Parliament has passed the Imposition of Restrictions Bill.
The bill gives legal backing to powers that can be exercised by the President to impose restrictions to persons in times of public emergencies like the Coronavirus pandemic for purposes of public safety and protection.
The House considered the bill throughout the day after it determined that it was of urgent nature.
Considerable amendments were made to the bill to take care of a sanctions regime, the duration of restrictions and the introduction of the word, Coronavirus before being passed.
The Attorney General, Gloria Akufo who moved the motion for the third and final reading of the bill explained to the House the reason for the broad nature of the legislation.
“The emphasis is creating a piece of legislation that will deal not only with the risk that our country has been exposed to presently but also in the future,” she said.
“I am confident that by the time we are done, we will all feel be proud that we have done a piece of work that will serve our countries well in the future,” she added.
Urgent or not urgent
Earlier, there was controversy over whether or not the bill should be considered as urgent and be passed under a certificate or urgency. While the majority in Parliament argued that the bill was of urgent nature and ought to be passed under a certificate of urgency, the minority disagreed, saying that there was nothing in the bill that suggested that it was urgent.
Too much power to the president
The Minority also argued that the bill in its initial form gives too much power to the president and as such as unhealthy to be passed.
According to Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee Of the House, Dr. Dominic Ayine, the Bill was too broad and does not concern itself specifically with dealing with the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to Citi News, the Bolga East MP said the Minority side “want a Bill that is narrowly tailored to deal with the coronavirus.”
“This is a Bill that is intended to give the president overboard powers to restrict freedom of movement, freedom of speech and even freedom of thought,” he said.
After the Minority Chief Whip made similar comments, Dr. Ayine also said the Public Health Act was enough comprehensive legislation to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“There are adequate legal provisions in existence to deal with the matters that are going to be addressed by this Bill. So it is an unnecessary grant of authority to the president to restrict movement,” he argued further.
The House however on Friday, March 20, considered some amendments to the bill before it was finally passed.
About the bill
This Bill acknowledges the general fundamental freedoms guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution but also takes into account the fact that the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution are subject to laws that are supposed to be in the interest of public safety and public health as provided in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of clause (4) of Article 21 of the constitution.
Its purpose is to provide powers to impose restrictions on persons in the event of a disaster, emergency or similar circumstance, to ensure public safety and protection.
It also allows for the imposition of restrictions on the freedom of entry into Ghana or movement in Ghana of a person who is not a citizen of Ghana.