “consultation” with the House, saying the two could not be the same.

He urged the leadership of the House to consult with the President on the way forward.

The MP for Nadowli/Kaleo, Mr Alban Bagbin (NDC), said the issue came up during the tenure of the late Peter Ala Adjetey and Ebenezer Sekyi-Hughes as speakers and suggested that the Appointments Committee be mandated to fashion out a way to address the issue but cautioned against vetting, as is done in the case of ministers of state.

The Minority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (NPP), agreed with the suggestion that the issue be referred to the Appointments Committee for deliberation.

Dr Kunbuor came back to state that perhaps the House should follow the path it had charted since 1993 until the matter was “concretised”.

Making a ruling on the matter, Mr Adjaho said he would adopt the late Ala Adjetey’s position on the issue.

“What he did was that he announced the appointment and urged anyone who had any objection against any of the appointees to lodge a complaint with the leadership of his or her party. The only variation I will make is to ask that petitions should be lodged with the Clerk of Parliament, instead of the leadership of the House,” he said.

“My understanding of ‘consultation’ is that it is not binding on the President to seek approval from Parliament. We cannot recommend approval when the Constitution says consultation. If anyone has any objection, he or she should lodge it with the clerk by close of day on Monday,” Mr Adjaho added.

Story by Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah & Mark-Anthony Vinorkor