The grace period for returning these weapons spans between August 22 and September 23.
Mr. Prosper Douglas Bani, the Interior Minister, at a press conference in Accra yesterday, said that “after the expiration of the deadline of the amnesty, the government will resort to aggressive measures to uncover the illegal or unlicensed weapons in the country”.
The nature of the amnesty, Mr. Bani said, was designed to conform to best practices and that it was part of a broader strategy to reduce the effect of uncontrolled possession of small arms and light weapons in the country.
According to Mr Bani, an estimated 1.2 million guns were in the hands of civilians, which was a threat to the peace of the country.
The minister noted that besides the significant number of preventable small arms related deaths, the illicit access to small arms promotes crime, hindered dispute resolution, creates mistrust among communities and undermines peace efforts at both national and community levels.
“The government recognises that there may be persons who desire to regularise or modify their small arms ownership and it is expected that all citizens in possession of unregistered weapons, as the law stipulates, should voluntarily take advantage of the amnesty and register their weapons without fear of being sanctioned by the law,” he added.
Calling on well-meaning Ghanaians to respond to the opportunity provided by the amnesty, Mr. Prosper Bani said it was in the collective interest of every citizen that government eliminated the dangers associated with the possession of illicit weapons.
He reminded persons illegally possessing arms that under section 96 of the Criminal Code, 1960, as amended, the possession of illicit weapon(s) was a first degree felony, which carries a prison term of not less than 10 years.
To make the regularisation process stress-free and to encourage persons in possession of the arms to give them up, Mr. Bani said registration centres would be opened across the country to cater for that national assignment.
Apart from ensuring that the illicit weapons in the country were flashed out, the security services were intensifying their activities at the entry points of the country to see to it that illegal arms were not smuggled into the country, Mr. Bani said.
He reiterated the security services’ resolve to ensure that there was a gun-free environment before, during and after the elections.
The announcement of the amnesty gesture comes a little over a month after the ministry, in collaboration with its agencies set ablaze 1,300 guns here in Accra to commemorate the UN Day for Weapons Destruction.
By Julius Yao Petetsi