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Should Ghana cancel Parliament?

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 Source: Nico van Staalduinen

Tough question, radical measure or legitimate reasons, should Ghana cancel parliament?

We all know that, neither Ghana nor any other democratic country can and will cancel parliament so it’s a hypothetical Question. Let’s have a look at the mandate of parliament and what and why, we as a country spend our money on and if we should continue spending money on a, let’s call it at least “less successful institution”?

First of all, on the homepage of the website of parliament is written:

MANDATE OF PARLIAMENT: Parliament’s basic function is law making.

LEGISLATIVE (quote) “Law-making is considered to be the most important function of Parliament. Under article 93(2) of the Constitution the legislative power of Ghana is vested in Parliament and is exercised in accordance with the Constitution. No person or body other than Parliament has the power to pass any measure with the force of law except by or under the authority conferred by an Act of Parliament. The legislative function consists of passing Bills and scrutinizing statutory instruments and deciding whether to annul them or allow them to take effect by the effluxion of time”.

It is true that Ghana’s constitution and laws are not only one of the best of the continent but I believe some of the strongest in the world.

But after parliamentarians have proposed, discussed, deliberated, amended and passed all these laws what are we doing with it? Are they implemented, followed up on, are they checked? Will offenders be prosecuted or held otherwise accountable?

If a commercial person produces something nobody buys he/she will have to close shop sooner or later, but if parliament produces laws that nobody respects are there any consequences?

Let me start with some simple examples:

Okada (motorbike taxis) are against the law. One can look around every day: This law is never maintained unless the IGP or Station Commander of police is announcing “today we are going to arrest all Okada riders”. All other days the same police officers jump at the back seat of an Okada to bring them where they need to go.

Prostitution is against the law (although I think that’s old fashioned and we should rather legalize it and collect taxes from the girls) but who is maintaining the law? I remember there was a police barrier in front of the Togo embassy at Akufo-Addo circle and whilst the police was disturbing and extorting drivers the prostitutes were allowed to engage in their illegal work within a distance of 10 meters off the barrier.

The laws which are not implemented are not only traffic laws, here are some other laws.

It is illegal to collect more than 6 months’ rent advance of tenants but although the GRA can easily check accounts of landlords and bank accounts nobody is following up on the law and I have never heard or seen any landlord in court over this law.

It’s illegal to build without a building permit, but we have special and official registration fees (NOT PENALTIES) at places who give out permits. These fees are slightly elevated in case you started building without waiting for your licenses, thus encouraging people not to be delayed by often slow working officials.

We have in Ghana the “BEGGARS AND DESTITUTES ACT stating:

”Any person found begging and any person wandering or placing himself in any premises or place for the purpose of begging may be arrested by a police officer without warrant and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty Cedis or imprisonment not exceeding three months or to both.

Beggars can be found in abundance on almost every street corner these days but who is acting upon this law; the police?

Judges in Ghana are passing beggars every day on the street on their way to our courts of law. Whilst according to this law their powers are: (short version):”Any magistrate before whom any person (read beggar) is arrested may order any officer of the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development to bring that person before the court. The same judge may, if he/she thinks fit, order the relative of the offender to give security for the period not exceeding one year with a relative or an institution.

It gets worse with child beggars, Ghana’s latest fashion: Look at our children’s act of 1998:

Art. 12: Protection from exploitative labour. No person shall subject a child to exploitative labour.

Art. 16: A District Assembly shall protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority and shall ensure that within the district, governmental agencies liaise with each other in matters concerning children.

Which assembly member on its way to work doesn’t see these children begging on the street whilst their parents are sitting on the road side collecting their moneys once in a while?

What about the people of Chad, and Niger (I am not even discussing their own legality to stay in Ghana) on all major street corners these days: No person shall discriminate against a child on the grounds of gender, race, age, religion, disability, health status, custom, ethnic origin, rural or urban background birth or other status, socio–economic status or because the child is a refugee.

It’s even illegal when parents are not sending these children to school and we can immediately arrest the parents under section 8 of the same law: No person shall deprive a child access to education, immunization, adequate diet, clothing, shelter, medical attention or any other thing required for his development.

I can continue the whole day on laws that are made by our legislators which are not implemented, or if they are implemented, whether the implementation is checked upon.

Police officers, tax officers, Immigration officers, AMA, TMA, KMA and many other “officials” have turned into legislators (because they use and invent laws whenever it suits them) arrest (because they rule on what they think is right (rightful or not) rule (because they decide what you should pay and how and when you should pay the price and or penalty) and execute their ruling according to their insight and wisdom and most important to their own benefits and wellbeing, called in one word( they will always vehemently deny) CORRUPTION.

So we are back at my question: SHOULD GHANA CANCEL PARLIAMENT?

We spend too much money on our parliament making laws that are never implemented nor maintained whilst we have allowed civil servants to develop a system within the system that is developing, implementing and maintaining their own laws. At no costs to the Ghanaian tax payer.

Parliament is not only producing laws that will never be followed by the vast majority of Ghanaians but laws that only will be used if and when someone steps on somebody’s toes.

In many countries around the world equality before the law would destroy and dismiss many cases brought to court in Ghana, simply because the defense attorney would immediately ask for dismissal of the case based upon in-equality under the law of the country.

In other words, why is my client in court whilst almost everybody is allowed to break the same law?

SO THE QUESTION REMAINS: DO WE HAVE TO CANCEL PARLIAMENT OR SHOULD WE START ENFORCING ALL OUR LAWS ON EVERYBODY?

My question to parliamentarians is:

“Do you honestly think you are doing a good job, creating laws that nobody abides by?

I know that I would probably feel at least not very useful but probably not needed at all?

Maybe a daring statement but let me know what your ideas about this are.

Nico van Staalduinen

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen
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