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Opinions of Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Columnist: Abdul-Razak Lukman

Rich law, poor law, money or the lack of it: Experiences of victims to employment fraud

There have been calls for the creation of employment in Ghana There have been calls for the creation of employment in Ghana

Everybody has a different perspective of “living life the way they want to” and nobody seems to be able to collectively agree on what that is.

Assuming we lived in a place where there were no laws: to one person, going out and taking bribes as a public officer would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

To another, the act of bribery makes the system unfair to qualified people who could not gain access to what they should, because there were no laws.

We have thousands of people who are unemployed because powerful intermediaries between employers and job seekers have hijacked the system for monetary gains. These intermediaries are in direct link with some employers who benefit from the corrupt practices of their connived intermediaries.

The problem with having laws which are toothless to the “poor” is that you now leave everyone to their own device about what is acceptable and the fact that there are millions of people out there, that is a potential for lot of lack of commonality. Even in the law courts, some cases are given prominence over others simply because others are able to pay to have their dockets fast-tracked and some who couldn’t pay; and without any miraculous intervention, would stay on remand for decades. Is that how our Justice System should be?

Can we also help build Ghana to become a land of opportunities! I remember somewhere in mid-2020, I got a distressed call from a friend in Tamale who asked me to recommend a good lawyer for him. To my inquisition to be able to assist better, I asked to make sure that everything is good with him. To my shock and disbelieve, he narrated that three to four of them were duped not less than Ghc 14,000; with some of them paying Ghc 3,500 and 4,000 respectively.

They made those payments because they were promised fast-track EMPLOYMENT LETTERS (within a week) to various institutions. The intermediary told them that he had to send the monies to his “big boss” who is working at the head office of the institution (Local Government) that they would be employed in. As determined and focused graduates who wanted to get PERMANENT employments with a supposed “good pay”, they paid those monies with jittery. Days, weeks and months passed by without them hearing any signal of realising what was promised them. They started calling the contact of the intermediary but he never answered their call.

When they finally got him, they thought it wise to hold him before the prominent Chief of Sagnerigu. The said intermediary promised to pay them but what he was emphatic about his payment mode, which is: he is unsure when he will pay them but he will surely pay them. This is a clever way of saying that their monies are gone!

Having laws allows us to have a way for those who are victims to get some kind of restitution as well as those who break laws to get some kind of punishment. But our part of the world seems to be the opposite of what the laws are enacted for, practically. My friends who are in this difficult situation could have thought of seeking the services of the Police Service. But the question is: Can they withstand the continuous request by operators of this institution in the name of helping them get justice? That is why some people prefer the traditional chieftaincy institution to the English System of arbitration.

The legal system gives every person an avenue to file a complaint, have that complaint heard and have a fair resolution found by uninterested parties sworn to uphold the ethics of law. Without the system of law and the codification of the legal process, we would eventually devolve into a system of anarchistic street-justice. However, my mother living in the village who barely makes enough income from the farm cannot hire the services of a lawyer if she is wrongly accused. The notion that the State would provide her citizen the services of an attorney is sham and only written on paper.

We have a countless number of people remanded in our prisons for the fact that they have no representation; they (the State) have even forgotten about them because they lack the financial wheel to get justice. That is a country which touts itself as a place of freedom, justice and rule of law.

On the most basic level, laws are most effective when they mutually benefit the largest number of people while limiting the self-interests of the smallest number of people, and when the mutual benefit is evident. In such cases, there exists sufficient motivation for people to feel a self-imposed sense of duty or obligation to live within the law. If our Police System could improve to work harder to protect lives and properties regardless of one’s pocket-size; if our courts could give prominence to every case and to give justice to the poor who cannot seek for the services of a lawyer—then citizens would place much premium and trust on our institutions and help fight crime. That is not to say that the said institutions are not doing well, they are, but they need to improve.

There is not going to be any decrease in the degree of lawlessness in our society unless the problems in our body politics, judiciary and police force are fixed. This is so because laws are only words printed on paper but it is the willingness of people to adhere to them and the social practices that make a law alive.

We also have endless examples of legislators controlling situations such that they do not believe the rule of law applies to them.

No doubt that Ghana is an amazing country, more than 29m people with more than 29m mindsets. However, in social lives, there is one thing that unites us all- hypocrisy. And in the political life, in the lawmaking chamber of Ghana’s Parliament, there is also another indisputable factor that unites the 275 representatives —which is Ex-gratia.

This ex-gratia thing, even if the world would end today they would unanimously approve it with the hope that the booties would be spent in Heaven. No malice intended.