Private legal practitioner Martin Kpebu

A private legal practitioner has called for a second look at some portions of the Imposition of Restrictions Bill 2020.

Martin Kpebu believes this will reassure citizens that when passed into law, it will not be subjected to abuse.

His concern comes on the back of a move by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee’s questioning whether or not the law seeking to enforce social distancing should be passed under a certificate of urgency.

Gloria Akuffo, the Attorney General on March 18, laid the bill before Parliament, one which President Akufo-Addo says will provide legal backing for his outlined measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Some critics have already began raising issues with the bill, saying portions of it may unnecessarily expand the remits of the executive to clamp down on dissent and mobilise resources without proper accountability.

One such critic is Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak who believes the Imposition of Restrictions Bill will not serve the interest of citizens and could be abused.

In an interview on Joy FM’s Midday News Thursday, Martin Kpebu explained that it will be necessary that government reassesses the bill to allay the fears of Ghanaian by ‘re-wording’ the sections that are of contention.

Acknowledging the need for the legislation in this time of crisis, Mr Kpebu was of the view that “…we have a bill that will deal with the current situation but could also, potentially, be exploited to deal with situations that we do not anticipate now.”

The bill allows the executive to “impose restrictions for the purpose of safeguarding the people of Ghana against teaching or propagation of a doctoring which exhibits or encourages disrespect for the nationhood of Ghana, the national symbols and emblems, or incites hatred against other community members.”

This provision, the lawyer believes, may be a result of inadequate discussion in the face of the fast-developing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this context of the coronavirus, it is difficult to understand the basis for the inclusion of the provision on inciting hatred for the nation. So perhaps we can reach out to the Attorney General to explains and then maybe if they find that this is an error, they would want to amend it,” he said.

Distancing himself from the views of possible neglect of dissent through this bill, Mr Kpebu further told Araba Koomson that: “Because this country belongs to all of us, when a good segment of our society feels apprehensive then it doesn’t help the cause to tell them that their fears are unfounded.

“Because of that potential negative views, considering the fact that we are not angels, I think that we should look at it again. So maybe the bill should be re-worded to assuage their fears.”

The Minority in Parliament has described as “not useful” the Imposition of Restriction Bill 2020 which government says will help it deal with the spread of the coronavirus.

Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak says the bill is too broad and could be abused.