There is seeming tension within the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the bribe allegation by the party’s Bawku Central Member of Parliament (MP), Mahama Ayariga, recently.
Even though the parliamentary ad hoc committee is probing the allegation, the NDC appears to have thrown its weight behind Mahama Ayariga against its minority chief whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, who has stated categorically that there was no bribe paid to the minority MPs on the Appointments Committee, creating division in the party’s ranks.
The party is currently split between Mahama Ayariga and Muntaka, who was accused by the former of sharing the ‘bribe’ money he claimed had come from Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, to approve his appointment after he had been vetted.
The NDC is said to be contemplating the ousting of Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka as the minority whip.
The first salvo appeared to have been fired by Tawiah Boateng, the NDC Eastern Regional Chairman, when he called for the resignation of Alhaji Muntaka as the chief whip.
According to him, Alhaji Muntaka’s alleged involvement in the bribery scandal that has hit the Appointments Committee of Parliament had brought ‘shame’ to the party and the high position that he occupies.
Tawiah Boateng, speaking on Accra-based Kasapa FM, insisted that Alhaji Muntaka’s continuous stay in office as minority chief whip has become untenable because he’s not being truthful in his defence.
“All his other colleagues on the Appointments Committee, apart from the Minority Leader, assert that the money he brought them is bribe, how can he turn round and take money from Hon. Agyarko who at his vetting described President Mahama as a corrupt person?” Tawiah Boateng averred.
He said, “What is worrying is his constant defence that the allegation is not true. He should give up the Minority Chief Whip position for another person who can best work to prosecute the agenda of the minority in Parliament. If there is any truth to be told he should tell our party General Secretary, Asiedu Nketia, so we know how to handle the matter.”
However, in a sharp rebuttal, Tawiah Boateng’s counterpart in the Ashanti Region, Yaw Owusu Obimpeh, is alleged to have said in a statement that Alhaji Muntaka is not going anywhere.
“The Ashanti Regional Chapter of the National Democratic Congress expresses its displeasure at calls by some leading members of the NDC for the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka’s resignation in respect of his position on the alleged Agyarko bribery scandal.
“The Regional Chapter of the NDC finds these calls premature, particularly when the alleged scandal is under investigation by the special ad hoc committee of parliament for which the Hon. Minority Chief Whip avails himself without hesitation,” he pointed out.
The statement further claimed, “In our urgent pursuit of party cohesion and re-organisation, we urge members to be circumspect in their public pronouncements on this sensitive subject matter. Also, we humbly encourage members to temporarily shelf or defer their public opinions until the committee’s findings are made public. This is to avoid possible irreparable damage that our less informed positions might cause one of our own.”
The NDC chairman urged the committee “to expeditiously and comprehensively weather the storm to end the continuing public anxiety that has characterised the alleged scandal.
“Let’s not allow temporary challenges to rock our re-organisation boat.”
Mahama Ayariga sparked public outrage on January 27 when he told a pro-NDC private network – Radio Gold – that the minority chief whip had distributed GH¢3,000 to some NDC MPs and claimed that Alhaji Muntaka had told him the money was coming from the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu aka Joe Wise, at the instance of Mr. Agyarko.
As a result, the speaker of parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, set up a five-member Special/Ad-hoc Committee chaired by MP for Essikado and Minister of Railways Development Joe Ghartey, to investigate the allegation.
The committee is specifically looking into the allegation against Mr. Osei-Owusu, whom Mahama Ayariga had cited as the conduit for bribing the MPs; and Alhaji Muntaka, whom Mahama Ayariga claimed had brought the money.
Boakye Agyarko has vehemently denied paying any bribe to be approved by parliament while both Mr Osei-Owusu and Alhaji Muntaka have also dismissed Mahama Ayariga’s claim.
Mahama Ayariga himself has already told the committee that he had no direct evidence to prove his allegation against both Mr. Agyarko and Mr. Osie-Owusu, but insisted that Muntaka had told him that the money came from Mr. Osei-Owusu on the instructions of Mr. Agyarko.
Among all the people who have appeared before the Joe Ghartey committee, it is Ayariga who is standing alone, with others flatly denying that any bribe had come from Boakye Agyarko or any individual.
Another NDC kingpin, Allotey Jacobs, Central Regional chairman of the party, has also ruled out Boakye Agyarko giving out bribe to the vetting committee members.
He proclaimed that the bribery probe would end nowhere.
By William Yaw Owusu & Daniel Bampoe