National | Politics

Parliament passes Imposition of Restrictions Bill

Parliament has passed the Imposition of Restrictions Bill on Friday, despite opposition by the Minority.

The Imposition of Restrictions Bill will give the President the powers to impose restrictions on the movement of people in the event of a disaster or emergency.

The legislation was laid in the House under a certificate of emergency in accordance with Article 21 (4) (c) and (d) of the Constitution.

After the third reading of the Bill on Friday evening, a voice count favoured its passage into law.

Opposition

The Minority legislators opposed the Bill on grounds that it fails to demonstrate the urgency attached to the process to get it passed.

According to the MPs aligned to the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Bill only seeks to arrogate to the Execute unlimited power, which could be detrimental to the checks and balances that enable democracy to thrive.

However, the Majority disagrees.

The Majority MPs argued that the Bill is important to ensure that directives issued by President Nana Akufo-Addo to stem the spread of the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) would be enforced.

The decision to pass the Bill under a certificate of urgency was also decided by a voice vote.

Subsequently, the Minority said it will go to the Supreme Court to seek an interpretation of Article 104 of the Constitution which indicates the conduct of votes in the House.

The Minority MPs argue essentially that the Bill does not deal with the issue of the coronavirus spread but rather seeks to broadly restrict freedom of movement.

What does the bill entail?

The bill essentially allows the President to impose restrictions reasonably 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 bill additionally says the President could impose restrictions “for the purpose of safeguarding the people of Ghana against teaching or propagation of a doctrine which 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.

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 GHS12, putting the range of fine at between GHS12,000 and GHS60,000. The convict could also be liable to a prison term of not less than three months and not more than six months or both a fine and imprisonment.

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

President Nana Akufo-Addo on Sunday night announced plans to introduce the bill to help deal with the Coronavirus spread in the country.

The Attorney General, Gloria Akufo, laid it on the floor on Wednesday night and it got approved under a certificate of urgency after about 48 hours.

Former Deputy Attorney General Dr Domnic Ayine who is also Deputy Minority Spokesperson on Legal Affairs, insists the new bill does not deal with the Coronavirus spread.

“The government used the Coronavirus as an opportunistic window to bring this bill to parliament. All the justification was about Coronavirus. But there was no mention of Coronavirus in the bill,” he told Joy News after the bill passed.

Though he admits the restrictions can be used to deal with the issue of Coronavirus spread, he says the bill should rather have been specific as is the case in the UK and USA.


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