President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has given his assent to the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, 2019, which bans acts of vigilantism in the country.
The Act also disbands vigilante groups, including political party vigilante groups and land guards.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “a person who directly or indirectly instigates or solicits the activity of a vigilante, facilitates or encourages vigilantism, or conceals a vigilante to avoid lawful arrest, commits an offence, and is liable, on conviction, to a term of imprisonment of not less than ten (10) years and not more than fifteen (15) years.”
Speaking at the 2019 Bar Conference on Monday, 9th September, 2019, in Takoradi, the President thanked Parliament for the work they did in improving the initial draft proposed by the Executive, and, subsequently, passing the Act to express national abhorrence of vigilantism.
He told the gathering that the passing of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act is part of concrete steps taken by Government towards ensuring that persons who engage themselves in some of the vices that have grabbed national attention are dealt with.
“Specific new laws have been enacted; institutional deficits in logistics and personnel of law enforcement agencies, especially the police, from years of neglect, are being addressed with their systematic empowerment; protection of the public purse is being manifest,” President Akufo-Addo added.
He also told the Bar Conference that on 19th August, 2019, he gave assent to the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, 2019, which has increased drastically the penalties for persons engaged in illegal mining, the notorious ‘galamsey’.
“We are now talking about minimum mandatory sentences of fifteen (15) years, and a maximum of twenty-five (25) years, for persons caught in galamsey, and the Act has also increased the punishment for foreigners, setting minimum mandatory sentences of twenty (20) years, and maximum of twenty-five (25) years. The fight against galamsey has entered a new, decisive phase,” the President assured.
Speaking on the theme, “Enhancing National Security Through the Rule of Law: Prospects and Challenges”, President Akufo-Addo noted that the observance of the law is the foundation of every organised and progressive society.
He indicated that “the story of every bank, financial house, or savings and loans institution that has had problems can be traced to someone or some people breaking the law, or trying to cut corners by flouting regulations.”
Governing a nation in accordance with the rule of law, the President explained, means that state power is not exercised arbitrarily by any arm of government, whether the Executive, Legislature, or Judiciary.
Respect for the rule of law demands that the separation of powers be real, and requires also that application of the laws of the land be done without fear or favour, with President Akufo-Addo reiterating that when one falls foul of the law, one must be dealt with accordingly, and the law enforcement agencies, including the Judiciary, must ensure this is done, albeit within the context of due process.
“It is only when this is done, that we can guarantee for ourselves the advancement of the purposes of a law-based state, where citizens can go about their lives normally and strive to improve on the quality of their circumstances, and where the peace and safety of the people can be assured,” he added.
The President recounted what the breakdown of law and order and a clampdown on freedoms have meant for some countries in the ECOWAS Region, on the continent, and in other parts of the world.
“Cities have been laid waste, millions of lives have been lost, and these countries have had the torrid task of rebuilding themselves, mostly with very limited levels of success. Indeed, the scourge of terrorist activities and violent extremism thrives on the absence of the rule of law,” President Akufo-Addo stressed.