The (soon to be ex-?)MP for Bawku Central, Mr. Adamu Dramanu, seems to be going through a number of legal tussles as he seeks to cling on to his seat. On 16 July 2009, the High Court ruled that he could no longer hold on to the seat because he held dual nationality at the time he filed his nomination papers to stand as an MP. But the MP decided that the seat would have to be prised out of his fingers and headed for the courts for a stay of execution, which has been also been hurled out of the window, with the respective lawyers’ gowns flapping in the legal whirlwind and their horsehair wigs flying asunder.
Unperturbed by the high court’s latest decision, Mr. Dramani is said to be heading for the appeal courts for some more fireworks, inevitably meaning fatter fees for his lawyers. From media reports, Mr. Dramani is said to argue that he filed his renunciation with the British authorities as far back as December 2007 when he decided he wanted to be a parliamentarian. The question to ask is whether in doggedly pursuing this issue, Mr. Dramani is putting forward an arguable case or is simply being an irritating distraction on the Ghanaian political and legal landscape.
There are those who argue that Ghanaian citizens who have subsequently acquired foreign nationality in addition to their original nationality should not be forced to renounce the foreign nationality in order to seek or hold certain public offices. That is the subject of another debate for Ghanaian constitutional lawyers another day. This article solely seeks to address the legal issue of whether Mr. Dramani had effectively renounced his British nationality at the time he filed his nomination. The test, it is submitted, is not a difficult one.
The process of renunciation of British nationality under United Kingdom law is governed by the provisions of sections 12 and 34 of the British Nationality Act 1981, and it is important to visit the framework of this legislation in order to arrive at a dispassionate view of the arguments raging on this issue.
Under the 1981 Act, a person who is of full age and of full capacity may validly renounce his British nationality. The person must complete form RN1, sign it, date it and submit it to the Home Office if he is in the UK or to the nearest British diplomatic mission if he is outside the UK, together with the appropriate fee (currently £120.00).
Under s.12 (3) of the 1981 Act, a person must satisfy the Home Office that in renouncing his British nationality, he either has another nationality or will be acquiring another nationality within six months of the date the form RN1 is completed and submitted. If he has no other nationality at the time of application and fails to obtain another nationality within six months of the RN1 being completed and submitted, then his renunciation fails to continue to have effect.
For his renunciation to be effective, the Home Office has to stamp and sign the application form to show that the declaration has been registered, and then communicate this formally to the applicant. This will be the formal evidence of the applicant’s renunciation. This means that the mere completion and submission of the form RN1 to the Home Office or the high commission/embassy as appropriate is not evidence of renunciation, until such time that the applicant receives his formal notice. Further, whilst the application may take some time for the Home Office to record and formally endorse a renunciation, it is no defence to argue that the RN1 was submitted early and has been delayed-that is completely immaterial.
It therefore follows that unless Mr. Dramani is able to show that on the day he filed his nomination papers, he had received an official confirmation from the UK Home Office that he was no longer a British national, then on that date, he was a British national in addition to being Ghanaian, regardless of whatever he says. If, according to the courts, the laws of Ghana infer that he must not be a national of any other country apart from Ghana on the day he files his nomination to be an MP, then it is impossible to understand how his appeal can succeed in law. His only defence to the lawsuit brought against him is to whip out the document confirming his renunciation and dated prior to the date on which he filed his nomination. By law, nothing else will do. It is that simple, really.
If, as Mr. Dramani says, he submitted his application to the Home Office, either directly or through the British High Commission in Accra in December 2007 but he is yet to receive a reply confirming registration of his renunciation, then his British citizenship remains intact. In that case he is best advised to let the law take its course as it stands and the seat be declared vacant, triggering a bye-election. He can then vigorously pursue the UK Home Office for a formal confirmation that he is no longer a British national. In my view, if he then obtains the renunciation confirmation before the deadline for the filing of nomination for the bye-election, then he can lawfully file his nomination papers and if he wins, return to Parliament having complied with the law.
If Mr. Dramani is unfortunate enough to receive his confirmation after the nomination deadline date, his world need not come to an end. He would simply have to wait until either nominations open for the 2012 elections or hope another bye-election is triggered by something else before then so that he can pursue his dream of being the MP for Bawku Central.
The combination of both Ghanaian and UK laws, as they stand, do not assist him in any way in his present circumstances.
By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng ( firstname.lastname@example.org)… The writer is a UK based legal practitioner and heads the immigration department at IH Solicitors LLP in East London. He is the author of ‘Abrokyir Nkomo: Reflections of A Ghanaian Immigrant’, which was published in May 2009.