Don’t be Complacent; Democracy not a Destination, But a Journey-Nigerian Senate President

As Majority Leader Advocates for Review of Article 78 and 108

The President of the Nigerian Senate, His Excellency Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has warned that Ghana and Nigeria, and for that matter Africa as a whole should realize that Democracy is not a destination, but a journey, hence must all make concerted effort to nurture and grow it, and not leave it to complacency.

He recounted the numerous challenges facing Africa and its individual countries ranging from economic marginalization and discrimination to internal issues of conflicts and division, and raised the alarm that, in spite of the fact that Ghana and Nigeria and other African countries has chucked significant successes in democracy and good governance, should not make us think that it is the destination we seek, but rather see it as a journey which we must make conscious effort to get to.

Speaking at the Symposium of Ghana’s 25 years of Parliamentary Democracy at the International Conference Center in Accra, he stated that a lot need to be done collectively as people, in the areas of education, cross border controls, economic emancipation and the general improvement of the living standards of the people.

He added that “Africa is the riches of all the continents, but because we have made our land a pigeon hole for others, we live impoverished lives.

He therefore called on African Parliaments to come together to “cross-pollinate ideas aimed at taking African democracy to the next level”, adding that “there is a relationship between the laws we make and the development of our people”.

“We need to educate our people”, He said, adding that Africans must be enlightened especially on the role of Parliament in order to have a paradigm shift in respect of citizens expectations of parliament.

He further called for closer collaboration and improvement of the creative arts industry of Ghana and Nigeria.

He said “ECOWAS has the prospects to drive the economic development of Africa, and that Ghana and Nigeria should be at the forefront of this.

He alarmed that Africa is witnessing the cross-border migration of its youths on the Saharan Desert to the Mediterranean in search of greener pastures, and this must be a major concern to African leaders.

He also decried the fact that African trade with the West surpasses intra-African trade, which means that most of their natural resources leaving the shores of Africa to foreign lands, is a case that needs to tackle for the good of Africa.

He also added that ECOWAS has the prospects to lead the economic liberation of Africa.

He further commended the vision behind the African Railway Project by the Ministry of Railways of Ghana, and added that, it is a very noble idea that would be beneficial not only to Ghana, but to all West African and African countries.

On his part, Rt. Hon. Mike Aaron Oquaye, Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament in welcoming all stakeholders to the occasion, added that every time there is a coup d’état, the institution that suffers most has been Parliament, and hoped that never again will Ghana experience such unfortunate phenomenon in her political history.

He further paid glowing tribute to all men and women who fourth to sustain Parliamentary democracy over the period, especially those have been there to rebuild Parliament anytime there has been rebuilding of Parliament.

He also disclosed that no Parliament apart from that of the 1st Republic had lived beyond twenty seven (27) years, and trusted that the 4th Republican Parliament will be the final one in the Political history of Ghana.

He was particularly grateful of the strong bond between Parliament and the Executive, asking for even stronger bond, especially in resourcing Parliament.

The Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu on his part indicated that, God has been merciful to Ghana, and as such the milestone is worth celebrating.

He indicated that Parliamentary democracy can be said to be an orderly approach to democracy, which recognizes the principles of separation of powers, the rule of law, respect for the fundamental human rights of people and work in tandem with judicial independence, a transparent, accountable and sensitive executive, fully independent Electoral Commission, a vibrant media and powerful and efficient civil society, all of which connects into a governance architecture which secures for ourselves and posterity economic development and general wellbeing of the citizenry.

He revealed that Ghana’s Parliamentary democracy commenced with the Westminster system during its inception in 1957 when Ghana attained independence.

Ghana attained Republican status on the 1st of July, 1960 under the 1st Republican Parliament constituted as the 1st National Assembly with a 5 year term, which was eventually overthrown in a coup d’état on 24th February, 1966, and the history follows thereafter. He noted.

Reiterating that Ghana has made significant strides since the inception of the 4th Republican Parliament, and as a country, we need to consolidate these gains and make it stronger.

He also called for a review of Articles 78 and 108 of the 1992 Constitution which he sees as undermining the independence of Parliament and also placing limitations on the legislative roles of Ghana’s Parliament respectively.

Article 78 provides that “(1) Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament, (2) The President shall appoint such number of Ministers of State as may be necessary for the efficient running of the State”.

Article 108 also provides that “Parliament shall not, unless the bill is introduced or the motion is introduced by, or on behalf of, the President -(a) proceed upon a bill including an amendment to a bill, that, in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision for any of the following -(i) the imposition of taxation or the alteration of taxation otherwise than by reduction; or (ii) the imposition of a charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana or the alteration of any such charge otherwise than by reduction; or (iii) the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana of any moneys not charged on the Consolidated Fund or any increase in the amount of that payment, issue or withdrawal; or (iv) the composition or remission of any debt due to the Government of Ghana; or (b) proceed upon a motion, including an amendment to a motion, the effect of which, in the opinion of the person presiding, would be to make provision for any of the purpose specified in paragraph (a) of this article.

He also indicated that Ghana is not doing well in gender representation in its Parliament as should have been the case.
Civil society present also were satisfied with the performance of Ghana’s Parliament and called for measures to further strengthen it.

Story: Frederick E. Aggrey


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