Provision of social amenities will decrease petty offences – Residents

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Residents of Ejisu in the Ashanti Region have called on the Municipal Assembly to provide adequate social amenities to help them boost their economic activities.

According to them, the absence of basic amenities make it almost impossible to obey the rules as they are forced to carry out their business activities at inappropriate places in contravention of the Ejisu Municipal Assembly’s (EMA) bye-laws.

The residents while speaking at an engagement with officials of the EMA have attributed the constant harassment, arrests, fines and imprisonments of vagrants in the Municipality to inadequate social amenities such as suitable market centres and parking terminals.

They accused the EMA of not living up to their obligations, adding that making these basic needs available together with a strong social protection system will result in a decrease in lawlessness.

“There is no befitting market for us to ply our trade and therefore we are compelled to sell on the pavements. The lives of customers, commercial drivers who drop off traders, as well as commuters are in constant danger of being knocked down by vehicles,” they indicated.

The engagement of the Ejisu residents and Assembly officials was under the auspices of an NGO, Crime Check Foundation (CCF) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa. It formed part of the implementation of the Foundation’s Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacyproject which seeks to create the needed environment for vagrants to know, claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities in Ghana.

They include; the homeless, street hawkers, head porters, vendors, truck pushers, market women, artisans, and other vulnerable groups. 

In addition, the Executive Director of the CCF, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng in a previous interview disclosed that the Decriminalization of Vagrancy Law Advocacy project was birthed due to the draconian District Assemblies bye-laws, which usually bite poor people harder by sending them to prison after defaulting to pay fines.

Mr. Kwarteng however, advised the participants against challenging the authority of the assembly by deliberately flouting its bye-laws.

“We are here to teach you about your rights, what the assemblies need to do is to better your lives but also ensure that you have a role to play in the development of your community; you must obey the bye-laws and comply with the assembly,” he added

Though the authorities continue to collect tolls from traders, the Assembly has failed to provide adequate spaces for economic activities and this problem has far-reaching effects on the lives of other citizens including persons with disabilities.

“The Assembly constantly seizes our goods and fines us for selling on the pavements. In addition, they send their guards to harass, arrest, and imprisons drivers in some cases instead of them to provide the amenities,” they protested.

Meanwhile, this problem has a rippling effect on the local Chapter of Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations in the Municipality as they disclosed that accessing the office of the local assembly itself is a big challenge.

Persons With Disabilities are compelled to alight at the main road and walk a long distance to get to the Assembly any time we visit the Assembly with any issue. This situation places a huge physical strain on us. It remains a great source of worry to us, particularly as the Municipal Assembly building itself is not disability friendly,” they stated.

Meanwhile, the Ejisu Municipal Assembly through a representative, Clement Amankwaa who chaired the program on behalf of the Presiding Member said the assembly is willing to provide all social needs but inadequate fund is a major setback.

In a related development, the Commissioner for Commission for Human Rights And Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal has called for a strong social protection system for the poor and vulnerable instead of criminalising their social status.

“We should look at the importance of making sure that the rationale for certain laws currently on our statutory books do not make them reasonable in the context of human rights-based discourse.

And so if I have no hope and I am sitting in a park and exposed to all the elements of weather and that I may end up sleeping on that bench because I have nowhere else to go and I have picked up

In the absence of a social protection system that should take care of such people, should I end up in prison?” Mr Whittal queried.

He added that “if we have failed in putting in place a social protection system, you don’t turn to the victims and now say it’s their fault.

By Sefakor Fekpe||Ghana