Ayariga Thrown Out; Gets GH¢200k Bail

Mahama Ayariga

An
Accra High Court has given the Special Prosecutor, Martin ABA Amidu, the
permission to prosecute the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama
Ayariga, for allegedly using public office for private gain.

According
to the court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, Mr. Amidu was
duly sworn in by the President as the Special Prosecutor and he would continue
to remain at post until the Supreme Court decides otherwise.

This
was contained in the judge’s ruling in which she dismissed an application by
lawyers for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP challenging the capacity
and qualification of Mr. Amidu as the Special Prosecutor.

Plea taken

After
rejecting the NDC MP’s separate applications, the case was back on track as the
plea of Mr. Ayariga and his co-accused were taken by the court and they all
pleaded not guilty to their respective charges.

Mr.
Ayariga was granted a self-recognizance bail of GH¢100,000 in each of the cases,
while the other six accused persons got GH¢50,000 bail each with two sureties.

The
court said one of the sureties for each person must be a person resident in
Accra.

The
accused persons were also ordered to deposit their passports at the court’s registry.
Kendrick Akwesi Marfo, who was charged alongside Mr. Ayariga in connection with
the V8 cars, was discharged since the charge against him was struck out by the
court.

Mr.
Amidu was not in court and was represented by one of the lawyers at the Office
of the Special Prosecutor namely Michael Baafi.

Original Trial

The
NDC MP was dragged to court by Mr. Amidu together with Mr. Marfo over
allegations of fraudulently evading tax by using parliamentary privileges to
import three Toyota V8 vehicles into the country.

In
another case, the NDC MP is also before the court together with six others over
charges relating to the purchase of an ambulance for the Bawku Municipal
Assembly.

The
other suspects in the ambulance case include Hajia Hawa Ninchema, Sumaila Ewuntomah
Abudu, Alex Vadze, Alhaji Abdul-Mumuni Jesewunde, Mary Stellla Adapesa and
Mumuni Yakubu Nambe.

Parliamentary Immunity

The
NDC MP had tried to use parliamentary privileges (Article 118) which according
to him does not allow him to be dragged to court while on parliamentary duty.

But
the presiding judge made an order which in effect meant that Mr. Ayariga must
make himself available before the court for trial any time the case is called.

Main Ruling

The
judge in her ruling on an application filed by his lawyer to that effect
indicated that Mr. Ayariga is appearing before the court as an accused person
and not as a witness hence Article 118 could not be applied.

Initial Application

In
his application, Mr. Ayariga averred that the decision by Mr. Amidu to sign the
charge sheets before the court made them “a nullity and of no legal effect” as according
to him, the former Attorney General is not qualified to occupy the Office of
the Special Prosecutor.

He
also averred that three out of the five charges -fraudulent evasion of customs
duties and taxes, dealing in foreign exchange without licence and transfer of
foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorized dealer – do not fall within
the powers of the Special Prosecutor and cannot be prosecuted by him.

He
was also challenging the powers of Mr. Amidu to investigate and prosecute
issues concerning public procurement. He was urged the court to strike out the
charge sheet for these ‘defects’.

Opposition

In
an affidavit in opposition, Mr. Amidu described moves by the MP to have the
case thrown out as vexatious and an abuse of the court processes aimed at
frustrating the process of the MP standing trial.

According
to him, the issue of his qualification to occupy the Office of the Special
Prosecutor is before the Supreme Court and the court pursuant to an application
struck out his name as a party to the suit.

He
said the plaintiff in that suit did not pray the court for an order restraining
him from performing his duties and hence nothing stops him from going ahead to
carry out his functions as conferred on him.

Mr.
Amidu, among other arguments, concluded that the charges being challenged by
Mr. Ayariga are well within the remit of his office.

Ruling

In
her ruling, Justice Asare Botwe dismissed all the preliminary objections raised
in respect of the charges relating to the purchase of the ambulances.

According
to her, the particulars of the charges as contained in the charge sheet fall
within the mandate of the Special Prosecutor.

On
the issue of Mr. Amidu’s qualification, she held that he would remain the
Special Prosecutor until the Supreme Court takes a contrary view in the pending
suit before it.

She
therefore dismissed the application to strike out the charge sheet.

Dismissed Charges

The
judge in her ruling on the other application relating to
the purchase of the three Toyota land cruisers, dismissed charges relating to
evasion of taxes saying they did not state any specific act of corruption or
corruption-related issues hence do not fall within the mandate of the Special
Prosecutor.

She,
however, retained the charge of using public office for private gain.

The case was adjourned to July 8, 2019.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak

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