After coming under so much pressure from the grassroots of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for ensuring the smooth passage of three nominees President Akufo-Addo had assigned them various ministerial portfolios, the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) were bent on redeeming themselves in order not to incur the wrath of the party foot soldiers again.
Their plan was to reject the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government.
Succeeding in this endeavour will then send a signal to the NDC foot soldiers that they meant business and will comply with all the decisions the party will take.
However, their plan was foiled by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, who took over the Chair from his deputy, to give the Majority NPP MPs a major boost in terms of numbers.
Hitherto the voting on the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government, leadership of the NDC MPs came under severe criticisms for betraying the party for approving the nomination of Hon. Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Minister of Information, and Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture.
The three had appeared before the Appointments Committee for public hearing on the portfolios they were assigned to by the President.
However, their performance was not convincing enough for the NDC MPs on the Appointments Committee, provoking their thoughts to reject them.
Their decision was in conformity with that taken by the party.
However, to the party’s surprise, all the three nominees the party had planned to reject their approval, were approved through the ballot at the plenary at a sitting on March, 4, 2021, after a tensed debate on their nominations.
Hon. Mavis Hawa Koomson secured 161 YES Votes to 104 No votes, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah also got approved by 155 YES Votes to 110 NO votes while Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto also got approved by 143 YES Votes to 121 NO votes.
Considering the almost equal strength of the Minority NDC MPs to that of the Majority MPs (137:138), being strategic to their approach would have yielded them the desired results.
However, from the YES votes secured by the three nominees, it was obvious that some of the NDC MPs even voted for their approval.
This, did not go down well with the party’s base, with the National Communication Officer of the NDC, Sammy Gyamfi, taking the leadership of the Minority Caucus to the cleaners as well as attacking the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, for not helping the NDC side to achieve their aim.
Approaching Friday, March 19, 2021, sitting was a different ball game all together, with the NDC MPs swearing heaven and earth to reject the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government.
This was amply demonstrated in the argument each member of the Minority Caucus advanced during the debate on the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government.
Having taken stock of their numbers and that of the Majority MPs present in the chamber, they were convinced that they would succeed.
Their confidence was further boosted by the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Joseph Osei Owusu, who had taken over the Speaker’s seat and was presiding over the day’s sitting.
That means, he had relinquish his vote should there be the call for Members to vote on the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government.
With the Minority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu and Hon. Alexander Afenyo-Markin wrapping up the debate on the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government, it was time for the House to adopt Budget Statement to enable them go into the budget estimates that have been allocated to the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and subsequently consider approving the Appropriation Bill.
This was to be achieved by voting either through the Voice vote, Headcount or Secret ballot per the dictates of the Standing Orders of the House.
After the caretaker Finance Minister, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, mover of the motion the approval of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government for the year ending 31st December, 2021, had addressed the concerns raised by Members during the debate, the First Deputy Speaker put the question for the approval of the budget.
“At the conclusion of the debate, the question is all in favour of the Motion say AYES”, to which the Majority NPP Members responded “AYE”, “all against say NO”, to which the Minority NDC MPs responded “NAY”.
“I think the AYES have it. The motion is adopted”, the First Deputy Speaker declared.
However, his ruling was challenged by the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. James Klutse Avedzi, who quoted Oder 113 of the Standing Orders to buttress his argument.
Order 113 (1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament states that “When the Question has been put by Mr. Speaker at the conclusion of the debate, the votes shall be taken by voices “Aye” and “No”, provided that Mr. Speaker may in his discretion instead of declaring the result on the voice votes call for a headcount”.
Order 113 (2) further states that “A Member may call for headcount or division if the opinion of Mr. Speaker on the voice vote is challenged”.
Having drawn the First Deputy Speaker’s attention to the provision of the Station Orders, Hon. James Klutse Avedzi said “Mr. Speaker I am challenging your ruling on the voice vote and calling for a headcount, thank you”.
With the deputy Majority Leader failing to convince the Speaker in his response to the challenge put up by Hon. James Klutse Avedzi, the Speaker ordered for a headcount.
At this juncture, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin walked in to take over the chair.
The moment the Minority NDC MPs saw him enter the chamber, the demeanor changed with a section of them registering their displeasure by jeering at him.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the House, the Majority NPP MPs were applauding since the Speaker’s entry meant Hon. Joseph Osei Owusu could now be counted among the heads of Members on their side.
If the Speaker had not walked in to take over the chair, the First Deputy Speaker would not have been eligible to avail himself to be counted. This would have been a major blow to the Majority NPP side since their numbers would have been short by one head.
Having gone through the headcount by calling the names of Members one after the other, the Speaker announced the verdict.
“Hon. Members, at the end of the count of the ballot, these are the results, the “AYEs”, 137, the “NOs”, 134. Clearly, the AYEs have it. The motion is accordingly adopted”, Rt. Hon. Bagbin declared.