THE Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Madam Gloria Akuffo, yesterday laid a bill in Parliament to legislate against political vigilantism.
Laid under a Certificate of Urgency in accordance with Parliament’s Standing Order 119 and Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution, the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019, is in fulfillment of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s resolve to legislate against the menace.
President Akufo-Addo, delivering the State of the Nation Address in Accra on February 21, tasked the governing New Patriotic Party and opposition National Democratic Congress to come together and agree on appropriate measures to bring an end to the menace of political vigilantism.
He said in that address that “if voluntary disbandment by the parties is not feasible, then I will initiate legislation in the matter.”
Listing Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenfi West and Ayawaso West Wuogon bye-elections as some of the areas which have suffered the brunt of political vigilantism, the memorandum accompanying the bill said “politically-related violence threatens Ghana’s fledgling democracy and the rule of law.”
The Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, in its three-page report on the ten-clause bill upheld that it was of urgent nature but wants other stakeholders’ input considered.
“The committee recommends to the House to allow sufficient time to enable the committee engage political parties, civil society organisations, security experts and other stakeholders to solicit their views and perspectives towards the enactment of a robust law to combat the menace,” the committee chairman and Member for Offinso South, Ben Abdallah Banda read out on the floor of the House when he moved the motion for the adoption of the report.
This means that the requirement of gazetting the Bill would be waved but unlike others of urgent nature, public memoranda would be considered.
Seconding the motion, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, the Ranking Member on the Committee and Tamale Central MP, said if all stakeholders were allowed to make inputs into the bill, the concerns of all those matters would have been addressed before the final document.
The Minority Leader and the Member of Parliament for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, who had earlier declared his side’s support for the bill but kicked against it being passed under a certificate of urgency said the country should be encouraged to deal with lawlessness in all forms and shape.
Mr Iddrisu was, however, insistent that President Akufo-Addo published the report of the Justice Emile Short Commission of Inquiry into the Ayawaso West Wuogon bye-election violence so that the recommendation would guide work on the bill.
Ms Sarah Adwoa Safo, the Deputy Majority Leader and Dome Kwabenya Member, on her part said opening up the bill to the public would give the House the laxity for broader consultations which would result in a more comprehensive law.
“Vigilantism” Adwoa Safo declared “is a threat to the country’s peace.”
The Speaker of the House, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, in his ruling said “all consultations must be done with dispatch.”
Speaker Oquaye further directed the table office to ensure that the consideration stage of the bill featured as the first public business when the House returned from adjournment later this month.
The call for the disbandment of political vigilante groups was heightened following the gun violence that characterised the January 31 by-election in the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency of the Greater Accra Region.
Following that violence which left at least 15 persons said to be members of the opposition NDC injured, a three-member Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Justice Short was constituted to probe the violence and make recommendations to avert any future occurrence.
Other members of the commission which has since presented its report to the President are former Inspector General of Police, Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong and Law Lecturer, Professor Henrietta Bonsu.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI