The American Jurist, Roscoe Pound, defines law as “social control through the systematic application of the force of politically organized society”.
Other definitions of law by some scholars see law as a system of norms and regulations which must be complied with to bring about social cohesion, and infraction of which brings on the offender punishment.
Hopefully, it is within these contexts and meanings of law that Ghana as a nation has enacted laws and regulations, including norms to bring about conformity and achieve social cohesion, peace and harmony to facilitate a just and upwardly growing society.
The laws and regulations that we have in this country are meant to ellicit from citizens a certain acceptable behaviour pattern to allow for peaceful co-existence, maintenance of orderliness and control excessive and compulsive behaviour that some people are likely to exhibit.
Such behaviours when allowed to hold sway are not likely to augur well for the good of the larger society.
If it so happens, we shall then be living in anarchy and only the fittest will survive, and when only the fittest survive, our society will not persist, it will die.
However, happenings in recent times in this country do not indicate to the law-abiding citizen that it pays to live and play according to the acceptable rules that qualify a citizen as good.
On the other hand, it seems as though, it pays to break the laws and make some personal gains to the disadvantage of the rest of the country.
There are familiar incidents in this country where some people who are seen and known to have broken the laws in most cases have not been punished at all, or where punishment has been meted out, it is not commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes they have committed and therefore, other people with criminal intents are not deterred.
There are several instances of lawlessness in this country and I can go on and on to cite them. Residential buildings are cited anywhere and shops are built anywhere. Streams, waterways and swamps have been annexed, reclaimed with debris and buildings have sprung up on them. These are known to have contributed to freak floods leading to the deaths of innocent people and loss of property.
Some hills in the country that are known to be earth-quake prone, such as the McCarthy Hills, have buildings dotted all over them.
There are laws against noise levels, but it does not seem to bother noisemakers. Noise above tolerable decibels are heard all over the capital city, sometimes for 24 hours.
Political parties that are vying for the mandate to rule this country do not seem to comply with basic laws governing the formation and running of such institutions. The simple task of submitting audited accounts to the Electoral Commission (EC) is not done as required by law and when it is done, it is because the EC had issued threats.
There are laws that regulate the establishment of educational institutions but these are largely not complied with. There was a case where an unregistered school took money from students and failed to register them for the BECE. It took the intervention of the Ghana Education Service to get the students to write their exams. But even that, it took media exposure to achieve the ultiamte.
We can only guess how many such activities are going on that have not been brought up by the media.
Indeed, even in recent times some of our established universities such as the University of Cape Coast and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have been cited for starting new programmes without going through laid down procedures for accreditation. The two institutions though have denied the charges.
The rising trend in undisciplined behaviour where the laws of the land are concerned is a daily occurrence.
Even though, several factors have been given as reasons for the rise in crime, one of the main factors is the seeming ineffectiveness of our law enforcement agencies and institutions. The agencies have more excuses for their ineffectiveness than reasons for performing their duties.
The police service which is the main state organ for maintaining law and order has been found wanting. Police brutalities have become a daily occurrence. Accusations of bribery and corruption against the police are rife on a daily basis, but the police administration appears to be impotent in stamping its authority on recalcitrant members of the Police Service.
It appears the police operate in a world of lawlessness, have a law of their own or are simply above the law they are obligated to keep.
Not long ago, a number of studies conducted by very credible institutions such as the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), showed that corruption was rife in this country. On top of the list of institutions seen as corrupt in each case is the Ghana Police Service.
And it does not require the wave of a magic wand for any one to see the unacceptable and often disgusting attitude of most Policemen on our roads. They stop vehicles indiscriminately and simply collect money from drivers in broad daylight!
Even at the Police Stations, complainants and suspects alike are literally forced to pay money to Policemen to either have their cases looked into or to have charges against them dropped.
These things clearly do not bring about social cohesion, rather they breed a lawless society in which citizens would either live recklessly or go about their activities without due regard to laid down procedures.
