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Minority to seek for the removal of ‘draconian’ passport application fees—Ablakwa

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Background The Foreign Affairs Ministry increased passport application costs from ¢100 to GHC500 for a 32-page standard and GHC644 for a 48-page standard booklet, beginning today, Monday, April 1, 2024. Similarly, candidates who choose the 32-page expedited service would pay GHC700, while the 48-page expedited service will cost GHC800.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and MP for the North Tongu constituency has said that the NDC minority in Parliament will seek to reverse the increased passport application costs.

He labelled the additional costs as “draconian” in response to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s introduction of the new levies.

In a Facebook post, he wrote: “I am really disappointed with Ghana’s Foreign Ministry for the enormous rises in passport application fees.

“As my NDC colleagues and I always maintained at the Foreign Affairs Committee, the current economic crisis and unprecedented high cost of living make it untenable to impose these draconian fees.

“We insisted at the Committee that the worst case scenario could be a graduated approach when economic conditions improve, but alas, they ignored our advice and have gone ahead to impose these insensitive rates in one fell swoop.”

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“The Ministry should reconsider this inimical action immediately. We shall surely revisit this matter when Parliament resumes from recess,” he stated.

Background
The Foreign Affairs Ministry increased passport application costs from ¢100 to GHC500 for a 32-page standard and GHC644 for a 48-page standard booklet, beginning today, Monday, April 1, 2024.

Similarly, candidates who choose the 32-page expedited service would pay GHC700, while the 48-page expedited service will cost GHC800.

The increased fees are included in the Ministry’s 2024 Budget Estimates document, which was approved by Parliament’s Subsidiary Legislation Committee.

The Ministry’s online passport application website has been modified to reflect the increased prices.

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In December of last year, sector Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey asked Parliament’s Committee on Subsidiary Legislation to reconsider passport application prices so that the ministry might cut losses on passport booklet printing.

“It is time for Ghanaians to pay realistic prices for passports they acquire to travel beginning next year,” stated the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Minister also claimed that the current charge of $7.7 for obtaining a Ghanaian passport was the lowest in the sub-region.

“Ghanaians pay just about GH¢100 for a passport yet to produce one passport booklet it costs GH¢400 which means that for every passport that an applicant acquires, the government has to put in GH¢300 and this is not sustainable,” she went on to say.

A study revealed that Cameroon charged $180, Guinea $57, Guinea-Bissau $65, Burkina Faso $80, and Nigeria $54.29 for passport services.

Meanwhile, the new fees suggested by the Ministry got no objections from the committee within 21 days, clearing the path for their implementation.

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Supreme Court finds decision to compensate presidential wives unlawful

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Among other things, the NPP Chairman requested a "Declaration that per Article 71(1) and (2), the positions of the ladies do not fall under the category of Public Office Holders." The writ said that

The Supreme Court ruled that Parliament’s decision to provide wages to the president and vice president’s spouses was unconstitutional.

According to the Supreme Court, the approval violates the 1992 Constitution since the first and second ladies are not public officeholders.

This comes after Kwame Baffoe, also known as Abronye, the Bono Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), launched a lawsuit against the Attorney General in July 2021.

Among other things, the NPP Chairman requested a “Declaration that per Article 71(1) and (2), the positions of the ladies do not fall under the category of Public Office Holders.”

The writ said that“… Per Articles 108 and 178 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana: Parliament, cannot on its own accord, initiate or approve payment of any such emoluments which would necessarily be paid from public funds, without a bill to that effect emanating from and introduced by the Government and duly passed into law.”

Again, the action requested the court to declare that Parliament’s consent to pay wages to the First and Second Ladies is inconsistent with Article 71 clauses 1 and 2 of the Republic of Ghana’s 1992 constitution, and hence invalid, void, and unenforceable.

A seven-member Supreme Court bench chaired over by Chief Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba Sackey Torkornoo granted three of the four reliefs requested by the Bono Regional Chairman.

Mr Abronye’s fourth relief, requesting that the Court declare that parliament cannot initiate or approve payment of any such emoluments, which must be paid from public funds, unless a bill to that effect is drafted, introduced by the government, and duly passed into law, was not granted.

