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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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