Stakeholders at a consultative conference held by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 have urged Parliament to give more room for broader consultation before passing the Bill into law.
According to the stakeholders including civil society organisations, political parties, religious groups and some state institutions, since the bill is of much importance to safeguarding Ghana’s democratic credentials, it is critical for Parliament do more consultation in order to get a more robust law that will deal decisively with the canker of ‘party militias” once and for all.
The stakeholders’ conference by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is aimed at ensuring that the bill in its current form receives input from the general public to make it very effective.
According to the participants, such a bill is very important and will need a lot of time to be considered and passed into law.
Director of International Relations of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Alex Segbefia who represented the party noted that even though the NDC is very much committed to uprooting vigilantism from Ghana’s body politic, it believes the time is not apt for such a bill but rather the existing laws that criminalize violence should be tightened.
The NDC, he said has a problem with the title of the bill which is ‘vigilantism’ because some vigilante groups exist to promote peace and are not necessarily violent in nature.
Mr Segbefia reiterated the party’s call for the report of the Emile Short Commission on the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence to be first published so that the recommendations made in that report are incorporated into the vigilantism law.
A member of the legal team of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Gary Nimako who spoke on behalf of the party also reiterated the NPP’s commitment as stated by President, Nana Akufo-Addo to end vigilantism in the country.
According to him, the Akufo-Addo demonstrated his willingness to end the menace by constituting the Emile Short Commission to look into the violence that characterized the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election in January.
He said the NPP fully associates itself with the bill currently before Parliament and thinks that when passed into law will help to effectively uproot vigilantism from our body politic and protect Ghana’s democracy.
The chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Josephine Nkrumah on her part envisaged that if the canker of vigilantism is not dealt with before the 2020 general elections, the elections could be very bloody.
“While the existence of such groups requires effective civic and public education engagements with all spectra of the citizens of Ghana, there is also the need to engage major stakeholders to gather broad based perspectives and form a formidable coalition to find a lasting solution to the menace,” she stated.
Ranking Member on the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Inusah Fuseini stated that the vigilantism bill lacks what he described as ‘conceptual clarity’ not defining clearly how the problem of vigilantism will be solved in the country.
Mr Fuseini who is also the Member of Parliament for Tamale Central therefore challenged stakeholders to suggest inputs that will enable the legislature craft a veritable and robust legal framework to deal with the canker.
"The bill as presently presented appears to lack conceptual clarity, what are we dealing with?" What is the problem are we dealing with the symptoms but not the disease," he stated.
Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, Ben Abdallah Banda assured that all concerns raised by the participants will definitely be incorporated to fine-tune the bill in order to stand the test of time.
The Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo in accordance with President Akufo Addo’s promise on April 12, 2019 introduced the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 under a certificate of urgency to help deal with the increasing menace of political vigilantism.
Participants at the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee’s stakeholders conference include the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Gloria Akuffo, Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, representatives from the National Peace Council, NCCE, Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), Civic Forum Initiative (CFI), Ghana Catholic Bishop Conference, Office of the National Chief Imam as well as the various political parties.