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Regional News of Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Source: Sefakor Fekpe, Contributor

Most of us don't know your by-laws; we need community sensitisation - MMDAs told

Members of La Nkwantanang municipality at a sensitisation program Members of La Nkwantanang municipality at a sensitisation program

Residents of the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly have expressed disappointment on the lack of education on the assembly’s by-laws.

According to them, they're not aware of some by-laws due to their unavailability at the community level.

During a sensitisation program on Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws at the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, some vagrants and unit committee members disclosed that most of the people who flout some by-laws are unaware of them.

"Print out the bylaws for us so we can educate ourselves and also inform others about them. Make use of community radio stations in the area to educate us," a unit committee member for the Kotoku Area stated.

The MMDAs pass by-laws such as fines and penalties which these vagrants are unable to pay and eventually end up in prison.

Vagrants are persons who wander around due to homelessness and make a living by hawking or begging on the streets.

The programme was held at the assembly on Tuesday, June 29 in collaboration with the Crime Check Foundation(CCF) with funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa(OSIWA).

The participants were selected from 17 electoral areas in the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly.

They included head porters, market queens, transport unions, truck pushers and waste collectors.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, Jennifer Dede Afagbedzi, warned the participants against flouting the laws.

Mrs. Afagbedzi said consistent cooperation with the assembly can and will foster the needed development in the area.

“We need to work with the assembly for the needed development by abiding by the laws. Don't wait until you're prosecuted before you begin to beg for forgiveness. Madina can only be great when we're all law-abiding."

The Executive Director of the CCF, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng in an interview disclosed that the Decriminalization of Vagrancy Law Advocacy project was birthed due to the draconian District Assemblies by-laws, which usually bite poor people harder by sending them to prison.

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

“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 by-laws and comply with the assembly,” he added.

The CCF and OSIWA through the Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws And Advocacy (DVLA) are proposing fairness in the application of the laws and therefore pushing for a non-custodial form of sentencing or community service to decongest Ghana's choked prisons while educating the vagrants on their rights

The vagrants while raising concerns about some pressing issues in their communities called on the assemblies to construct drains, public toilet facilities at market centres, waste bins, and clamp down on excessive noisemaking in the various electoral areas at the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipality.

Meanwhile, an officer from the environment department of the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, Joseph Quacoe expressed gratitude to the Crime Check Foundation and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for initiating the project.

He added that the sensitisation program will go a long way to help the vagrants and assembly to do the right things.

The first and second sensitisation programs for vagrants were held at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and Ashaiman Municipal Assembly (ASHMA).

Project timeline

The one-year project will be rolled out in 12 metropolitan assemblies in three regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central.

“We have begun with the mapping, and we are engaging with the various district assemblies in the selected regions and the leadership of vagrants."

The project will sensitize 1200 vagrants about their rights and responsibilities to prevent any misunderstandings with the assemblies.

Monitoring and evaluation

To monitor the progress and effectiveness of the project, a contact centre will be created after the sensitization to address the concerns of vagrants at the partnering organization, Crime Check Foundation.

The project will run from May 2021 to May 2022.