The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, says he will not tolerate stigmatisation from foreign missions with regard to allegations of visa fraud.
He expressed misgivings about the approach of former British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Jon Benjamin, in addressing an alleged issue of visa fraud against some Members of Parliament (MPs).
At the Speaker’s Editors Forum held at the Parliament House in Accra last Friday, the Speaker described the behaviour of the High Commissioner at the time as a smear campaign against the institution of Parliament in the visa fraud allegation.
Speaking about the issues for the first time, Prof. Oquaye said although “this happened before I became Speaker, it was one of the things I inherited and I did not run away from it. I confronted it.” He said the House neither accepted the findings nor the tag of visa fraud made against it by Mr Benjamin.
A few years ago, Mr Benjamin blacklisted three sitting MPs and a former MP for engaging in acts of alleged visa fraud. Describing it as extreme, Prof. Oquaye said “if it happened that it was an MP who wrote a letter of support for that person, it does not mean you must stigmatise the whole of Parliament. “The tag of visa fraud is the nomenclature of Jon Benjamin, I tell you, I will not accept it. I repudiate that parliamentary association beyond degree,” he charged.
The Speaker said: “I told the former British High Commissioner that if an individual introduces a person who unfortunately does not return when that person gets to the UK or the US, the person is in your country, look for that person. Sometimes we worry ourselves so much and we allow ourselves to be stigmatised unduly.”
He said he duly indicated his displeasure over Mr Benjamin’s handling of the matter to his successor, Mr Iain Walker. “ I told his successor that I was not too happy with the approach of his predecessor.” The British High Commission in 2017 cited three MPs for allegedly perpetrating visa fraud using their diplomatic passports.
The MPs cited included Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East in the Western Region; Joseph Benhazin Dahah, MP for Asutifi North in the erstwhile Brong Ahafo Region; Johnson Kwaku Adu, MP for Ahafo Ano South West in the Ashanti Region, and George Boakye, former MP for Asunafo South in the then Brong Ahafo Region.
Those MPs were alleged to have used unauthorised persons and their diplomatic passports to apply for visas for persons who travelled to the UK.
The MPs were accused of facilitating the entry of some of their supposed relatives to the UK using their diplomatic passports and in some cases, the supposed relatives failed to return to Ghana when the visas expired. As a result of the accusations by the High Commissioner the accused persons were banned from entering the UK for 10 years.