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Speaker Recalls MPs from Recess for ‘Urgent Business’

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Members of Parliament have been recalled from their recess by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye for the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The MPs will be sitting on Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27, 2018.

A memo sighted by Citi News did not disclose reasons for the recall, except to say it is for an “urgent parliamentary business.”

But the Director of Public Affairs at Parliament, Kate Addo, later confirmed on Eyewitness News that the recall is “for the urgent consideration and ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.”

In March, 44 African leaders, including President Nana Akufo-Addo, signed an agreement to create the African Continental Free Trade Area. The free trade area across the continent will create a single market of up to 1.2 billion.

On why this deal is considered urgent, Kate Addo said “I am assuming time is of the essence here and it is important that we meet and do that [ratify the deal] especially. since we are hoping for the secretariat to be situated here in Accra.”

Director of Public Affairs at Parliament, Kate Addo

She also suggested that more agreements could be tabled for deliberation thought she said the leadership of the House would be best placed to provide more info.

“That is the main agenda that we will be considering but there are other things. Usually, when the House sits, things come up,” Kate Addo said.

There are suggestions that this recall may be linked to some issues around Ghana-US defence cooperation agreements.

In March, the government said it intended to trigger a recall of Parliament to ratify the 1998 and the 2015 defence cooperation agreements the country signed with the US under different National Democratic Congress (NDC) administrations.

The Information Minister, Dr. Mustapha Hamid, explained to Citi News that following the Supreme Court judgement that ordered the agreement to host the detainees from Guantanamo Bay on the behest of the US to Parliament for ratification, the government has said the 1998 and 2015 agreements are essentially unlawful.

Mustapha Hamid, Minister for Information
Mustapha Hamid, Minister for Information

“We intend to cure that defect by taking the 1998 and 2015 agreements to Parliament for Parliament to give us ratification so that we will continue to operate under these current arrangements that we have until we have completed the processes for triggering the 2018 arrangements,” he said.

He added that the ratification of these old deals is to ensure that there is a legal framework, guiding the collaboration of the US and Ghanaian armies, as it works to implement the controversial 2018 defence cooperation.

Minority could snub recall

In response to this, the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said the possible recall of Parliament to ratify the 1998 and the 2015 defence cooperation agreements was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Speaking on Eyewitness News in March, Mr. Ablakwa said either the Government was confused or “only engaged in pedestrian propaganda to throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians.”

He thus retorted that the minority “will not move an inch out of their constituencies and come engage in this futile exercise presented by a government engaged in pedestrian propaganda.”

MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

This was in the heat of the public outcry against the deal which some fear will see a military base established in the country and compromise Ghana’s security and sovereignty.

Mr. Ablakwa also noted that the 2018 agreement was clear that the 2015 deal government is seeking to ratify has expired.

“These are the government’s own communications to Parliament. So is the Minister of Information telling us that when they were putting together this memorandum, they didn’t know what they were talking about or are they telling us that they lied to Parliament?”

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