Deliberations in Parliament last week, begun on Tuesday with the topical matter of the Atomic Junction Gas explosion that claimed seven lives and injured over 100.
In a bid to capture the national mood after the explosion that has got authorities thinking once again about the far-reaching regulations for the retail of gas in the country, the Chairman of the Energy Committee of Parliament, Emmanuel Akwasi Gyamfi (MP, Odotobiri), made a statement on the floor of the house that drew contributions from either side of the aisle.
In summary, MPs called for stiff sanctions for officials and others, found to have caused the explosion.
In a rare show of agreement from both the Minority and Majority caucuses, there was a clear resolve from the house to the Executive to take the necessary actions to stem the tide of such gas explosions which has occurred eight times within the past four years.
The matter of the gas explosion was not the only subject of interest on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday.
Zongo Development Fund Bill
For the second time in this Parliamentary session, the Zongo Development Fund Bill was withdrawn from the house. This rekindled the conversations within the corridors of parliament as to whether due diligence is being done on some of bills expected to support some flagship initiatives of the Akufo Addo administration.
According to Isaac Adongo (NDC MP, Bolgatanga Central), the withdrawal of the bill for the second time shows the government is clearly not serious with pushing through the bill that would establish the Zongo Development Fund; a promise in the electioneering season of 2016, that would see the commitment of funds to the revamp Zongo communities.
The Majority however disagrees with this suggestion. From deep sources within the Front bench of the Majority, the bill had to be withdrawn to correct a few anomalies and would be re-laid this week.
Northern, Middle Belt and Coastal Development Authorities Bill
Still on the floor of the house, the Northern, Middle Belt and Coastal Development Authorities Bill, passed the second reading stage of lawmaking in Parliament, where the policy and principles of a Bill is deliberated upon.
Interestingly, the argument of the name Coastal Development Authority Bill, stirred a bout of contention. Deputy Ranking Member of the Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises Committee, which considered the bill, Richard Quashigah (NDC MP, Keta), opined that a more appropriate name of the Authority should be the Southern Belt Development Authority due to the varying geographical characteristics of the zone the proposed authority would administer.
The Greater Accra, Western, Central and Volta Region would be administered by the proposed Authority, and would be the conduit for the distribution of the One Million one dollar per constituency Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) of the Akufo-Addo administration.
These regions have both forest and coastal zones, and thus in the view of Richard Quashigah and Clement Humado (NDC MP, Anlo), a more appropriate name would have been Southern Belt Development Authority.
The house subsequently passed the three “sibling” bills through the second reading stage, and the clauses of the bills are currently been tweaked at the consideration stage. Hopefully, the Northern Development Authority Bill will be passed this week.
Outside the Chamber
Outside the Chamber of Parliament, the Foreign Affairs Committee appeared on the public radar over the alleged involvement of some Ghanaians (50-100) on the frontlines of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS in Libya per the 28th September 2017 Report of the Attorney General of that country.
The “whistle was blown” at a press conference organized by the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (MP, North Tongu). Minutes later, the Majority caucus of the Committee led by Chairman, Frank Annor Dompreh (NPP MP,Nsawam-Adoagyir), organized a counter press conference insisting that the Minority had not been” a responsible minority” in putting out such information with national security implications without authenticating the content of the said 28th September,2017 report of the Libyan Attorney General.
In my view, such matters would have been handled well, if for instance the Foreign Affairs Committee as an entity would address such issues from a bi-partisan manner to give the Executive the needed pressure to clear the name of our republic among the comity of nations, after such a damning report from Libya’s Attorney General.
Well, Vice Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee of Parliament, Collins Owusu Amankwaa (NPP MP, Manhyia North), says he would drag Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa before the Privileges Committee for causing “panic” and making “unsubstantiated allegations” in a matter that has serious national security implications.
As to whether such an attempt to haul his colleague before the house would see the light of day is a matter that would unfold in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the National Security Minister on Friday met the leadership of Parliament to brief them behind closed doors as to the steps government is taking on the ISIS matters as raised by the Minority.
Parliament This Week
This week in Parliament, it is expected that the Northern Development Authority Bill would be passed.
The Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of august house, is also expected to present its report on the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, as a prelude to the heated debate envisaged to hit the floor at the Second reading stage.
By: Duke Mensah Opoku(@opokuduke)/citifmonline.com/Ghana
The Writer is the Parliamentary Reporter for Citi 97.3 FM