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Parliament passes Vigilantism, Related Offences Bill again

PARLIAMENT has passed the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019, for the second time in a week, following a rescind of the third reading of the Bill, that occurred earlier this week. 

The House on Monday, July 22, 2019, passed the Bill after it had gone through first and second readings, consideration and second consideration stages. 

That decision had to be rescinded after some anomalies were detected in the Bill during the compilation of the various clauses of the Bill. 

The affected clauses are Clause Seven and Ten. 

The anomaly in Clause Ten had to do with the definition of vigilantism with the indication that a person convicted of a vigilantism related offence, having served a minimum of five years in prison, could not hold public office.

Another had to do with the rendition of a maximum of 15 years prison term which is inconsistent with provisions of the 1992 Constitution which set a 10-year limit for illegal organized groups.

Moving the motion for the rescission of the third reading on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akufo, Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the new rendition of the Bill would be in line with constitutional provisions of the country. 

After about 20 minutes consideration, the Planning Minister, Prof George Gyan-Baffuor, moved for the third reading which culminated in the passage of the Bill. 

The Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 applies to a person who participates in the activities of a vigilante group that is associated, related, connected or affiliated to a political party; a person who acts as a land guard and a person who engages in other acts of vigilantism. It also seeks to disband political party vigilante groups within one month of its passage into law.

The Bill was laid under a certificate of urgency in accordance with Parliament’s Standing Order 119, seeks to disband political party vigilante groups in the country and to proscribe other acts of vigilantism. 

The need for the Vigilante Law is in fulfilment of a pledge by Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, during the presentation of the February 2019 State of the Nation Address, to cause Parliament to enact a legislation to deal with acts of vigilantism in the country. 

It was occasioned by the bloody clash between National Security Operatives and Members of the National Democratic Congress in the January 31,2019 Ayawaso West Wuogon By-election. 

To get to the root of the cause of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence, Vice President Mahamadu Bawumia, under the direction of President Akufo-Addo also constituted the Justice Emile Short Commission to probe the incident. 

Though the three-member Commission has presented its report to President Akufo-Addo, it is yet to be published despite calls by the Minority in Parliament, the opposition NDC and some other interest groups for the report published. 

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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