The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has rejected accusations of visa fraud levelled against some lawmakers, adding that he would not succumb to acts of bullying from foreign missions in the country.
Three MPs and a former legislator were accused of visa fraud by Mr Jon Benjamin while he was the British High Commissioner to Ghana, which led to their blacklisting and subsequent imposition of strict visa restrictions on lawmakers and the general Ghanaian public.
Speaking about the issue for the first time at the Speaker’s Editors Forum on Thursday, 28 November 2019, Professor Oquaye criticised Mr Benjamin for publicly ridiculing the lawmakers.
A letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament by Mr Benjamin at the time, cited Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East; Joseph Benhazin Dahah, MP for Asutifi North; Johnson Kwaku Adu, MP for Ahafo Ano South; and George Boakye, former MP for Asunafo South; for engaging in the practice.
They were alleged to have used their diplomatic passports and their status to influence visa acquisitions to the UK for some individuals, some of whom were relatives, who never returned to Ghana.
“The tag visa fraud is the nomenclature of Jon Benjamin, His Excellency. I tell you; I will not accept it because it could also be a mistake. To say it was a fraud is rather extreme,” Professor Oquaye noted, adding: “I repudiate that parliamentary association beyond degree”.
He said he wanted the public to be aware that “we are not in a house of fraud”, emphasising that as a former diplomat, he has been working with officials from foreign countries and will not kowtow to any intimidation.
“I have been there with them, I know them, I respect them but they will not bully me,” he stressed.
Prof Oquaye explained that: “If it happened that it was a Member of Parliament who wrote a letter of support for that person, it must not mean you must stigmatise Parliament because that person could have come from any organisation”.
“I told the [former] British High Commissioner that if an individual introduces a person, who, unfortunately does not return when that person went to the UK – this had happened before; I became Speaker but nevertheless, it was one of the things I inherited and which I did not run away from, I confronted it – the woman is in your country, look for her. Sometimes, we worry ourselves so much and we allow ourselves to be stigmatised unduly.”
Professor Oquaye gave the assurance that he will pursue reforms to ensure that legislators do not get involved in recommendations for persons travelling abroad.