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Constitution prohibits chiefs from issuing criminal sanctions

OneGhana Movement has condemned in no uncertain terms the recent arbitrary, unconstitutional, and forcible closure of Oyerepa FM and TV stations by chiefs under the purported authorization of the Kumasi Traditional Council.

According to the group, it does not consider the radio commentary provoking the action as defamatory of the chiefs in any way.

A statement issued by OneGhana Movement stated that even if the commentary was defamatory, it considers the hastily threatening reaction, without recourse to due process of law, in the purported banishment of a citizen and closure of the media entity as a major violation of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and fundamental human rights.

“The actions of the Kumasi Traditional Council do not only expose Mr. Akwasi Addai Odike to the danger of physical harm, but also has chilling implications for citizens’ right to expression and guaranteed press freedom,” the statement said.

OneGhana Movement drew the attention of the revered chiefs to the fact that only the Republic as constituted by law has power, through due process in a court of competent jurisdiction, to hand out sanctions of a criminal nature to people.

Both the national Constitution and the Chieftaincy Act of 2018 prohibit chiefs from compelling people to do their bidding on pain of punishment in the form of a criminal sentence.

In fact, the Supreme Court was unequivocal about this in its judgment in 2011 in the case of Nana Adjei Ampofo versus The Attorney-General in which it declared as an affront to the freedom of movement and unconstitutional section 63(d) of the Chieftaincy Act which made disobedience of a summons by a chief a criminal offence.

Ghana abolished criminal and seditious libel in 2001.

OneGhana Movement said even though it does approve of section 63(c) of the same law criminalizing and punishing what it terms intentional use of disrespectful or insulting language or insulting by word or conduct of a chief by a fine of up GH₵2,400 and/or a sentence of up to three months imprisonment, this remains an option for chiefs or a civil action.

It warned that there will be chaos if Government looked on while every chief infringed the Constitution and national laws to assert tradition and custom to purport to sanction people in their communities in Ghana.

While reiterating the eminent place of chieftaincy in the history and governance architecture of our country, OneGhana Movement decries the illegal overreach on the part of an institution whose traditional and constitutional mandate is to be the custodians of the heritage of the people.

“We accordingly find it ironic that while the allegations made against chiefs may have rubbed the institution the wrong way, they have not found it even more crucial to investigate the truth behind allegations made against individuals within their ranks promoting illegal mining within their jurisdictions.

“We particularly find chief’s failure to deal with the wanton pollution of water bodies and destruction of forest cover intergenerationally inherited by them disgraceful and a breach of the public trust reposed in them.

OneGhana Movement called all chiefs to channel their efforts and influence at stopping and punishing illegal mining activities and not whistleblowers.

It also called to mind the rather lame intervention of the National Media Commission (NMC) which is constitutionally tasked with the mandate of protecting journalists and media houses against egregious abuses of their rights.

The group called on the President to by himself or through the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice educates and caution chiefs, generally, against conduct in violation of the rights of citizens.

OneGhana Movement  stated that the place of chiefs in upholding the peace of this country will be lost if they are not constantly guided to respect the constitutional rights of persons and entities and the limitations on their authority within the context of the constructive roles assigned under Ghana’s constitutional order.

“Let us all be reminded that no institution or person is above the law and rights of the citizenry of Ghana,” it cautioned.

 

 

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