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Imposition of Restrictions Bill passed to fight Covid-19

Parliament on Friday passed the Imposition of Restrictions Bill to fight spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bill gives President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo authority to impose restrictions on the movement of people in the event of a disaster or emergency.

The Bill, which was laid in the House under a certificate of emergency in accordance with Article 21 (4) (c) and (d) of the Constitution was opposed by the Minority.

They argued it did not deserve the urgency used to pass it.

The Minority warned that the Bill in the current form flouts provisions of the 1992 Constitution in respect of protecting the country’s democracy and the rights of the citizenry.

Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Inusah Abdulai Fuseni described it as a loaded gun in the hands of the President.

According to him, the Bill has no procedural limitation on the exercise of the law and that the President would be clothed with powers to determine what a crime is and the punishment to apply.

Also READ: Minority calls for COVID-19 national response plan

This, he said, is unconstitutional and dangerous to the governance system of Ghana.

The Majority New Patriotic Party (NPP) however argued the Bill has become imperative in the light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the risk of transmission.

The Bill, the side argued, will ensure directives issued by the President to stop the virus infections would be enforced.

Chairman of the Committee, Ben Abdallah Banda, explained that the Bill is purposed to be futuristic to provide a broad framework for the current and future emergencies.

According to him, in view of the devastating threat and the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the need for a legal framework to provide for expeditious intervention by the government in the event of unforeseeable emergencies.

The Chairman stressed that though the coronavirus is of global and national concern and therefore needs drastic and immediate measures, it has not reached a pandemic stage in Ghana to warrant the invocation of Article 31 of the Constitution as demanded by the Minority.

He noted that concerns about absence of check and balances could be cured by future amendments.

 The Imposition of Restrictions Bill allows the President to impose restrictions required in the interest of defence, public safety, public health or the running of essential services.

It also allows the President to impose restrictions on movement or residence within Ghana of any persons.

The President could also restrict the freedom of entry into Ghana.

The President could also impose restrictions for the purpose of safeguarding the people of Ghana against teaching or propagation of a doctrine that exhibits or encourages disrespect for the nationhood of Ghana, the national symbols and emblems, or incites hatred against other community members.

It says the President can impose such restrictions through an executive order for a period not exceeding three months. If the restriction has to remain beyond that, the Executive order has to be renewed.

The Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee, however, introduced penalties into the bill after the Minority complained the original document from the Executive gave the President too much power, including determining penalties.

Therefore, anyone who flouts the restriction commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 1000 penalty units and not more than 5000 penalty units.

Each unit is GH¢12, putting the range of fine between GH¢12,000 and GH¢60,000. The convict could also be liable to a prison term of not less than three months and not more than six months or both.

By Osumanu Al-Hassan/Frontpageghana.com/ghana

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