Position of ‘Senior Minister’ unconstitutional — Mahama Ayariga

Mr Mahama Ayariga

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, says the nomination of a former Minister of Finance, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, as a Senior Minister by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is unconstitutional.

In a letter dated January 17,  2017, to the President through the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ayariga said the nomination of Mr Osafo-Maafo was a constitutional aberration, since the senior minister post was alien to the country’s Constitution.

“The nomination of any person to be vetted for the post of a “Senior Minister” constitutes a constitutional aberration. The simple reason is that nowhere in the Constitution does the office of ‘Senior Minister’ exist,” he said.

Mr Ayariga said the Constitution dealt with matters relating to the posts of a ‘Minister of State’ and a ‘Deputy Minister of State’, and indicated that a ‘Minister of State’ was not the same creature as a “Senior Minister”.

“A ‘Senior Minister’ suggests the existence of a hierarchy among Ministers of State. There is no hierarchy among ‘Ministers of State’ appointed under articles 58 and 256. At best, there could be informal seniority protocols within government once approval as Ministers of State is given by Parliament.

“I am not operating in the realm of protocols now. I am asking that we pay attention to the dictates of the language of our Constitution when communicating to other constitutional bodies and arms of government,” he said.

Mr Osafo-Maafo is scheduled to appear before the Appointments Committee of Parliament for vetting on Friday, January 20.

Prime Minister

The legislator said the Senior Minister post was demonstrably analogous to the office of Prime Minister, and indicated the idea for creating the position of Prime Minister was turned down.

He said the President could not simply say that appointing someone as “Senior Minister” meant nothing, and indicated that the President sought to elevate Mr Osafo-Maafo to a status akin to that of a Prime Minister.

Mr Ayariga claimed that he heard Mr Osafo-Maafo grant interviews and say on radio that he was going to oversee the work of other Ministers of State, especially for the economic sectors.

“That interview betrays the real motives for creating the ‘Senior Minister’ post. It is going to function very much the same way as a Prime Minister,” he said.

Circumventing the Vice President

Mr Ayariga said in the language of the Report of the Committee of Experts, the proposed Prime Minister was analogous to a “Deputy Chief Executive of the nation.”

He said now that the country had a vice-president who was the real “Deputy Chief Executive of the nation” the country could be entertaining acts aimed at circumventing the status of the constitutionally elected Vice President.

Parliamentary approval

Mr Ayariga said in exercising the President’s appointing authority, where prior approval of Parliament was required, fidelity to the clear textual prescriptions of our Constitution was critical.

Therefore, he said, Parliament could only vet nominees to the posts of ‘Minister of State’ because that was what the text of the Constitution said.

“Parliament itself cannot arrogate to itself the authority to vet for offices not created by the Constitution or validly enacted by a separate Act of Parliament,” he said.

Mr Ayariga said he tried to raise the issue in Parliament and at the preparatory meeting of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, and indicated that his motives were purely to promote adherence to the dictates of our Constitution that the President swore to preserve, protect and defend at all times.

“Your Excellency, I have not forgotten the bad precedent set by Ex- President John Agyekum Kufour in nominating Hon. J. H. Mensah, his brother-in-law, for appointment as “Senior Minister” which the then Parliament accepted. Now that we have heeded to your call to be citizens and not spectators, it is time to rise up to the occasion and correct our errors – his then and now yours,” he said.

Source: GraphicOnline