There was drama in Parliament yesterday when the Minority group called for an emergency sitting to inquire into the controversial sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz Private Equity Fund Limited.
The Minority members thought they were going to have their way after the Speaker okayed a motion on the parliamentary inquiry; but the Majority were able to scuttle the move using Standing Order 93(1) which cautions Parliament over matters in court.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon Edward Doe Adjaho had defied initial Majority chorus to throw out the emergency motion filed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Bimbilla, Dominic Nitiwul, and asked the member to move his motion because it was a matter that had generated a lot of public interest. But the Speaker changed his mind after the Majority Leader, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, had engaged his attention as to the implications of Standing Order 93 (1) if the house were allowed to discuss a matter which was already in court.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hanna Tetteh, in the course of the controversy as to whether the motion on the Merchant Bank deal should be allowed to be moved or not, stormed out of Parliament amidst heckling from the Minority members, who questioned why she was leaving the chamber at that crucial time.
The Majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) members had marshalled all their �forces� for this emergency sitting on the Merchant Bank issue and even had the General Secretary of the party, Johnson Asiedu Nketia being part of a marathon caucus meeting in the morning before sitting commenced around 12:30pm.
The Standing Order used as a tool by the Majority to scuttle the acceptance of the motion says �reference shall not be made to any matter on which judicial decision is pending in such a way as may, in the opinion of the Speaker, prejudice the interests of the parties to the action�.
The Speaker, who took a one-hour break to make a ruling on the issue raised by the Majority, eventually upheld the argument by the Majority despite protestations by the Minority at the turn of events, saying that it would be prejudicial to discuss a matter which was already pending in the law courts.
�When I received the memorandum from the 80 members of parliament for the emergency sitting, I asked the clerk to conduct a search at the courts and my information is that three applications are pending before the courts on this issue aside the appeal,� he said, adding that there was no way the movers of the motion would articulate their views without reference to any material evidence before the courts which would eventually go to undermine the authority of the court.
�There should be mutual respect between the Legislature and the Judiciary and our roles should complement each other,� he said, adding that an appeal on the sale of the bank had been scheduled for January 9 and Parliament would not want to dabble in the matter.
The Minority members, who were clearly angry, said the whole scenario was a well-rehearsed strategy to prevent Parliament from looking into the controversial sale of the Merchant Bank and playing its oversight role.
At a press conference later after adjournment, the Minority, led by the deputy leader Dominic Nitiwul, said the Majority might have succeeded in preventing the motion from being moved in Parliament, but the matter had not ended.
He said the Minority would continue to fight to help unravel the circumstances surrounding the controversial sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz Private Equity Fund Ltd.
�It is being alleged that Mr Mawuli Hedo who owns 51 percent of Fortiz which has bought Merchant Bank is also the executive director of FirstBanc Financial Service which acted as the transaction advisor to Fortiz in the purchase of Merchant Bank,� he said, adding that FirstBanc is also a licensed Pension Fund Manager.
He said Ghanaians needed answers to a lot of questions including allegations that former Managing Director of Merchant Bank, Blaise Mankwa, resigned from the bank because of bad loans contracted under his watch, which was part of the transaction for Fortiz to buy Merchant Bank.
�It is alleged that Tony Lithur who was the President�s lawyer in the election petition is the lawyer for Fortiz, the buyers, while he is also the lawyer for Engineers and Planners (E&P), the highest debtors to Merchant Bank,� he said, adding that the same Tony Lithur is alleged to have written to President Mahama on July 4, 2012 on behalf of Engineers and Planners on the repayment of its loans to Merchant Bank.
�It is also alleged that the wife of Mawuli Hedo, Angelina Hedo, who works at Lithur & Brew Chambers and doubles as a special assistant to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, owns 29% of Fortiz,� he pointed out, stressing that all these allegations and many more, which were �hanging�, made the Fortiz deal a suspicious one and that the Minority would do everything to ensure that the interest of Ghanaians were not sacrificed for political benefit.
The Majority NDC members, who also held a press conference after the adjournment of proceedings yesterday, said they stood against the Merchant Bank motion not because they were running away from a debate on the issue, but rather, they were in full support of the Merchant Bank/Fortiz deal.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
Source: Thomas Fosu Jnr/D-Guide
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