Otiko Afisah Djaba
After a fierce resistance by the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC), parliament yesterday approved the nomination of the Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Otiko Afisah Djaba, through a majority decision of 152 votes.
The nominee was subsequently sworn into office yesterday by President Akufo-Addo, along with 12 other ministers of state.
Members of the minority tried all means to scuttle the approval of Madam Otiko as the Gender, Children and Social Protection minister. The NDC members in parliament had vowed to stop her from becoming a minister for describing the immediate-past president, John Mahama, as heartless and wicked man; but their plan could not succeed.
The nominee was queried by some of the minority members on the Appointment Committee for the said vituperations, but she said she stood by those words and would not apologize to Mahama.
Her approval was deferred to yesterday, after the committee had failed to reach a consensus on her approval last week.
When the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, read the next item on the Order Paper – which was on the approval of Madam Otiko Djaba – the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, shot up from his seat and started quoting various Articles of the 1992 Constitution saying that by Article 94(2)(g) and Article 104, the minister-designate could not be approved by the House since she had not met all the criteria quoted under those provisions in the Constitution.
Haruna Iddrisu argued strongly that by those provisions everyone must submit themselves to all the laws enshrined in the Constitution, especially with regard to Article 94 (2)(g), which requires every Member of Parliament and for that matter, a minister of state, to do national service before they could be given that national position.
He said what parliament wanted to do was a gross disrespect to the provisions of the Constitution and a blot on the integrity of the house.
He also argued that on Friday, February 3, when parliament concluded debate on the approval of the minister-designate – after the minority’s objection – the speaker should have gone ahead to conduct the voting as required by the Standing Orders but because the numbers were short of the required number for the voting, the process was deferred to yesterday “which is against the rules of the house.”
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, sprang up angrily from his seat to caution the minority leader not to peddle any untruth and also not to paint the picture that the majority did not have the numbers to carry out the voting process on Friday.
“In fact, before the debate, I counted the number of MPs in the Chamber. We were 248 and out of the number, we the majority were 148, which is more than half of the number to carry out that exercise,” he said, stressing that he asked the speaker to defer the voting to yesterday since the process would take a very long time and that it was too late at the time to carry out that task.
The majority leader also said it was wrong for the minority to start igniting another debate on the nominee since the debate on her approval had exhaustively been completed on Friday for the question to be put for her subsequent approval.
The speaker, Prof Mike Oquaye, after listening to the two leaders, said that the debate on the nominee in question was completed on Friday and so voting would accordingly take place to decide her fate.
The minority members initially decided to boycott the process but after majority of the backbenchers had left the chamber, they were prevailed upon by their leaders to stay.
Although they stayed, they abstained from taking part in the voting process because according to them, the speaker had been biased towards them.
Earlier, the house had by consensus approved six other ministers-designate. They are the Minister-designate for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful; Minister-designate for Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta; Minister-designate for Sanitation and Water Resources, Joseph Kofi Adda; Minister-designate for Transport; Kwaku Ofori Asiamah; Minister-designate for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng and Minister-designate for Railways Development, Joe Ghartey.
They were all sworn into office later by President Akufo-Addo.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr