The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Builsa North, James Agalga has suggested that Minority Members of Parliament are ready to back the suit filed by a member of the party against the government over the defence cooperation agreement with the United States.
Brogya Genfi, is among other things, praying the Court to “set aside” the agreement on grounds that it is “not in the national interest of Ghana, and contravenes articles (1 (2), 2, 11, 33, 125, 135, 140, 75 and 73 of the 1992 constitution.”
[contextly_sidebar id=”iBNXa44jbWTPk94WRGKEyf10Uy9X9oMl”]Speaking on Eyewitness News on Monday, the former deputy Interior Minister under the John Mahama administration said the suit against the agreement was justified because Parliament had acted unconstitutionally by ratifying the deal on Friday.
According to him the document that was laid before the House for ratification did not include the signatures of the parties involved in the deal, rendering the deal and Parliament’s further actions null and void.
He added that in order for Parliament to have been able to ratify the document, it needed to have been assented to by the government.
“The agreements signed in 1998 and 2015 are fundamentally different from the 2018 agreement which was passed by Parliament unconstitutionally on Friday. If you look at the Constitution, Parliament can only pass executed international agreements, parliament does not, cannot and should not ever ratify draft agreements. But unfortunately that is what we did, we ratified an agreement that was yet to be executed,” he said.
James Agalga stated that despite drawing the attention to the alleged illegalities, Minority MPs were ignored and the deal was eventually approved.
“We drew the attention of the House, the Minority Leader did that in very clear language, we did that at the level of the Committee and yet they just railroaded the entire process and got the agreement passed. Now we have been slapped with a suit,” he added.
In the suit, which has the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo and Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul as the defendants, Mr. Genfi is demanding a “declaration that the word ‘ratify’ used within the provisions of Article 75 of the 1992 constitution is a term of art which has a true meaning of incorporating international law and treaties into the domestic legal system of the Republic of Ghana and not prior approval or approval.”
Another relief being sought by the plaintiff is a declaration that the “ratification by Parliament of the supposed agreement between Ghana and the Government of United States of America on Defence Cooperation, the Status of United States Forces, and Access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in the Republic of Ghana (hereinafter referred to as Defence Co-operation Agreement) on March 24, 2018, when the supposed agreement had not been executed by the President or person authorized by the President as provided for by Article 75 of the 1992 constitution, is contrary to the said Article 75 of the 1992 constitution and same is null and void.”
When asked whether the Minority intended to file a similar claim against the deal in court, James Agalga said: “It’s our mandate to do so as citizens. I wouldn’t hesitate. At the Committee level, we raised those objections. In Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu made the statement in very clear language so we will not hesitate at all. A citizen has already taken the lead. In terms of us solidarising with the citizen, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
“A citizen felt aggrieved by the conduct of Parliament and decided to act as such. As citizens, we are enjoined to uphold the Constitution at all times so the person felt that we had violated Article 75 and decided to go to court and seek redress. it envisages that before international agreements, treaties or conventions are signed, they must first been executed by the President or his agent prior to being laid in Parliament for ratification. The agreement is not signed, the Americans did not sign it and we did not either. We didn’t want to partake in any unconstitutional behaviour,” he added.
The suit comes days after Parliament ratified the pact despite stiff opposition from the Minority.
The approval was done by only Majority members because the Minority members staged a walkout during the debate on the floor of Parliament.
With the agreement ratified, it means that the US troops will among other things be exempted from paying taxes on equipment that are brought to Ghana as well as use Ghana’s radio spectrum for free.
The troops and their equipment will also have unhindered access to the US forces and their equipment.
The Government has consistently explained that it was only respecting the existing Status of Forces Agreement with the US signed since 1998 and reviewed in 2015, under the previous NDC administration.
But the NDC Minority has downplayed this argument saying the agreement as existed in the past, did not have the same clauses like the current one that gives the US unlimited access to Ghana’s military facilities.
The US Embassy in Ghana has also explained that it is only planning joint security exercises with Ghana, which will require that US military personnel are allowed access to Ghana’s military facilities and that they are not building a military base.
The deal has caused some discomfort among some sections of the public, with a group calling itself Ghana First, serving notice it will demonstrate on Wednesday, March 28, against its approval.
By: Edwin Kwakofi/citifmonline.com/Ghana