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Ghana's Multiple Presidents?   
 
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11-Nov-2014  
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Last week in the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, the refusal of the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho to be sworn in as the president of the Republic in the absence of both the President and Vice President by the Chief Justice CJ has generated a controversial discussion around the intendment of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution and the need for either a proper interpretation or total overhaul.

Some pundits argue that both the Speaker and CJ acted unconstitutionally while others hold the view there was nothing untoward and that the ritual of swearing ins was just needless or confusing the spirit behind Article 60 clause (8) of the Constitution.

Without prejudice to either side, we at TNF hold the view that the countless presidential travels must be checked. Of course the President must travel to do Presidential business or duty such as attending international conferences of world leaders. But must the President and Vice President be out of the country at same time and at such frequency that would necessitate the invocation of Article 60 (11)?

In 2003, the Supreme Court disagreed with S. Kwaku Asare when he argued that the absence of the President from Ghana did not amount to his inability to perform the functions of his office. In Asare v Attorney General [2003-4] SCGLR 823, the Supreme Court held that “the purposive interpretation to be given to Article 60(11) is that where both the President and the Vice-President are absent from Ghana, they are to be regarded as unable to perform the functions of the President and thus the Speaker is obliged to perform those functions.”

This is the Law in Ghana. But this Law needs some serious relook. Perhaps a review of the Asare case would be most appropriate and opportune. It would help to settle several mindboggling questions that linger in the minds of many a Ghanaian. At a point in time in Ghana there is a President in travel; Vice President, President abroad; and Speaker, President at home.

TNF wonders why we engage in the this act of having multiple Presidents of the Republic at such times whenever the President travels outside Ghana on presidential duty despite doing so with permission from Parliament as required by Article 59; “The President shall not leave Ghana without prior notification in writing, signed by him and addressed to the Speaker of Parliament.”

This confusion is compounded when one carefully considers the wording in Article 60 (8) “Whenever the President is absent from Ghana or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his office, the Vice-President shall perform the function of the President until the President returns or is able to perform.” It can be deduced from the above clause that the President when absent from Ghana is assumed also to be unable to perform the functions of his office thereby warranting the takeover by the Vice President or the Officer of State in the line of succession as was held in the Asare case.

How can the President of the Republic of Ghana be addressing the UN General Assembly appropriately in that capacity and at the same time we would be having his vice president back home in Ghana accorded the same title as the President of the Republic of Ghana? Yet still, when both the President and Vice President travel out, each as President of the Republic performing functions of their office as we had last week; you get the Speaker at home serving as the third President of the same Republic at the same time? The confusion is really worrisome.

This is not only strange but indeed needless and unwarranted. It exposes the infantile nature of the 1992 Constitution and aggravates the call for a total overhaul of the Constitution through a proper review which surely is not what we are witnessing with the work of the Constitutional Review Commission.

There must be a total recall of the Third Republican Constitution which would eventually also allow for justice to be done with those who have committed heinous crimes against the State and hiding the under the cover of indemnity clauses in this PNDC perpetuating 1992 Constitution.

Legal or illegal; Right or wrong, the Speaker’s action has sparked a debate towards reconstruction. Ghana must work again!
 
 
Source: The National Forum
 
 

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