Mrs Doris Bangfu, a Private Legal Practitioner with the Crime Check Foundation (CCF), has appealed to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to be sensitive in the enactment of their bye-laws.
She said this would ensure that the Assemblies did not impose harsh punishment for vagrants and the citizenry.
Mrs Bangfu was speaking at a sensitization forum organized by CCF as part of the implementation of the CCF-Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) project.
The project is dubbed: CCF’s-OSIWA Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy (DVLA) project.
The Project is to create an enabling environment for vagrants to know, claim and exercise their rights to end criminalization of poverty and homelessness in Ghana.
It is also to increase public awareness on vagrancy laws and their effects on vagrants in Ghana, increase citizen’s capacity and oversight to monitor vagrancy laws and their effects on the poor and homeless.
She said the project was encouraging MMDAs to take a second look at their bye-laws because they affected mostly the poor.
The Legal Practitioner said it was to encourage and suggest to the Assemblies to get alternative punishment for people who break these bye-laws, so they did not end up criminalizing the status.
“Opt for lesser punishments, so that it does not seem you are punishing the vagrants due to their status and not because they have breached the laws,” she said.
Mrs Bangfu said, “Every bye-law has a punishment attached unless the law is amended and if you go to court that will be the punishment. However, these are minor offences but the punishments are almost equivalent to other major crime.”
She reiterated that the bye-laws could be amended, saying that every law after its operations for a while needed to be assessed and reviewed.
Mrs Bangfu, therefore, called on MMDAs to collaborate with institutions to educate the citizens on Assemblies bye-laws to enable them abide by them.
Mr Nii Bi Ayi Bontey, Head of Legal Services, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, called on the citizens, especially vagrants to avoid crime, because it did not pay.
He said abiding with the bye-laws would save them from the fines and imprisonments.
He called on all the MMDA’s to combine enforcement of the laws with education at the same time, urging the media to collaborate and support the Assemblies to increase awareness on these bye-laws.
“I do not think the Assemblies have been able to hand down education to the people on their bye-laws. People are not aware of some of these laws, ” he added.
He commended the Management of CCF and OSIWA for the partnership to educate vagrants on the need to avoid violation of bye-laws.
Mr Cosmos Akorli, the Project Manager, said the intervention would be implemented in 12 MMDAs within Greater Accra, Central and the Ashanti Regions.
He said the action was designed to benefit the poor and vulnerable persons, who were the majority of the hawkers, head porters, traders and commercial drivers.
He said the project was aimed at creating an enabling environment for vagrants to know, claim and exercise their rights to end criminalisation of poverty and homelessness in the country.
He said specifically, the project would increase public awareness, monitoring and engagements on vagrancy laws (laws that criminalize homelessness and poverty) in Ghana.
In line with the objective of the project, CCF will undertake key activities in partnership and with participation of the Media, MMDAs, and other allied institutions in rights protection and justice delivery.