South Dayi MP, Rockson Dafeamekpor

The Minority in Parliament want the Imposition of Restriction Bill 2020 withdrawn.

At a meeting of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament on Thursday, the NDC MPs said the Bill does not meet the requirement of urgent business.

Government had hoped to pass it under a certificate of urgency to enable it to place more measures to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Gloria Akuffo, the Attorney General, laid the Bill in Parliament under a certificate of urgency to legalize the imposition restrictions on persons in the event of a disaster, emergency or similar circumstances like the novel coronavirus pandemic to ensure public safety.

The emergency legislation was brought to Parliament in accordance with Article 21 (4) (c) and (d) of the Constitution.

But the Minority wants it withdrawn.

Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gapko reports that in their view, the Bill does not deal with the issue of the coronavirus spread but rather seeks to restrict freedom broadly.

For this reason, they say it should not be rushed through as the House prepares to debate whether or not it should be hurried.

Member of the Committee, Rockson Dafeamekpor said the Bill is structurally flawed and the Minority will not support it.

The South Dayi MP told the reporter that “those of us in the Minority are of the opinion that the Bill as presented does not demonstrate any urgency for purposes of which we have to consider it under urgent circumstances. This is because there is nowhere in the Bill that coronavirus is mentioned.

“They only brought a Bill regarding broad emergency powers to be given to the President and we think that they ought to be very specific. If you enact a Bill into law, giving the president broad powers, any unscrupulous president can misapply it,” he added.

Commenting on the structural deficiencies of the Bill, the member of Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee said government cannot seek to create offences and a penalty provision in an executive instrument.

“…which is never done in law. It is only a statute of Parliament that can create a statute that will criminalize certain conduct and prescribe sanctions for it.

“But this government wants to come out with an executive instrument that will give the president power to create offences and create penalties for same,” he stressed.

But the Deputy Attorney General, Joseph Kpemka has defended the provisions in the Bill.

He said government believes the Bill, in its current state, is the best for the country but can be improved by Parliament if the House wishes.

“The president is not operating in a vacuum. He is operating within a legal framework and if we do pass this into law and implement it and anybody finds that the president is abusing the law or his discretionary power, they can go for a pronouncement by the court to declare that to the extent that the president’s conduct or actions are contrary to statutes or law of the constitution, then they are a nullity,” he explained.

On the complaint that it mentions nothing about the coronavirus, he explained that the Bill is futuristic.

“After we overcome coronavirus, there are others that will come up in the future. We are not aware of that, this is futuristic so that we don’t do knee jerk reaction to situations when they arise.

“We are doing this in contemplation that any other thing will arise, will be contemplated and covered by this so that we don’t make any other laws,” he added.

The Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has appealed to the Minority to reconsider their decision.

“We are appealing to their moral conscience that this is a matter of national urgency. We must give it that certificate of urgency and now we can proceed to clause by clause and deal with whatever matter that we think we want to introduce into it.”