Seven ministers-designate who were appointed by President John Mahama were vetted by the Appointments Committee during the week, with the high-profile ones being the Minister-designate for Youth and Sports, Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuye; Minister-designate for the Northern Region, Abdallah Abubakari; Minister-designate for the Interior, Prosper Douglas Bani; Minister-designate for the Ashanti Region, John Alexander Ackon and the Minister-designate for the Upper East Region, Albert Abongo.
Abongo, after going through a very gruelling vetting, could only say, ‘I’m tired’.
The vetting of the Minister-designate for the Interior, Prosper Bani, was of special interest to members of the Appointments Committee due to the fact that he was the immediate past Chief of Staff and also the minister who would superintend over general security in the country, especially when security concerns over the safety of Ghanaians have come up strongly in recent times.
When the Minister-designate for the Interior appeared before the Appointments Committee, most members of the committee pinned him to the wall with questions regarding the recent acceptance of two Al-Qaeda suspects from the Guantanamo Bay by the government and its security implications for the country.
Mr Bani told the committee that there was no cause for alarm because the government knew of the security implications before admitting such ex-convicts connected with Al-Qaeda. According to the minister-designate, the government has put in place all the necessary security arrangements to counter any threats posed by these people. He said the system has taken care of itself and the risks posed by these ex-convicts have been completely minimised.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, was particularly worried about the situation and said that he had credible information that the government accepted to host 17 such Guantanamo Bay ex-convicts and that 15 more would soon arrive in the country. He said the government has also accepted two other international ex-convicts from Rwanda and 90 Syrians fleeing the Syrian conflict and that that could compromise the security of the nation. The NPP MP said the government must take the concerns of Ghanaians seriously and do something about allowing ex-convicts to live in the country, since they could still have links that could expose the country to terrorist attacks.
The NPP MP for Ablekuma West, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, was also worried that the government could allow a Muslim cleric, who has been declared a security threat in many of the countries he has visited, to come into the country.
“I have learnt that this international Muslim cleric, who arrived in the country on February 4, has started preaching in our mosques; and that is very dangerous,” she said.
The minister-designate was also questioned about the increasing number of callous murders of prominent people in the society and how he intended to tackle the situation.
He indicated that he intends to increase the number of policemen in the country to the international standard of one policeman to 500 people and that that would effectively improve security in the country. He also said that he would ensure that police patrols are intensified at all times.
Commenting on the recent callous murder of a Member of Parliament in his house, the minister-designate indicated that the incident was very unfortunate and that when given the nod, he would hold discussions with the leadership of Parliament to see how best security could be provided for MPs and Parliament in general.
He however warned that since prevention is better than cure, every member of the society should take personal interest in his/her security everywhere he or she finds himself/herself.
“People must start to be conscious about their personal security and collaborate with neighbours to report suspecting characters who come to their neighbourhoods to the police,” he advised.
The Minister-designate for the Interior was also interrogated about overspending by his office when he was the Chief of Staff.
He admitted that there were such overruns by his office and that it was for a special reason but he would not be in the position to disclose that reason to the committee.
Prosper Bani, who has a very rich CV and has conflict resolution and security backgrounds, indeed appeared calm at the vetting and answered questions posed to him with precision.
The Minister-designate for the Northern Region, Abdallah Abubakari, courted some controversies during his vetting on Wednesday, telling the committee members that he defected from the People’s National Convention (PNC) to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) because of a clarion call by his people to stand on the ticket of the NDC to enable him win the parliamentary election.
The Northern Regional Minister-designate was a staunch member of the PNC and had even stood on the ticket of the party in the 2008 and 2012 elections but switched camp to the NDC in 2013 and is now the party’s parliamentary candidate for the Walewale constituency in the Northern Region, where the NPP, aided by party vice presidential candidate Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, snatched victory in the 2012 polls.
When he was confronted with the question that he could not be trusted by the people of the Northern Region for betraying his party and members of the PNC in the Walewale constituency, the nominee said that before cross-carpeting to the NDC, he had extensive consultations with the rank and file of the party about his intention to leave the party and the PNC members gave their blessing to him to join the NDC, adding that in fact all the people in the constituency supported his candidature as the parliamentary candidate for the NDC in the 2016 elections.
He promised to use his background as a development expert to speed up the development of the Northern Region and ensure that all the raging conflicts in the region are amicably resolved.
The Minister-designate for Youth and Sports, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, on his part, told the committee that when approved he would pay equal attention to all the sporting disciplines in the country and also help use sports to drive the development of the nation.
When he was questioned about his infamous call on his supporters to prevent non-Gas in the Odododiodioo constituency, where is the current MP, from registering during the 2012 voter registration exercise, the MP said he never gave that fiat.
“Mr Chairman, I have never given that order and the media wrongly reported that,” he said, stressing that he would be the last person to promote tribalism and ethnocentrism.
“Mr Chairman, I am a Ga but married to a non-Ga. I schooled in the Brong Ahafo Region and lived in the Ashanti Region,” he revealed.
The Minister-designate for the Central Region, Kweku Ricketts-Hagan, also had his fair share of controversies when he appeared before the committee. He told the committee that he had acquired some buses to transport school children in his constituency, Cape Coast, to school but the Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, had problems with that. He said that the acquisition of the buses could border on conflict of interest and asked the nominee to furnish the committee with documents covering the acquisition of the buses and to show that the minister did not use his position to acquire the buses.
The Central Regional Minister-designate also told the committee that he would ensure that the Central Regional Development Commission (CEDECOM) is well-positioned to spearhead the development of the region, adding that his main focus would be improving education, agriculture and fishing in the region.
He noted that the Central Region is endowed with the best senior high schools in the country but most children in the region do not get access to these schools because of poor grades.
He said that he sanctioned an admission quota to ensure that many children in the region get admission into these schools.
The other ministers-designate who appeared before the Appointments Committee were the Minister-designate for the Eastern Region, Mavis Ama Frimpong and the Minister-designate for the Upper East Region, Albert Abongo.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr