Speaker Alban Bagbin had cause to order retraction of comments and submissions by two Members of Parliament on Tuesday, February 28.
Incidentally, the two MPs were from the main opposition National Democratic Congress and they were ordered to retract statements directed at a common subject, that is Jean Mensah, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC).
Jean Mensa along with the Chief Executive Officer of the National Identification Authority (NIA), Prof Ken Attafuah and the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, appeared before the House to defend the sole use of the Ghana Card as proof for registration of new voters.
The NIA, who are in charge of the issuance of the cards have raised logistical constraints which the Minister of Finance has assured is being addressed.
For the EC chair, her submissions were to explain how and why the particular card was chosen for new registrations as per the Constitutional Instrument (CI), the EC has laid before Parliament.
Murtala’s unofficial comments attract Bagbin’s attention
As the EC boss was making her point, the Member of Parliament for Tamale Central, Ibrahim Murtala Muhammed, could be heard describing her remarks as shameful.
This infuriated members of the Majority Caucus, who were up in arms, demanding that the MP withdraws his comments. This caused some commotion in the House for about a minute.
The Minister for Defence and MP for Bimbilla, Dominic Nitiwul, who was being chastised by the Speaker, for being out of order could be heard saying: “Mr Speaker, I’m protesting. You cannot invite somebody into your house and insult the person. Mr Speaker why? He is misbehaving too much.”
Bagbin then directed his anger at Murtala and told him that his comments were unparliamentary.
“Honourable Murtala Muhammed, it has long been ruled in this House that the use of the word ‘shame’ is unparliamentary… the guests we have are here to answer to an invitation by this House. The best we can do is to listen to them.
“Again, Honourable Murtala Muhammed, I call on you to withdraw the shame, shame,” Bagbin said.
Murtala Muhammed, before withdrawing his comment, argued that his comments were not made through the microphone and thus cannot be recorded as official.
But Bagbin insisted that during meetings of the committees, every comment made is recorded even if it is not made through a microphone.
The action of the Speaker drew him some applause from members of the Majority Caucus.
Edward Bawa put in check by Bagbin
The Bongo MP in speaking on the floor on the same issue, cited a similar instance of disenfranchisement in the neighbouring Ivory Coast where some citizens were segregated for reasons of being non-citizens which situation he claimed created mayhem.
“Mr Speaker, on elections matters; consensus is key. Côte d’Ivoire is just by us here. By virtue of the fact that laws were passed to create the impression that others were not citizens, it created problems in Côte d’Ivoire.
“Afari Gyan handed over to Charlotte, Charlotte gave it to you, this country was in one piece. If this country goes to war, because of this, it will be on your head,” he cautioned.
However, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin ordered that the particular statement be retracted and expunged from the hansard.
The MP subsequently retracted the statement.