Two MPs-elect have been the subject of controversy because of their having dual citizenship. Mr. James Gyakye Quayson won the Assin North Constituency in the just ended elections on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress. Ms. Adelaide Ntim of the National Patriotic Party won in her Constituency, Nsuta-Beposo-Kwamang. There have been calls from certain quarters that they have breached the constitution; but those making the calls better take a second look at the constitution.
According to Article 94, Clause (2a) of the 1992 Constitution, “A person shall not be qualified to be a Member of Parliament if he owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.” Simply put, one cannot be a Member of Parliament if the person holds another country’s passport or is a citizen of another country. An MP-elect is not a Member of Parliament so there is nothing wrong with having two nationalities at this point. If the person enters Parliament, then she/he becomes a Member of Parliament; and it is at this point that the person will be in breach.
Previously, Political Parties mistakenly compelled their aspiring candidates to renounce their other citizenship before contesting, even during the primaries. Some of them lose right in the primaries while others during the ensuing Parliamentary elections and, consequently, regretted having renounced the other citizenship as they could not go back to those other countries as citizens again. They had to start all over again. One does not have to renounce the other citizenship until when they are about to enter Parliament, and the constitution is clear about that. If the MP-elect still holds another citizenship, there is nothing wrong with that; she/he can hold it until the very moment they are about to enter Parliament.
Under Article 94 …….. a person shall not be qualified to be a member of Parliament unless –
- (c) He has paid all his taxes or made arrangements satisfactory to the appropriate authority for the payment of his taxes.
Filing of personal income tax should be a responsibility for every adult resident of Ghana. The 2020 manifesto of the National Democratic Party (NDP) proposed that filing of personal income tax would be a priority if voted into power. These are some of the things that the NCCE should spend resources educating Ghanaians on.
There is a similarity between sections of Article 94 of the 1992 Constitution and Article 71 of the 1969 Constitution.
Article 71(2)(b)(ii) and (d) of the 1969 constitution states:
(2) No person shall be qualified to be a member of the Assembly who
(b)HAS BEEN ADJUDGED OR OTHERWISE DECLARED
(II) BY THE report of a commission of inquiry to be incompetent to hold public office or that while being a public officer he acquired assets unlawfully or abused his office
or willfully acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the state.
(d) has had his property confiscated as the result of the findings of A commission of inquiry…
The difference is that in 1969 the Parliament was called the National Assembly (Assembly). Dr. Komla Agbeli Gbedemah stood for election and won as the leader of the National Alliance of Liberals without any hindrance. When the time came for him to enter the Assembly (now Parliament), the constitution prevented him from entering Parliament. Gbedemah was barred from taking his seat in parliament and Dr. G. K. Agama took his place. Dr Agama was sworn in by General Afrifa as the Opposition Leader. Dr. Gbedemah was prevented from taking his seat in the Assembly because he had previously been found guilty of financial crimes while holding public office.
Ghanaians and Africans in the diaspora would like to come to Ghana to contribute and I think we should not make things difficult for them to come. If there are a thousand reasons that may disqualify them, we should find one reason that can qualify them. In this situation there are thousand reasons to qualify them, but we are trying to find one reason to disqualify them. At this point, we should be helping them to disentangle themselves from the adopted nationality just as a father would welcome a prodigal child. Are we saying that the Ghanaian diaspora is only good for transmitting dollars to Ghana? The 1992 Constitution is very clear on their eligibility to stand for election otherwise it would have stated the contrary. The 2020 NDP manifesto proposed a “Diaspora Public Office Bill” which would guarantee dual citizenship holders the right to hold Public Office without denouncing their other citizenship. This, I think, is worthy of consideration, considering the need to attract brains for the needed transformation that Ghana requires.
Article 94 (3) emphatically answers the question of ELIGIBILITY providing the
instances under which one is not allowed to stand for election.
(3) A person shall not be eligible to be a member of Parliament if he—
(a) is prohibited from standing election by a law in force in Ghana by reason of his holding or
acting in an office the functions of which involve a responsibility for or are connected with
the conduct of, an election or responsibility for, the compilation or revision of an electoral
(b) is a member of the Police Service, the Prisons Service, the Armed Forces, the Judicial Service,
the Legal Service, the Civil Service, the Audit Service, the Parliamentary Service, the
Statistical Service, the Fire Service, the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, the
Immigration Service, or the Internal Revenue Service; or
(c) is a chief.
Consequently, if one desires to contest in a national election, then one does not have to be in any of the listed categories. Even then, I will suggest that the person does not have to resign until when filing for nomination at the Electoral Commission.
The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) should be educating the citizenry on these fundamentals, but they do not. The NCCE should do a better job by educating Ghanaians on our rights and responsibilities as enshrined in the constitution. Part of the same article 94 requires aspiring candidates to fulfill their tax obligations but, sadly, very few are aware of this provision until when they are submitting papers to the Electoral Commission. Filing of personal income tax does not necessarily mean one has to pay tax. If someone graduated in 2012 and has not been employed till now, there is nothing to pay by way of taxes, because there is no income to declare. However, filing the tax return will help the government by creating a database on who is employed and who is not employed for effective planning.
I commend Nana Adu Abankoro II, the Adiebebahene, who abdicated in consonance with this provision (Article 94 section 3) to contest the Adansi-Asokwa constituency Parliamentary seat. I pray that after coming short of his desire he will be accepted back if he wishes to continue as a chief. In this particular situation the constitution is emphatic, ”…shall not be eligible to be elected as a member of Parliament”. If the constitution intended dual citizen holders not to be eligible it would have said so. In effect, a dual citizenship holder can contest in a Parliamentary election. It is only when he/she is about to be admitted into Parliament that they have to relinquish their other citizenship. An MP-elect is, therefore, not a Member of Parliament.
The question is does Ghana want such persons who have acquired expertise abroad to come back and help, or Ghana is telling these persons to take the acquired knowledge back and turn round to go and recruit a “white man”? In situations like these, I think we must do whatever it takes to welcome them and make it easier for their integration after years of separation from Ghana. We should make it easier for the diaspora to integrate into the system instead of devising regulations that would negatively affect their decision to return.