Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, has landed himself in hot waters following a claim he made that MPs were given bribes to approve the nomination of then Minister-designate of Energy and Petroleum Resources, Boakye Agyarko.
Ayariga, who is the immediate-past Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, caused public uproar last weekend when he claimed on pro-National Democratic Congress (NDC) Radio Gold that his Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, gave them (MPs) GH¢3,000 each to approve the nomination of Boakye Agyarko to become Minister of Energy.
In the wake of the bribery allegation by Mahama Ayariga, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has called for a thorough investigation into the matter to establish the truth or otherwise in order to preserve the image of the House.
He said leadership must treat this as an urgent matter since the allegation was put up by somebody who is a member of the Appointments Committee and comes from ‘within’ – in order to purge the institution of any wrongdoing.
According to the majority leader who is also the Minister-designate for Parliamentary Affairs, the veracity of the allegation has to be properly established since it has the potency to inflict ‘mortal wound’ on the reputation of the legislature, adding that it (allegation) must not be wished away because it could seriously dent the image of the Seventh Parliament if the truth is not established.
“It is not a child’s play for somebody to go about labeling people without any shred of evidence,” he charged.
According to Ayariga, the Minority Chief Whip had said that the money was given to him by Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joe Osei Owusu, who is also the First Deputy Speaker, and insisted later that Mr. Osei-Owusu had confirmed to him (Ayariga) that the money came from Mr. Agyarko.
Mahama Ayariga then went on Radio Gold on Friday and said that the minority MPs outrightly rejected envelopes containing GH¢3,000 each when they found out from Mr. Osei-Owusu that the money was coming from Mr. Agyarko.
According to Mahama Ayariga, the minority MPs first accepted the money because they thought that it was their sitting allowance; but he claimed he became alarmed and decided to return the money after they heard that it was coming from Mr. Agyarko to bribe them to approve his nomination.
“We were expecting our committee allowances from the chairman so when we were called by our leader to come and take our money we took it, knowing that that is our allowance,” he claimed on Radio Gold in an interview.
“So, as for the quantum, we cannot tell how much money he (Agyarko) might have given to the chairman (Joseph Osei Owusu) , so there are all sorts of speculations about what sort of quantum he is alleged to have given but what we know is what came to us as individuals, that is what we can bear testimony to: whether it’s GH¢1 or GH¢2, no matter how small it is, what we know is what was given to us and we found out later that it was coming from him (Agyarko) so as for the quantum, it’s not important.”
He continued, “For me, the most important thing is that we were expecting to be given our committee sitting allowances, and we were promised by our chairman that it would come very soon, and we were called to pick up money from our Whip (Muntaka). We picked it up and assumed that it was our allowances and then later we heard rumours in the house and we called our leader and asked him ‘where is the money coming from?’ He said it came from the chairman but the chairman said it was coming from Boakye Agyarko so that is where we realised that we (couldn’t) take money from Boakye Agyarko,” adding, “So we asked him to take his money back; we are not interested. The quantum is insignificant, even if he had brought GH¢1 million, we would still return it to him.”
Mahama Ayariga is currently under pressure to substantiate the wild allegation following outright denials by Mr. Osei-Owusu, Alhaji Muntaka and Boakye Agyarko.
On Saturday, Muntaka was on Joy FM swearing by ‘Allah’ that he never gave any money to Mahama Ayariga who is his best friend.
“I’m a Muslim and Ayariga is also a Muslim. I want to swear by Allah that, I’ve never given any money to Ayariga claiming that it’s from Hon. Joe Osei-Wusu,” the Minority Chief Whip fumed.
Muntaka said that from day one, the MPs had resolved that they were not going to take money from any nominee who appeared before the Vetting Committee and when the host of the programme, Samson Anyenini, asked what made it necessary to hold a meeting to say that they would not take money from a nominee, the line went dead.
Mr. Osei-Owusu also denied ever giving money to Muntaka on the instructions of Mr. Agyarko saying, “Hon Ayariga knows that I have never spoken to him or Muntaka or any member about money. I have never received any monies from Agyarko or anybody for that matter… I will take steps that will protect my integrity,” he said.
“There are not many people from the other side that I like anyway, for me to go to that level… I cannot get into friendship with people I seem to be uncomfortable with to even go and give them bribes. I have been a lawyer for 27 years; can I just get up and go to anyone to offer them bribe? You can only do that with somebody you are friends with,” he fumed.
He said he was surprised because Ayariga had said it was a prank to pin down Boakye Agyarko since he had called Ex-President Mahama a corrupt person.
In the ensuing debate, the Leadership of parliament issued a statement urging the public to disregard Mahama Ayariga’s bribe claim.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by acting Public Affairs Director, Kate Addo, described Mahama Ayariga’s claim as ‘frivolous’ and ‘vexatious.’
“We have noted with concern allegations that the leadership and members of the Appointments Committee have been bribed by some of the president’s nominees to facilitate the recommendation of approval of their nomination as ministers to the House. Parliament would like to state categorically and without any equivocation that these allegations are frivolous and vexatious and should be disregarded.”
The statement further said, “Parliament attaches a lot of importance to its constitutional duties and abhors practices that will not only affect its work but also bring the institution into disrepute. Therefore extreme care is taken and thorough background checks are made before chairpersons to the various committees are appointed.
“This is to ensure that the works they oversee are meticulously carried.”
The House concluded that, “Parliament will therefore like to state that no such event has taken place and anybody having any information to the contrary, must resort to the laws of the land and take the appropriate action for redress.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Agyarko who has since been passed to become Minister of Energy and was subsequently sworn into office by President Akufo-Addo, has reacted to Mahama Ayariga’s claim saying that his lawyers were studying the tapes to advise him on the line of action to take.
He also said he was expecting Mahama Ayariga to substantiate the claim or face him in court.
By William Yaw Owusu &Thomas Fosu Jnr