Otiko Djaba’s Approval: Controversy Tears Parliament Apart; This Is How It Went Down

Otiko Djaba’s approval has recorded one of the most heated parliamentary controversies in the history of Ghana politics.

Ghana’s House of Parliament has finally approved the nomination of Madam Otiko Afisa Djaba as the Minister of Women, Children and Social protection. The approval was made possible through secret balloting held on Tuesday, 7th February, 2017 when the House sat to hear and deliberate over the 4th report of the Appointments Committee on ministerial vetting. This was after the Parliament failed to reach a consensus over the controversies surrounding the minister-nominee’s appointment.

Prior to Otiko Djaba’s approval, some of the third batch of Ministers-designate were approved by the Parliament on Monday, February 6. They included; Minister-designate for Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful; Minister-designate for Sanitation and Water Resources, Joseph Kofi Ada; Minister-designate for Roads and Highways, Kwesi Amoako Atta; Minister-designate for Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, and Minister-designate for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Kwabena Frimpong Boateng.

I’m Grateful to the Good People of Ghana

The now Minister for Gender has expressed gratitude to God and also to Ghanaians who stood by her during the “trying times”. Speaking on Anopa Kasapa on Kasapa FM on Wednesday, the minister said that at her age, it is very necessary for her to stand firmly by the truth.

“I am very grateful to the good people of this country; they’ve made me understand that if you are fair and firm and stand your grounds it pays off. I am 55 yrs, and if I don’t learn to speak the truth now, at what point in life will I be honest in my ways,” Otiko said.

She also said that it is challenges that gives meaning to life, adding that she will endeavour to give in her best in her new ministerial position.

Otiko Djaba’s Approval Controversy

Controversy ensued at the House of Parliament over the approval of Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Otiko  Afisa Djaba. This was as a result of some issues raised during her vetting at the Parliament Appointments Committee. The issues of controversy included Madam Djaba’s failure to participate in National Service as well as some “unsavory” statements she made against former president Mahama ahead of the 2017 elections.

Otiko Djaba who had described Mahama as ‘wicked’, ‘evil’, ‘unserious’ and ‘an embarrassment’, stood by her words, refusing to withdraw nor apologise for those comments – an action that extremely angered the Minority, making them to completely lose taste in her. In the same vein, the minority also refused the explanations she gave for not doing her National Service.

Read All About Otiko Djaba’s Vetting Brouhaha

Owing to these developments, the approval of the minister-designate’s appointment was postponed from Friday 3rd February to Tuesday, 7th February. This was to enable the Parliament reach a consensus on the issue through further consultations and deliberations. However, the given period elapsed without the house reaching an agreement on the matter – a situation that can only be resolved through voting according to the Standing Order 172(5) of the Parliament.

According to the Order, “Each Member shall be provided with a sheet of paper on which appears the names of all candidates for approval or rejection. Against the name of each candidate shall be two columns, one for AYES indicating approval and the other for NAYS indicating rejection”.

However, the voting exercise which is the first in the Seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic, was preceded by a heated legal argument between the Majority Leader, Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and his counterpart on the Minority side, Haruna Iddrisu.

According to the Minority Leader, Madam Djaba’s failure to do her national service was a violation of the National Service Scheme Act of 1980, Act 246 which makes national service a core requirement for employment especially in the public service.

But the Majority Leader refuted his stance, indicating that the nominee in question had written to the National Service Scheme for an exemption prior to her vetting and has also succeeded in receiving the exemption from the after the vetting exercise, and so is free from that legal binding.

Suhum MP, Opare Ansah also pointed out that being a qualified member of the House of Parliament rules out every other point that may be presented as a disqualification for a ministerial position. He explained that since the National Service Certificate is not a requirement for the parliamentary position, it should not be for the ministerial too.

Moreover, vice chairperson of the Parliament Appointments Committee, Adwoa Safo stated that the minority has no morale to reject Otiko Djaba’s approval as one Oti Bless was approved by the past NDC majority under similar conditions.

Also See Already Sworn-in Ministers

Although the Minority MPs reportedly boycotted the voting, leaving only ten of them who are members of the Appointments Committee behind,the majority went ahead. At the end of the exercise, 152 out of the total 169 Majority MPs voted for Djaba’s approval. Thereafter, the Speaker of the House,  Prof. Mike Oquaye declared Otiko Djaba’s appointment as Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection approved, per the voting result.

Even the Minority MPs who were present abstained from voting. Defending their decision, Deputy Minority leader, James Klutsey Avedzi said that the approval of Otiko is full of illegality. Citing the National Service Law, he indicated that his side does not want to be part of any process that breaches the law.

We’ll Challenge Djaba’s Approval in Court – Minority MP

National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for the Ashaiman Constituency, Ernest Norgbey has threatened to challenge Madam Djaba’s approval in court. Ernest Norgbey is of the opinion that the Parliament’s approval of the minister is unconstitutional.

Speaking to Citi News,the MP disclosed that he is planning together with some of his colleagues to take the matter to court. According to him, it behooves MPs as lawmakers to keep the law and not to break it. He wondered why the NPP government insisted on Otiko Djaba instead of getting another competent hand to occupy the position.

Meanwhile, the is not the only one that has threatened a legal action over Otiko Djaba’s approval. The National Democratic Congress Member of Parliament for Juaboso, Mr. Kwabena Mintah Akandoh had prior to the approval, said he will sue the Parliament if they dare approve her appointment.

We Followed Legal Process – Nkrumah

The Member of Parliament for Ofoase-Ayirebi, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, says the majority caucus in Parliament followed a lawful procedure in approving Otiko Djaba’ appointment. According to him, Otiko Djaba met all the constitutional requirements for a minister of state as stated by Article 94 of the constitution.

He also argued that, the minority’s reservations against Madam Otiko are not binding since they are not covered by any written law.

“The minority leader grounded his objections on the fact that she did not have the right temperament. It is my view that temperament is an extraneous matter. If today we disqualify someone based on temperament, tomorrow somebody will say height or complexion; so in my opinion what the law spells out is what we must do,” he said.

Go to Court If You Care To – Majority MP

Prior to Otiko Djaba’s approval, MP for Kpandai and Second Deputy Majority Chief Whip, Matthew Nyindam has urged those who want to take legal actions over the matter to go ahead with their wishes. He stated that the Minority’s agitations and conclusions are purely based on their emotions, adding that they [the minority] are “just trying to be mischievous”.

He further argued that Otiko Djaba, having satisfied the requirements for Members of Parliament, is automatically qualified to be a Minister.