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23.03.2007 General News

Punish illegal users of military uniform more severely - Churcher


The Member of Parliament for Cape Coast, Ms Christine Churcher, on Thursday called for a stiffer penalty for persons who use military uniforms to commit crimes.

"What is six or 24 million cedis to an armed robber?" she queried, in a contribution to a motion for the amendment of the "Restriction on the Use of Military Uniforms and Equipment Bill" on the floor of Parliament.

Ms Churcher said the range of penalty between six million and 24 million cedis as proposed in the amendment was nothing to write home about compared to the lives lost and severe effects victims suffer at the hands of armed robbers who don military attire for nefarious activities.

In an apparent certificate of urgency, the Minister of National Security, Mr Francis Poku, moving the motion, which was considered and passed the same day said the amendment sought to make pecuniary penalty more realistic in view of the fact that people were using military uniforms to commit armed robbery and other acts of intimidation.

The Bill seeks to amend Section 4(1) of the parent Act National Liberation Council Decree (NLCD) 177 of 1967, to increase the penalty for the contravention of provisions under the Decree to deter and prohibit the sale, purchase and use of military uniforms and equipment without authorization.

Punishment amounting to not less than three months and not exceeding 12 months or a fine or to both is imposed in the proposed amendment Bill for the breach of any of the provisions.

Ms Churcher said there had been road blocks in the night by unidentifiable people in military and police uniforms on the Accra- Cape-Coast road, and reiterated the call to ensure maximum security on the country's highways.

Military and Police uniforms were not fashionable attires and Ghanaians should condemn in no uncertain terms anybody, apart from the security personnel who wore them.

Alhaji Abubakar Sumani, NDC-Tamale North also spoke of harassment of travellers to the extent of stripping women naked on the highways in the Brong Ahafo Region and endorsed the suggestion to increase the punishment for people who illegally wore military uniforms and handled military equipment.

Mr Edward Doe-Adjaho, Deputy Minority Leader said the amendment provided an opportunity to review the whole legislation to include the illegal wearing of uniforms of other state security agencies such as the police and the immigration services.

The House, however engage in a length debate on whether the Ghana Armed Forces included all the state security agencies since each had its own council.

Mr Joseph Boahene Aidoo, NPP-Amenfi East observed that the uniform of some private security agencies was not different from that of the state security agencies and endorsed calls by other members for clear cut distinction between the two.

Mr William Ofori Boafo, Deputy Minister of Defence, called for intensive education on the use of the uniforms of the state security agencies.

Alhaji Collins Dauda, NDC-Asutifi South, said it was not absolutely true that the security agencies illegally gave uniforms to civilians for criminal activities but rather such uniforms could be imported into the country.

He called for thorough scrutiny of the moral backgrounds of applicants into the state security services, adding that there must be stringent checks at the country's entry points to prevent any influx of illegal military uniforms.

Earlier, the House adopted the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the proposed formula for Sharing of the District Assemblies' Common Fund for the year 2007.

The Report recommended the setting up of a committee by Parliament to look into the modalities and processes of MPs accessing their share of the Fund with least difficulty.

It also recommended that 67 per cent of the 15 per cent allocation for sanitation should be set aside for sanitation management under the National Youth Employment Programme.

The Committee also suggested that steps should be taken "to urge the Executive on the need to increase the Common Fund from five per cent to seven per cent."

The House had earlier passed the Customs and Excise (Duties and Other Taxes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 and the Internal Revenue (Amendment) Bill 2007.

Source: GNA