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.
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