Calls are being mounted on Crime Check Foundation (CCF) to extend the Decriminalization of Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy (DVLA) project meant to give a voice to the poor and vulnerable in society.
Some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the media, and a cross-section of the public who have appreciated the impact of the project on beneficiary Assemblies are worried the project which is limited to only twelve (12) MMDAs would not get its full impact.
During a press conference held in Accra on March 31, 2022, by CCF, the Public Relations officer of the National Association of Local Assemblies (NALAG), Nii Adjetey Edmund Adjei lauded the initiative but raised concern that the aim of the project could be short-lived as it captures an insignificant number of the many deprived areas of the country.
The programme was to enumerate some achievements and make some recommendations to help promote the well-being of poor and vulnerable individuals.
The DVLA project seeks to create an enabling environment for vagrants (the homeless and other poor and voiceless persons) to know, claim and exercise their rights.
It is funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and is being implemented by CCF.
It is aimed at ending the criminalization of vagrancy or homelessness in the country.
Mr. Adjei said “statistically, if we want to look at the regions in Ghana alone, we have 16 regions and the projects targeting 12 MMDAs and we want to divide them into regions, it does not meet the regions. So what NALAG seeks to do is that since we have the platform of all MMDAs we are looking forward to working with CCF to upscale this project, particularly in the sensitization and education of citizens on the bye-laws,” he said.
The Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng rallied the support of the media, CSOs, and the general public to help uphold the rights of the poor and vulnerable in society particularly helping to push for the passage of the non-custodial sentencing bill into law.
“Many poor citizens have no fixed places of abode, lack basic social amenities, come into conflict with the MMDA bye-laws in their search for survival, are physically abused and these abuses aggravate their social and economic situations as some lose their source of livelihoods while many others are fined and jailed,” he said.
“MMDAs do not usually mobilize and sensitize citizens on the bye-laws. It is our plea that increasing citizens’ knowledge of MMDA bye-laws will improve compliance with the laws and reduce harassment, arrests, fines, and imprisonment of poor persons.,” he added.
The Public Relations Officer for the Ghana Prisons Service, Chief Courage Atsem applauded the Foundation for its initiatives in safeguarding the rights of prison inmates and pushing for reforms in the criminal justice system.
“Any measure and any action aimed at reducing congestion in our prisons are warmly welcomed. CCF has been carrying campaigns for the passage of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill into law and I think it is time for us to rally around the Foundation the get the bill passed,” he said.
The Foundation recommended an increase in knowledge of MMDA bye-laws for citizens and a review of prison terms under some MMDA bye-laws.
It appealed to the Ghana Police Service to end unjustified swoops on poor unemployed youth, adopt ruling on vagrancy laws, and passage of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill to reduce the imprisonment of petty offenders.
About the CCF-OSIWA Project:
CCF is a crime prevention and human rights advocacy organization in Ghana. The Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy project is funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The project seeks to create an enabling environment for vagrants (the homeless and other poor and voiceless persons) to know, claim and exercise their rights to end.
By Rudolph Nandi