The Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Mr Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng has chided some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) for intentionally targeting vagrants (the homeless, street hawkers, head porters, vendors, truck pushers, market women, other vulnerable groups) as source of revenue generation.
He urged the MMDAs to rather find alternative and creative means of generating revenue than relying on fines from the vulnerable vagrants who violate laws due to ignorance and poverty.
Mr. Kwarteng said this when he was addressing stakeholders at a sensitization workshop on the bye-laws of the Senya Bereku District Assembly on Thursday, July 8, 2021. The sensitization programme was organized in collaboration with the Awutu Senya District Assembly, as part of the implementation of CCF’s ‘Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy’ project, which is being supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
He said some of the Assemblies outrageously fine these vagrants for committing petty offences, which could have been prevented if they knew their responsibilities and rights under the local bye-laws. He further noted that most of the vagrants violate the bye-laws because the Assemblies are unable to fulfil their responsibilities such as the provision of toilet and market facilities towards citizens, for instance.
He, therefore, entreated the Assemblies to review ‘outdated’ bye-laws that poor and voiceless citizens tend to violate, leading to their arrests, fines and imprisonments. “We are appealing to MMDAs to fulfill their mandates so that the neglect of their responsibilities do not cause vagrants to violate the laws. The Assemblies can increase their revenue through other creative means than targeting vagrants for fines. Some of the bye-laws were promulgated by the British to police spaces. These laws have become outmoded and must be reviewed because jailing the poor and voiceless citizens does not bring development.”
The prisons reform advocate however charged vagrants to meet their responsibilities even as they become aware of their rights. According to him “you must balance your rights with your responsibilities. This is why CCF is providing education on the relevant bye-laws that are often violated by the poor and voiceless citizens so they do not end up in jail”. Mr. Kwarteng also asked citizens not to deliberately break the laws.
This was re-echoed by the Senya Bereku District Police Commander, Superintendent Joshua Semenyo.
A Sub-Chief of the Awutu Traditional Council, Nana Kwesi Arhin II, lauded CCF and OSIWA for the initiative to put Assemblies on their toes.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), established in 2000, is a grant-making and advocacy organization focused on equality, justice, democratic governance, human rights, and knowledge generation. It is part of the global network of Open Society Foundations spread across 37 countries around the world. He said the Assemblies outrageously fine these vagrants for committing petty offences.