Parliament on Monday night turned unruly during voting to consider the Electronic Communications Tax, (E-Levy) proposed by the government in its 2022 budget, under a certificate of urgency.
MPs from opposing sides of the house were at each other’s throat following an attempt by the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei Owusu (NPP, Bekwai), who was presiding over proceedings, to vacate his seat momentarily to enable him join in the head count voting.
Joe Osei Owusu had said he would yield his seat to the Second Deputy Speaker, Andrew Asiamah (Independent, Fomena) while he (Osei Owusu) was out to be counted and thereafter return to resume his seat.
But members of the Minority side vehemently protested the procedure and said Joe Osei Owusu cannot vote as the presiding speaker. And when eventually he attempted to carry through his decision, some members of the minority attempted to seize his chair and warned he would not return to it to preside over the rest of proceedings.
That action also drew some members of the Majority to engage their colleagues, leading to some members actually throwing blows.
The sharply divided house was following through with a recommendation of the house’s Finance Committee to consider the e-levy under a certificate of urgency. The 25-member committee had voted 13 for the e-levy and 12 against, with the chairman of the committee voting to tilt the process when voting had tied at 12 each.
During a voice vote at the plenary, there was no distinct direction of which side had carried the vote, leading to a resort to division to resolve the vote. It was during the head count to conclude the process that the whole confusion erupted.
Ahead of the confusion though, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, who had presided over proceedings since morning, failed to return to his seat after rising in the afternoon for Joe Osei Owusu to preside.
The house eventually adjourned after midnight to resume at 9am on Tuesday. That decision was announced by Andrew Asiamah.
The Government of Ghana proposes to impose a 1.75% tax on all a variety of electronic transactions, including mobile money transfers exceeding GH¢100.
Minority Members of Parliament have vowed to vote against the levy, while mobile money agents, who also oppose the levy, have planned to embark on a demonstration and suspend their services in protest against moves by Government to proceed with implementation.