The President’s plan to introduce a new law to deal with organised party thugs has been dismissed as needless.
Lawyer and policy expert Kofi Bentil who is also Vice-President of IMANI insisted the country has “enough laws” to deal with the menace that has plagued the Akufo-Addo government since it was sworn in, two years ago.
The President gave the directive after his proposed talks between the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) meet to address the menace, stalled.
President Akufo-Addo had warned during his State of the Nation Address to parliament, that he could be forced by the failure of the parties to cause the enactment of a bill expected to be more punitive of menacing party thugs.
Photo: President Nana Akufo-Addo in Parliament
Unenthused by the directive, Mr. Bentil argued, the President “only needs to issue an Executive Order” to state agencies to go tough on militias.
An Executive Order circumvents the ruminating legislative process bills usually go through, he said.
Kofi Bentil explained that under current law, no one can raise or join an organised criminal group.
In Section 200A of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), inserted by section 5 of the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, 2012 (Act 849), it states:
"Organised criminal group”
- A person who participates in an activity of an organised criminal group commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of death and to a minimum penalty of not less than five years imprisonment.
Despite the existence of harsh laws, the state has been criticised for picking less punitive charges in dealing with party vigilantes.
Some 13 members of pro-NPP group, Delta Force, were fined ¢1,800 each after assaulting the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinating officer in 2017.
The fines, for conspiracy to commit crime, crime to wit, conspiracy and rioting, were criticised as not deterrent enough.
Photo: Kofi Bentil disagrees with the President’s directive for a new bill on vigilantism
Kofi Bentil said treating political violence as purely a criminal issue and enforcing the law is vital to addressing the menace.
“It may look very simple but honestly this is the only way out of it”, he said on Joy FM’s Newsnight programme, Thursday.
He also pooh-pooed on the President’s earlier proposal for an NPP-NDC meeting over political vigilantism. He said it will “have no effect on what vigilantes do”.
The policy expert wondered how the NPP and NDC could disband a group which they have both denied forming or controlling.
While the expected legislative addition may be received well on other quarters, governance experts have had cause to worry about the culture of implementation in Ghana.
The police have been criticised for not doing enough to enforce laws.