Although the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) for South Dayi Constituency, Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor, filed a similar suit, his reliefs, which centred on the recommendations of the Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee, were dismissed, with just one granted.

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Prison sentence begins immediately Sedina Tamakloe arrives in Ghana

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Regarding the potential of her serving her jail sentence overseas owing to Ghana's terrible prison circumstances, the NPP member stated, "That is a point, but you cannot expect us to upgrade our prison conditions to the point where they have one person to a room with a TV set." Madam Tamakloe received a ten-year jail term for causing the state a financial loss of GHC90 million. Daniel Axim, the organization's former Operations Manager and collaborator, received a five-year prison sentence as well.

Kingsley Amoako-Boadu, a private legal practitioner, has stated that former Chief Executive Officer of the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) Sedina Tamakloe’s jail sentence will take effect as soon as she lands in Ghana.

He added that because she is not available within Ghana’s jurisdiction, the punishment can only begin once she comes.

“The jail term begins when she arrives in Ghana,” he explained on Key Points in April 2024.

Regarding the potential of her serving her jail sentence overseas owing to Ghana’s terrible prison circumstances, the NPP member stated, “That is a point, but you cannot expect us to upgrade our prison conditions to the point where they have one person to a room with a TV set.”

Madam Tamakloe received a ten-year jail term for causing the state a financial loss of GHC90 million. Daniel Axim, the organization’s former Operations Manager and collaborator, received a five-year prison sentence as well.

Madam Tamakloe was jailed in absentia while seeking court authorization to go to the United States for medical treatment.

Following the judgement, Deputy Attorney-General Alfred Tua-Yeboah stated that the state has begun proceedings to extradite the former MASLOC chief to Ghana to complete his sentence.

“We’ve started the processes and with this judgement, that is going to speed up the process. In Ghana we have various clauses, you can choose to just stay, but so far we have laws regulating how you can be extradited from one country to Ghana if there is a judgment like this one. Rest assured, she would be brought down and face justice,” he explained.

It would be recalled that speaking on the jailing of Sedina Tamakloe who was tried in absentia, on the Ghana Tonight show on TV3 on Tuesday, April 16 Kpebu said “The main change we may face is prison conditions. INTERPOL will do their bit so that they will spread it all over the world, all the police agencies of all the countries in the world asking for her to be extradited to Ghana. But one of the key things we will be facing is the prison conditions in Ghana because I am aware in the past certain countries have refused to extradite persons to Ghana because of our very inhuman prison conditions, so that is the biggest challenge we will have when it comes to extradition, but a lot of countries do extradite persons back to Ghana.”

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La Dadekotopon: Akufo-Addo’s driver files to enter the NPP parliamentary primary

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Solomon Kotey Niikio, the area's MCE, has also filed a candidature to run. Joseph Addo, President Akufo-Addo's driver for more than 20 years, claims to have contributed to the constituency's progress. "I have helped the youth in this area get jobs and employment in government agencies"

President Akufo-Addo’s personal driver has registered a nomination for the La Dedekotopon NPP Parliamentary primary on April 27, 2024.

Joseph Addo, who was vetted and certified by the party’s Greater Accra Elections Committee, claims he would win the seat back for the NPP.

“I was born and bred here in La, I have lived all my life here so I am not new in this constituency.”

The National Executive Committee of the NPP approved a primary in the constituency after the elected Parliamentary Candidate, Dr Gerald Joseph Tetteh, resigned for personal reasons.

Solomon Kotey Niikio, the area’s MCE, has also filed a candidature to run.

Joseph Addo, President Akufo-Addo’s driver for more than 20 years, claims to have contributed to the constituency’s progress.

“I have helped the youth in this area get jobs and employment in government agencies”

He goes on to say that, “Recently when the party needed an office space after the destruction of the old office, I personally worked to get a new office for the party” .

Joseph Addo feels confident in winning the primary on April 27th and the general election on December 7th.

Rita Naa Odoley Sowah of the NDC won the La Dedekotopon seat in the 2020 election, defeating the NPP.

The NPP hopes to reclaim the seat in the December elections.

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