There was a heightened commotion which erupted Ghana’s Parliament Yesterday, sparing the Speaker Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye more reminiscences from the side of the Minority when the Bill for the amendment of the Special Petroleum Tax was laid before them to pave way for a 1.39% and 2.60% reduction of Petrol and Diesel prices respectively.
The Minority Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Asawase constituency, Hon Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak in opposing to the approval of the Bill moved by the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Hon Mark Assibey-Yeboah and seconded by the Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation, sought to bring to the attention of the Speaker that the House did not have quorum, and that it would be against the Constitution to carry on with the process, since the Constitution requires a third of Members of the House to consider bills of such nature.
He complained that the Speaker ignored him, though he stood for several minutes.
The Speaker Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, in ruling said, the bill had been moved and seconded already, and that the Honourable Member could not hijack the process when it was at the voting stage, a case that did not go down well to the Members of the Minority, resulting in standoff.
The second controversy arose when the Minority Chief Whip again used the word “deceive” to describe the government’s unwillingness to scrap the Special levy Tax even though it has outlived its usefulness, and the government is cashing in on the windfall on the international market.
The Minority Chief Whip was also forced to withdraw the word, since Members from the Majority side saw it to be unpaliamentary.
The Minority Leader, standing up to make an input, was seemingly ignored by the Speaker for several minutes (as complained by himself), and this resulted in serious controversial standoff on the Floor lasting for several minutes.
Complaining to the House about the conduct of the Speaker, the Minority Leader and Member for Tamale South, Hon. Haruna Iddrissu indicated that, he was sad about the way the Speaker had treated him, since he stood up for several minutes and the Speaker found a way to ignore him, but rather called the Majority Leader who rose up later, adding that the Speaker “owes him that courtesy and respect”.
He indicated that, all he wanted to do was to speak about the rules in respect of the standoff, and the Speaker owed him that respect to hear him out as the Minority Leader of the House, as per Order 130 of the Standing Orders of the House.
Order 130 of the Standing Orders of the House which deals with Amendment of bills after Consideration Stage, indicates that “If any Member desires to delete or amend a provision contained in a Bill which has passed through the Consideration Stage, or to introduce any new provision to it, he may, at any time before a Member rises to move the Third Reading of the Bill, move that the Bill do pass through a second Consideration Stage (either wholly or in respect only of some particular part or parts of the Bill or some proposed new clause or new schedule). No notice of such motion shall be required. If the motion is agreed to, the Bill shall immediately pass through a second Consideration Stage.
The Minority Leader indicated that, he had risen to follow the dictates of the above Standing Order to do same in relation to the subject matter on the Floor.
In asserting his displeasure, he brought the mind of the Speaker to the responsibility that “indeed the Speaker is the Chair of the House and must hold them (both sides of the House) together”,
“Mr. Speaker, I don’t ever want to disrespect you, but if you invite me, I will disrespect you”, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu stated, resulting in serious confrontations and exchanges lasting for several minutes, nearly marrying the business of the House.
At the commencement of public business of the House, the Report of the Special Petroleum (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was laid before the House and a motion for its approval moved and seconded.
The Bill intends to reduce Petrol and Diesel prices by 1.39% and 2.60% respectively, reducing the price of a liter of petrol from GhC4.67 to GhC4.51 and that of diesel from GhC4.67 per liter and GhC4.48 per liter.
This would result in a revenue loss of Gh47.90 million per annum, all things being equal.
The House was divided in approach, but agreed in principle to the fact that the tax needed a review.
The Minority side argued that the current world price of crude oil, which stands somewhere around $57 has enabled the government to rake in a lot of windfall, warranting a total scrap of the Special Petroleum Levy, which action would have enabled the commercial drivers to significantly have an ease to their burdens.
They also argued that, the immediate past government introduced the tax at a time the world market was very porous and crude prices were rising uncontrollably, leading to significant losses of revenue, adding that it was prudent by then, especially as it served as a cushion against budgetary imbalance.
However the tax has outlived its usefulness according to the Minority, and therefore must be scraped.
The Majority however was of the view that, however insignificant one may see it, it accumulates to become a significant relief to the ordinary commercial driver if one considers the savings accumulation over a period of time.
Sitting continues today at 10 O’clock in the forenoon.