Some few other examples will buttress my point; the Food and Drugs Board (FBD), has been established by law to ensure that any entity that intends to produce and market any kind of foods or medications ought to apply to it.
After an application has been submitted, the Board is required to inspect the premises where these products are to be manufactured as well as test the products to determine if they are wholesome for human consumption and subsequently, certify these or otherwise where the results of the test prove that the products are unsafe for humans.
But what do we see and hear? Companies who have not met the requirements for putting foods and drugs on the market, and have been told so by the Board, have blatantly ignored such orders and are selling to the public, as if there are no laws in this country. And the Board looks on helplessly in some cases.
In other instances they have persisted and sanity had prevailed. But they have not been able to do a thorough job of their mandate yet, because we seem to be living in a country where impunity is even rewarded.
There have been several instances where some sachet water producers have failed to meet the standards and were asked to either meet the standards or close down and they have been defiant.
Sometime ago, it was reported in the news that a Filling Station was being constructed at Alajo, and clearly it was sited at the wrong place – in a crowded residential area.
Amazingly, when reporters talked to workers on the site, they claimed to have been given clearance by the Energy Board and other agencies responsible for giving clearance for such projects.
A similar incident happened in Tema. A fuel station was sited at a junction and its presence clearly narrowed the road, and reporters were told by city authorities that, a dual carriage road was to be constructed at the same spot, yet the workers on this site claimed they had been given clearance to construct the fuel station by the appropriate authorities, including the Energy Board and TOR.
There are vehicles plying our roads in dangerous conditions. There are drivers who do not have drivers’ licenses and do not know road signs but they are driving recklessly on our roads. These drivers in the event have killed and maimed innocent citizens.
Meanwhile, we have laws that regulate the conditions of vehicles to determine their roadworthiness and also to certify those who qualify to drive. But these laws are not been rigorously applied.
As a result of this lax attitude towards compliance with the law and its enforcement, many criminals seem to be emboldened. Some cases in point are the attack on Zico, a former coach of Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the glare of the public at Kwashieman and the brutal murder of Mr. Ferghali, MD of IMEXCO. And recently we can recall the murder of journalist Samuel Ennin in Kumasi; the banker, Roco Frimpong in Accra and Mr. Quartey, the retired worker of the Public Works Department in Tema.
There are very long and sometimes unnecessary delay in trying criminal cases, and where some cases have gone through trial and convictions are obtained, the sentences are too low and inconsistent with the crime.
The type of sentences imposed on convicted criminals is contingent on the law under which they are charged. This also means that we need to review most of the laws on our statute books.
With the rising trend in crime and obvious disregard for disciplined behaviour, which is costing this nation so much in terms of human resources and money, something drastic has to be done.
The laws that are on our books should be made known to the people and also enforced to the letter. Law enforcement agencies should be re-oriented on the sacredness and importance of their duties, and they must be encouraged to play their roles without fear or favour for the good of all.
This is so because if the anarchists take over the country and run us all down, we shall go down with the law enforcers who have failed us in their sacred duty.
Law enforcement agencies should first of all be on the side of the law and perform their duties to secure the nation and the dignity of the Ghanaian. Even though they are doing their best as they claim under the circumstances, they can do much, much better.
Prof. Chris Abotchie, one of Ghana’s prominent Criminologists says that, to achieve a lawful society, “the law must be made escapeless”, that is, the criminal should know before he even thinks of the crime that there is no way he would escape from the long arm of the law.
“Punishment should be applied immediately”; there should not be delay in meting out punishment, because if the criminal knows that punishment can be delayed and therefore postponed, he would not be deterred, and finally, he argues, “punishment should be severe”, to make criminals and potential criminals think twice before they embark on any crime.
We can achieve a lawful, cohesive and peaceful society if we uphold the sanctity of the law, human life and the dignity of the Ghanaian, by insisting that all of us play by the book, because it pays to live in a lawful society.
Authored by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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