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Opinions of Monday, 14 July 2014

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Government to Push for Ghanaians to know their Rights

Government to Push for Ghanaians to know their Rights and the Basics Laws
– A step in the right direction to provide a solid foundation for nation building

For a developing country, citizens knowing the basic national policies, code of conducts, laws as well as citizens empowered to know their rights is a step in the right direction for development. Policies, code of conducts, and laws are for protection, cautioning, rewarding, punishing, restoring order, and providing directions among others.

Lawlessness abounds in most developing countries and cost these nations huge resources and sums of money, and includes manpower, necessary equipment and tools for law enforcement agents, time, property to name a few. In addition, lawlessness has led to loss of important lives and hinders investors. The effects of lawlessness are unimaginable.
While huge resources are used in curbing lawlessness, it appears the issues relating to lawlessness still exists and as if nothing has been done or being done about it. This raises the following questions; is what being done effectively sufficient to offset lawlessness? Are the resources for curbing not sufficient to overcome lawlessness? Can the nation use all it resources to fight lawlessness? What is fueling lawlessness? Are the law enforcement agents corrupt by themselves or do not have sufficient power to enforce the laws? Who were the laws made for (a) citizens, (b) lawyers only or (c) both? Are there effective checks and balances? Are some people above the law? Law and order has to prevail as an initial step for development which the story of the “Tower of Babel” buttresses this point where chaos and misunderstanding led to no accomplishments.
Proponents, believe that the various policies, code of conducts, and laws are almost unavailability and inaccessibility to ordinary citizens and even if available are written not in easy terms for easy understanding. As such it appears that only the few including lawyers, law enforcement agents and others may be in position to interpret. Some citizens will really want to obey the law but unclear about what the law says. Some citizens get to know the existence of some particular basic laws only when confronted by a law enforcement agent, caught up in a preventable situation which the only solution is bribery, punishment or answer at the law court. In most cases, the law is misinterpreted and also being used for victimization to attract cash and bribery.
In my view, a more efficient and effective way to restore law and order is by making the basic national laws, policies, code of conducts, rewards and punishments be available and accessible to all citizens while empowering citizens to know their rights. Availability and accessibility includes breaking the laws, policies and code of conducts down into very simple languages both official and local for understanding. In the long-term, it could be built into our school curriculums
(train up a child…. Proverbs 22:6). If the law were made for all citizens, then why some laws are written in a way such that the ordinary citizen cannot comprehend - some I believe may be in obsolete Latin language to scare citizens yet we want people to obey the law. Note - that we need to tailor to our need and not copying from other nations since our problems and situation could be unique to us. Thinking outside the box knowing our problems could be very helpful in providing to solutions. What works for the drake might not always work for the gender.
This proposed idea will increase enforcement of the laws as well as provide the checks and balances since each one of us will be his or her own gate keeper – the law enforcer know his law likewise the non-law enforcer hence all citizens are involved in the process. Corrupt law enforcement agents cannot easily cheat or corrupt the ordinary man. By virtue of the power vested in ordinary citizens by their rights could make them gate keepers, purge corrupt law enforcement out, among others while sanity prevails. The fruit of law and order being stability, trust, accountability, safety, freedom, and sustainable development among others.
This idea will not work effectively if there are no effective and proper reporting, rewarding, and punishing systems as well as if some citizens are above the laws hence fairness is important. One knowing his/her right invest some power and sense of responsibility, build-up of confidence, the feeling of inclusiveness, existence of a backbone, ability to exercise rights, look out for the good of a nation, understands why some things exist in a particular way, why some behaviors and how ready the willingness to execute necessary constraints changes. It is surprising to know that some people dealing with the law might not be the best in the nation; some mason, carpenters, market women, car mate, truck drivers, a person on the street etc. given the opportunity could better apply the law to straighten some law enforcers. In Africa people with high acumen because of poverty and diminished opportunities find themselves in incapable situations as results. Note that street smartness and wisdom may not be classroom taught. Degrees do not talk until one applies it reasonably to make positive changes to effect oneself and the masses. For there is a wish and a will, hence, someone with a good wish and a will could propel a country positively.
Opponents will argue that if ordinary citizens now become conversant with the basic laws and then know their rights how will the law enforcement agents and lawyers get their daily bread given the very little salaries on the side of the law enforcer? And how will the government rig elections when everyone’s eyes get wide opened? Clearly, supporters of the idea will argue that the right-to-know law is an important part of society to save the nation’s ton of money which will otherwise has been wasted or sit in individual accounts. Eye opening is for the betterment of us all as well as the nation, hence, elect a proper government who can meet the need of the nation.
In addition, the basic laws, policies and code of conducts interpreted sufficiently is necessary for sanity to prevail while not presenting traps for law abiding citizens involvement in unlawful acts unwillingly or unnoticed. Most of our problems are deep rooted in lawlessness which in most cases may not be from the part of the citizens but because of sometimes ignorance of some basics laws and lapses in the systems. It should be a mandate that citizens know their rights to install confidence in them; speak and resist corruption, etc. and in the long run save the nation resources for even benefit to all citizens.
In my view, the foundation of building a strong nation with patriotic citizens in part hangs on the rule of law and order, and with citizens aware of what is wrong and the right on the land. In addition, citizens need be empowered to know their rights. Moreover, making the basic laws, policies, and code of conducts available and accessible to the ordinary man is necessary so as putting systems to support the idea i.e. effective and proper reporting, rewarding and punishments as well as no one above the laws. The major part of the task is education which the numerous media including radio, TV, newspapers goes a long way. Finally, incorporated this ideas into our educational system is a step in the right direction to bridge some of the gaps for effective nation building foundation. Power belongs to the people and the masses, let us use that appropriately.
God bless

Alexander Anim-Mensah, PhD
Dayton Ohio