Parliament Suspends Vigilante Bill

Prof Mike Oquaye – Speaker of Parliament

Parliament has indefinitely suspended the
consideration of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019, which was
introduced to the House on April 11, 2019, by the Attorney-General under a
certificate of urgency.

After the introduction of the bill just a day
before Parliament rose for the Easter holidays on Friday, April 12, the Speaker
of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, notified members that the House would be
recalled for its consideration and passage because of the urgent nature of the
bill.

The Speaker, therefore, asked the Committee on
Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which is to scrutinize the
bill for further fine-tuning before the consideration, to use the two-week
period before the recall for consultations and input from the public to make
the bill stand the test of time.

However, when the House was recalled yesterday,
Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, announced that the Committee on
Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had made a request for more
time for more stakeholders’ consultations because of the importance of the
bill.

He said Parliament had also found it necessary
to incorporate the outcome of the committee set up by the Peace Council led by Rt.
Rev. Prof Emmanuel Asante to engage political parties to solicit their inputs
into the bill.

According to him, Prof. Asante’s committee has
not concluded such consultations with the political parties and therefore stressed
the need for the legislature to hold on for a while to allow for exhaustive
consultations to be done in order to allow the house do a
better job.

The Speaker said Parliament can come out with a
bill that would stand the test of time.

With the recall, Parliament will rather focus
on other very important financial agreements such as the Synohydro-related tax
exemptions and Companies Bill, 2019.

It’s expected to rise on Friday, May 3 and resume
on May 28 for the full second meeting of the third session of this Parliament.

During the one-week recall, Parliament will
also consider a $220 million pre-payment agreement between the government,
acting through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and GermCorp
Commodities Trading SA for the energy sector, as well as GH¢351.9 million tax
exemption on materials and equipment for the construction and rehabilitation of
selected roads and interchanges in the country.

The new bill, which was promised by President
Akufo-Addo during his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on February 21,
seeks to disband political vigilantism and clamp down on all activities of
these vigilante groups in the country and also eliminate completely the
activities of land guards.

However, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu,
was not happy with the recall, saying that members were made to understand that
the recall was for the consideration of the Vigilantism and Related Offences
Bill, but instead different agenda has been introduced.

“Mr. Speaker, we have to make it clear that we
are not an extension of the executive, and that the executive must know that
Members of Parliament will need to be in their constituencies to interact with
their constituents,” he said, stressing that the Minority is prepared to do any
business of Parliament during the period.

Peduase Talks

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Peace
Council, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante, has charged the two main parties to put
the national interest above anything else.

Understanding, he went on, should guide their
submissions for disbanding the vigilante groups.

Speaking at Peduase Lodge, venue for the talks
for the NPP and the NDC, he told the parties’ representatives that “as we try
to comprehend our individual and collective roles in eliminating vigilantism
and all its ramifications, I entreat you to consider the following: we owe it
to our people to live up to the values and aspirations that propel our
forebears to fight for the freedom we currently enjoy and probably even take
for granted…Our political leadership, especially the NPP and the NDC have a
responsibility to contribute to the fulfillment of these aspirations.”

In their response, the NPP expressed support
for the views of Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante, adding that they are ready to
collaborate with relevant stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problem.

NPP National Chairman Freddie Blay was of the
view that the challenge of vigilantism must be tackled to save the country from
its negative fallouts.

The NDC National Chairman, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo,
on his part, called on the stakeholders to show commitment to the cause.

“It takes human beings to ensure that solutions
are found. The bill itself and its passage will not be a panacea to the
challenges that we are facing. What I believe we should do is to be talking
frankly and honestly in dealing with this situation… If we approach it
cosmetically, then of course we will still one day find the situation devouring
us,” Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo said.

A joint statement released later by the NPC together with both parties said “after an open and exhaustive deliberation, the parties agreed on the immediate scope of the dialogue. In this regard, the parties agreed to commence discussion on the elimination of vigilantism with other key stakeholders and experts. These stakeholders shall include representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), security agencies and religious bodies.”

By Thomas Fosu Jnr



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