NPP MPs Debunk Minority Accusation

Alexander Afenyo Markin

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Majority in Parliament has dismissed claims by the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) that it is not ready to cooperate and build consensus with the Minority in the House.

Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin, NPP MP for Effutu, said the Majority had always been ready to work with the Minority Caucus since the beginning of the Eighth Parliament, and want things to be done in an ‘honest’ and ‘transparent’ manner.

He was speaking to the media in Parliament in reaction to comments by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, NDC MP for Tamale South, that the failure of the Majority group to support the motion by the NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, for the government to absorb fees of students in public tertiary institutions this year, would affect future collaboration and cooperation.

Parliament voted late on Thursday against an opposition-led motion to request President Akufo-Addo “to take urgent steps to absorb the fees of students of public tertiary education institutions for the 2020/2021 academic year.”

The private-member motion moved by Mahama Ayariga also demanded an extension of support to accredited private universities in the country as part of the national COVID-19 alleviation programme being implemented by the government.

Haruna Iddrisu, while expressing disappointment over the development, indicated that the Majority group’s lack of support would make it difficult for the Minority to cooperate with the ruling party in the foreseeable future.

Afenyo’s Reaction

However, Mr. Afenyo Markin said the Majority Caucus were only against the substance of Mr. Ayariga’s motion since it was unclear.

“How do you in one breath invite the government to take steps to absorb fees of students in public tertiary education institutions and in another breath you say the government should consider support to accredited private tertiary institutions?” Mr. Markin quizzed.

He said, “The ambiguity in it was just too much. All we’re saying is that if you really want to have a plan for the tertiary students in this COVID era, then we must sit together with the Executive.

“This government is at its formative days. We don’t even have a minister in place. And yesterday (Thursday) Mr. Ayariga himself conceded in his argument that he was expecting the government to let the stakeholders who are going to implement policy on education, to look into that.

“But the question is why [do you] rush the government when you know that the government has not rolled out its plans for the educational sector?” he asked further.

He said, “We are of the view that this whole thing has a fiscal impact on the economy. It comes at a cost whether you use the word suspension or absorption. You are virtually saying in practical terms that the government [should] take over the bill and pay.”

“But already the fees that students are required to pay – the various fees such as the academic user fee, I have done some research and I can tell you that way back in 2009, government is taking 70%, so whatever bill a student (whether a fresher or continuing student) is given, it is subsidised,” he said, while referencing the Ghana Private High Education document.

Mr. Afenyo Markin said that aspect must be properly put out for all Ghanaians to understand, insisting that “so for our colleagues to create the impression that we do not support the urgent need to provide some relief for our students at the tertiary level is most misconceived.”

“And again to create the impression that we do not want to build consensus is also untrue. Because Hon. Ayariga did not, prior to he (Ayariga) filing his motion, he had already put it out in the public domain and sought to court public sympathy and he was on that populist journey.

“If we really want to do something for the good of the people of Ghana, at the time that we all acknowledge that businesses are collapsing; at the time that we all acknowledge that businesses are suffering and people are becoming unemployed, your main stock is revenue.

“If you don’t have, can you give? So, all of these require a proper wholesale engagement. The question is; is the Minority saying that we should increase taxation?” he asked rhetorically.

By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House