Samuel Ofosu Ampofo – Minister of Local Government

DRAMA UNFOLDED in Ghana’s lawmaking body yesterday as members from both sides of the House appeared totally confused over the status of Legislative Instruments (LIs) creating some 42 new districts by President Atta Mills.

While members of the minority side were convinced the House had annulled some of the instruments establishing the districts by a unanimous adoption a report of Joint Committee on Subsidiary Legislation and Local Government and Rural Development, the minority caucus thought otherwise, creating a chaotic conundrum in the House.

The report, which was jointly signed by Kwame Osei-Prempeh, Chairman of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation and Francis K. Arthur, a member of the Committee on Local Government and Rural Development, had strongly recommended the withdrawal of over 70 LIs by the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, which had not been endorsed or be annulled by the House.

According to the committee, allowing the instruments to come into force with multiple defects meant an amendment to LI 1983 which was illegal.

It will also mean a contravention of the constitution and the Local Government Act 1993 (Act 462) and all other relevant laws.

Earlier, leadership of the House was locked up in a consultative meeting for more than six hours to resolve the issues of widespread discrepancies, defects and legal and constitutional challenges associated with the LIs, leaving MPs and media waiting.

When Speaker Justice Joyce Bamford-Addo put the question after the consultation that “as many of you who are in favour of the adoption of the report, say I”, the minority side unanimously answered “I” and when she said  “as many of you who are against, say no”, the majority side kept mute.

Thinking the LIs had been annulled by the adoption of the report, the minority side went into wild jubilation on the floor of the House.

However, looking bewildered, members of the majority side jostled around and prompted their leader, Cletus Avoka, to challenge the minority’ claim.

Consequently, the majority leader contended that the LIs were not annulled, stressing they could only be annulled by a motion put forward by a member.

According to him, since nobody had brought a motion to that effect, there was no annulment.

The situation created confusion in the House as members of both sides shouted on top of their voices, touting their respective claims.

Eventually, the speaker ruled on the matter, saying once nobody had brought a motion to annul the LIs, they had effectively come into force, with all the defects and legal challenges associated with them.

It was however accepted by the majority side that until the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development presented an amendment to correct the defects, a number of new districts being created by President Atta Mills would hang in a balance, as they had to wait a little longer for legal backing to operate as assemblies.

Although the LIs establishing the 42 new districts matured after 21 parliamentary sitting days and came into force yesterday, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development has to present fresh amendments to the House to correct the defect before they take off.

The new amendments will also have to go through 21 sitting days before they come into forces but unfortunately the House will be going on recess March 22, 2012 and possibly resume in May.

Some MPs argued that even if the minister presented the amendments to the House before it went on recess, most of the sitting days would have to be after Parliament resumes.

The multiple flaws, according to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Subsidiary Legislation and Local Government & Rural Development, included discrepancies in electoral areas and other defects and wrong local of principal offices or district capitals.

The rest are electoral areas placed under wrong districts, inconsistencies in instruments and constitutional and legal challenges.

For instance, with the current status of the LIs, a constituency could be located in two districts, with an MP being a member of two assemblies, which is against the law.

President Mills had laid in Parliament, through Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, about 100 LIs for the creation of the 42 districts and re-establish the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) whose boundaries had been affected by the creation of the new assemblies.

By Awudu Mahama

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