(From left) Okudzeto Ablakwa, Joseph Osei-Owusu, Mahama Ayariga
Chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu, has flatly denied the allegation of bribery leveled against him by colleague Member of Parliament (MP), Mahama Ayariga, saying that it was cooked up.
Mr. Osei-Owusu, the 1st Deputy Speaker, said yesterday that his accusers had openly made the allegation as a form of ‘equalization’ as he continuously said that then President John Mahama was corrupt.
He said that it was the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who claimed in the presence of colleague MP, Kobina Tahir Hammond of Adansi Asokwa, that because Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko (who had gone through the vetting process) had said ex-President John Mahama was corrupt, they (NDC members) were going to spread the allegation of bribery.
Mr Osei-Owusu indicated that Okudzeto Ablakwa had said specifically that “we wanted you to face the same heat as John Mahama,” in the presence of K.T. Hammond.
The 1st Deputy Speaker made the denial when he testified at a Special/Ad-hoc Committee, set up by the Speaker of Parliament to investigate Mahama Ayariga’s allegation that Boakye Kyeremateng Agyarko, through some people, paid GH¢3,000 to the minority MPs on the committee to influence his (Agyarko’s) approval as Minister of Energy.
The committee, chaired by Joe Ghartey, MP for Essikado Ketan and Minister for Railways Development, is specifically looking into the allegation against Mr. Osei-Owusu aka Joe Wise, who Mahama Ayariga, NDC MP for Bawku Central, had cited as the conduit for bribing the MPs; and Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, who Ayariga claimed had brought the money.
At its first public sitting which was telecast live, the committee members, including Ben Abdallah Banda, MP for Offinso South; Magnus Kofi Amoatey, MP for Yilo Krobo and Benson Tongo Baba, MP for Talensi , asked Mr. Osei-Owusu questions.
However, a fifth member, Ama Pomaa, MP for Juaben, was not present but Abena Durowaa Mensah, MP for Assin North, was in attendance.
Narrating the incident, the witness, who offered to testify without the help of a counsel, said that on Friday, January 27, 2017, the Appointments Committee was working when a friend journalist sent him an audio recording that one Ablordepey was reporting from Parliament House that then nominee Boakye Agyarko had brought GH¢100,000 to him to distribute among members of the committee.
He said his enquiries from the Parliamentary Press Corps showed that the said Ablordepey was not a member and he subsequently showed the recordings to the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who is a ranking member of the committee and the entire leadership of parliament.
“Within an hour, other MPs showed me media publications and this time, they had attributed the allegation to Mahama Ayariga,” he said.
According to Mr. Osei-Owusu, although the committee had always taken its decisions to approve or reject nominees on the same vetting day, a meeting which he referred to as ‘conclave’ was held at the Speaker’s Lobby to resolve the appointments of Mr. Agyarko and Yaw Osafo-Maafo (Senior Minister) since the minority had said they were not going to approve them.
“After we had discussed the issues relating to the two nominees at the conclave, I raised the issue of bribery allegation leveled against me and said we should find solution to the problem there.
“All the minority members said ‘Mr. Speaker take your time, cool down, cool down,” he reported efforts by the minority to appeal for calm after it was evident that he was angry with the allegation made.
It was at that moment that Okudzeto Ablakwa intervened and explained that the allegation was made up because the NPP had characterised John Mahama as corrupt.
“We were spreading the corruption allegations,” Joe Osei-Owusu reported Okudzeto as saying.
“It was at that point that Okudzeto Ablakwa said because Agyarko had said President Mahama was corrupt ‘we were also spreading corruption allegation’ against the NPP government.”
Mr. Osei-Owusu said with Okudzeto Ablakwa’s ‘confession’ he wanted to ‘dismiss’ the allegation as one of those political rhetoric but he later realized that Mahama Ayariga was ‘unrepentant’ and therefore decided to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.
“When the time came, I said on the floor of the house that the people had confessed that they did that by equalization. I expected that the matter had died but by evening on the same day Mahama Ayariga said on social media that his allegation was true.
“Muntaka and I never discussed anything about money. Neither have I taken money from Agyarko for myself or anybody. Based on what they said about me, there were many presumptuous conclusions drawn in the media so my main intention was to go to court. I wanted to meet my accuser face-to-face so I could clear my name,” Mr Osei-Owusu asserted.
Committee member (Magnus Kofi Amoatey): At the conclave meeting you said it was Hon. Ablakwa who spoke. Did Hon. Ayariga speak?
Witness (Osei-Wusu): No.
Committee Member: Do you expect considerations from nominees?
Committee Member: Did you engage Hon. Ayariga one-on-one on why he made the allegation?
Witness: No. I wouldn’t trust him to do any such thing. It would have been suicidal to do it after the allegation.
Committee Member: Did you raise it at conclave?
Committee Member: Did you confront Hon. Muntaka?
Witness: Yes. The following day, he came to me to apologise that I have been brought to the centre of this allegation.
Committee Chairman (Joe Ghartey): Did you take money from the nominee Boakye Agyarko?
Chairman: Did you give money to Hon. Muntaka for distribution?
Sitting continues on Friday when Alhaji Muntaka, Mahama Ayariga, the star witness and Boakye Agyarko are expected to testify.
Strangely, Okudzeto Ablakwa and Alhassan Suhuyini who equally made the allegation, may not have the chance to substantiate, especially since the committee had indicated it is calling three witnesses.
Meanwhile, Central Regional Chairman of the NDC, Bernard Allotey Jacobs, has noted that the probe is a ‘fruitless venture.’
“The probe won’t end in anything; there is only going to be shifting of the goal post…,” he said on Peace FM’s ‘Krokrokoo’ programme on Wednesday.
Allotey Jacobs further emphasized that he was convinced the Energy Minister did not give bribe to any member of the Appointments Committee, arguing further that claims of bribery allegation are attempts to tarnish the reputation of Boakye Agyarko.
“I still stand by my position that Boakye Agyarko did not give bribe to anybody, they are only spoiling somebody’s name…the man must be allowed the chance to go and work..,” he said.
But Ablakwa, in a Facebook post, rubbished the claims, saying they were just fabricated.
“May it be known that the so-called confession attributed to me by Hon. Joe Osei-Owusu is nothing but a desperate, malicious and cancerous fabrication which would not be allowed to fester.”
According to Mr. Ablakwa, Joe Osei-Owusu had been inconsistent with his account of events since the scandal was uncovered.
“The last time Mr Osei-Owusu made this same allegation, he hanged it around the neck of Mahama Ayariga. I guess he had forgotten to be consistent when he appeared before the Special Committee today,” Ablakwa said.
Okudzeto, the former Deputy Minister of Education, declared his preparedness to ensure that the truth is established, saying, “Let no one doubt my resolve and the extent I am willing to go, to vindicate the truth in this matter.”
By William Yaw Owusu