Retract directive to district assemblies:Minority tells minister

BY: Mark Anthony Vinokor
 Alhaji Collins Dauda — Minister, Local Government and Rural Development

The Minority in Parliament has said the directive by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development,  Alhaji Collins Dauda, to district assemblies to elect one of their members to preside over meetings in the absence of elected Presiding Members (PMs) is illegal and unconstitutional.

It has, therefore, called on the Minister to retract the directive.

Addressing a press conference in Accra, the Minority Spokesperson on Local Government, Mr Akwasi Amoako-Atta, said the Minister's directive could not be allowed to stand.

He added that any activity carried out by any assembly in pursuant of the directive of the minister must be deemed null and void.

Background and constitutional provisions

Some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are yet to elect Presiding Members since the last local level elections were held in September.

The minister consequently, in a directive, asked the assemblies to elect one of their members to preside over the meeting of the assemblies if they were unable to elect PMs.

Article 244 of the 1992 Constitution states: "The District Assembly shall have a Presiding Member who shall be elected by the assembly from among its members.

“The Presiding Member shall be elected by at least two-thirds majority of all the members of the assembly.

“The Presiding Member shall preside over the meetings of the assembly and perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law.”

Majority's views

Mr Amoako-Atta stated that Section 17 of the Local Government Act, 1993, (Act 462), restated the above constitutional provision and pointed out that the combined effect of the two provisions was that “no assembly meeting can be convened and conducted in the absence of a substantive Presiding Member.

“Where the assembly fails or is unable to elect a Presiding Member, the secretary to the assembly shall convene the subsequent meeting(s) for that purpose only until a Presiding Member is elected.”

The Minority Caucus on Local Government made similar references to sittings in Parliament, noting that Article 101 provided for the Speaker to preside in Parliament at all sittings, and that “no business shall be  transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker, at any time when the office of the Speaker is vacant.

“Accordingly, when the Clerk to Parliament summons the first sitting of a new Parliament, he the Clerk, presides to transact a single business that is to elect a Speaker and no other business,” Mr Amoako-Atta said.

He added that in much the same way, “when the Secretary to the Assembly convenes the first meeting of a new Assembly, the sole agendum is the election of the Presiding Member and none else.”

The Minority, therefore, faulted the minister for the directive to the assemblies ‘‘to proceed to elect one of their members by simple majority of the members present and voting to preside over the meeting of the assembly for the duration of a sitting only.        

“In our considered view, the minister is engaging himself in an unconstitutional and an illegal venture by circumventing the constitutional requirement of two-thirds of all the members of an assembly to elect a Presiding Member,” he said.

He said the Minority would use every legitimate action to "straighten up” the minister and the government.