Declare presidential spousal wages unconstitutional – Legal team at Supreme Court
A legal team challenging the monthly remuneration for First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Second Lady Samira Bawumia insist the allowances proposed by the Emoluments Committee are unconstitutional.
Although the First and Second Ladies have publicly rejected the monies paid them and renounced future remunerations, the legal team for South Dayi MP Rockson Nelson Dafeamepkor and Builsa South MP Dr Clement Apaak have filed arguments at the Supreme Court challenging the payment.
According to them, the recommendation violates Article 71(1) and (2) of the 1992 Constitution and they insist the committee cannot purport to act in a manner contrary to the express provisions of the same constitution that created it. The Emolument Committee, they add, is a creation of the 1992 constitution, and thus subject to that very constitution.
“The committee’s recommendation that spouses of sitting and former Presidents and Vice-Presidents should be catered for by the State as part of privileges extended to the President/ Vice President is clearly unconstitutional and must not be countenanced by this court. As has been held by this court in Yeboah versus J.H. Mensah [1998-1999] SCGLR 492, the constitution is the supreme law of the land, and all persons must look at it and adjust their actions accordingly,” as captured in their arguments.
They fear the committee’s recommendation has the potential to extend the number of Article 71 Office Holders beyond the number provided for under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution.
The 7th Parliament approved salaries for spouses of presidents and their vice as recommended by the Prof. Ntiamoah-Baidu committee on emoluments.
Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said presidential spouses received an allowance in the past under various political regimes, but the current administration only sought to make it official.
Portions of the Committee’s report the team is fighting
The administration of President John Kufuor introduced the extension of courtesies, including the payment of monthly allowances, to spouses of former Heads of State, Presidents, Vice Presidents. Subsequent administrations have continued the gesture and even extended them to incumbent First and Second Ladies.
The gesture remains purely humanitarian, to support, and in some cases, rehabilitate former First Ladies who were evidently struggling to subsist. However, there is no legal basis for this support. Thus, the committee recommends that the support extended to spouses of Presidents, former Presidents, Vice Presidents, former Vice Presidents be regularized.
The parties are seeking the Supreme Court to grant a total of eight reliefs. They are stated below:
- A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee appointed by the President under Article 71(1), only had jurisdiction to make recommendations in respect of salaries, allowances payable, facilities and privileges of Article 71 office holders under the 1992 Constitution.
- A further declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the Prof Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee had no jurisdiction, mandate or authority to make any recommendations in respect of salaries, allowances payable, facilities and privileges of persons other than persons specified under Article 71 of 1992 Constitution.
- A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution, the Prof Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee exceeded its jurisdiction, mandate and authority when it purported to make recommendations in respect of privileges, facilities, salaries and allowances payable to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.
- A further declaration that the recommendations of the Committee, to the extent that it pertains to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, are null, void and of no effect.
- A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, 1992, spouses of the President and the Vice President are not Article 71 office holders for the purposes of receipt of wages and emoluments.
- An order declaring the recommendations in respect of privileges, facilities, salaries and allowances payable to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana as unconstitutional and void.
- An order restraining the President of the Republic of Ghana or any other arm, ministry, department or agency of the Executive from implementing any recommendations of the Prof Ntiamoah-Baidu Committee, which pertains to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.
- Any further Order(s) or direction(s) as this Honourable Court may deem necessary.
The Emolument Committee task
The five-member committee was set up in June 2019 by President Akufo-Addo to make recommendations to him and to Parliament on the salaries and allowances payable and the facilities and privileges available to article 71 officeholders.
Under the chairmanship of Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu and which also had former Majority Leader and former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Abraham Ossei Aidooh, the Chief Executive of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission Dr Edward Kwapong, the current Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency Dr Eric Oduro Osae, and a former Managing Director of Done Well Life Insurance Co. Ltd Mrs Stella Segbawu, the committee had two terms of reference.
They were charged to make recommendations regarding emoluments and other privileges for article 71 officeholders, as specified under the Constitution, and to examine any other relevant matter which the Committee deemed appropriate to its work.
As part of its recommendations, they proposed that allowances given to the spouses of the President and Vice President be formally included in the review of the entitlements for the executive.
The recommendation is said to have been forwarded to the Seventh Parliament, which gave the final approval.
A section of Ghanaians kick against the salaries
Meanwhile, several Ghanaians and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have kicked against the move in an era of huge pressure on the public purse and rising debts.
The Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Professor Henry Kwesi Prempeh, is one of the critics opposing the introduction of the salaries.
Prof. H Kwesi Prempeh said the First and Second Ladies are not article 71 officeholders as enshrined in the constitution; hence they do not qualify for such benefits.
“The Article 71 Emoluments Committee has no authority to recommend payment of any allowance or emolument to First or Second Spouses, as these are not Article 71 offices or officeholders,” he insisted.
According to him, the committee should also extend the remuneration to the Speaker’s spouse by their working logic.
“Anyway, why stop at First and Second Spouses?” he asked.
Why not the Third Spouse (since the Speaker gets to act as President sometimes) or the Fourth (so the Chief Justice, too, can enjoy some marital privileges on the back of taxpayers), and on and on and on”.
“The political class cannot use the Article 71 process to smuggle in salaries or allowances for First and Second Spouses,” he maintained.