Criminalizing Covid-19 Public Health Crises: Draconian punishment produces 'draconian' failure

Sometimes I wonder… will God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other…? Then I look around and I realise… God left this place a long time ago (Blood diamond)

President Nana Addo in his 11th broadcast on novel covid-19 to the Nation, stated that the wearing of face masks is now mandatory. Consequently, an Executive Instrument (E.I) was passed to enforce the stated mandatory wearing of face-masks to and from public appearances by all.

The E.I named IMPOSITION OF RESTRICTIONS (CORONAVIRUS
DISEASE (COVID-19) PANDEMIC) (NO. 10) INSTRUMENT, 2020 (E.I 164)
was gazetted on June 15, 2020.

NewsCencord with her mother center, Centre for Constitutional Order, (Cencord), takes the view that the E.I. 164 is punishment driven instead of health accentuations. It is worthy to thus focus on the punishments enunciated in the E.I.

Paragraph 4 of the E.I provides:

“(1) The police may undertake random checks to ensure
enforcement and compliance with paragraph 1.
(2) A person who fails to comply with paragraph 1 shall
be subject to the sanctions specified under section 6 of the
Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012)”.

Section 6 of the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012) stipulates:

“A person who fails to comply with a restriction imposed under the Executive Instrument issued under subsection (1) of section 2 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than one thousand penalty units and not more than five thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than four years and not more than ten years or to both”.

The combined effect of these laws is that failure to comply with the mandatory wearing of face masks would mean that you either pay a minimum fine of 1,000 penalty units or a maximum fine of 5,000 penalty units. One penalty unit is GHC12. Therefore an offender must pay a minimum of GHC12,000.00 or a maximum sum of GHC60,000.00 every time they are found culpable. Inability to pay these fines, send one to prison for a maximum of 10 years. One could even go to prison having paid the fine depending where one’s judge slept the night before.

Looking at the per capita income of Ghanaians and or their basic earnings, it is wondrously calamitous to the people around the table where the law was promulgated. It is clear that either they did not intend to enforce the law or they were preparing to send the entire Ghana to prison.

Per Capita Income

Ghana’s per capita income stood at $2,202 according to a World Bank report in 2018. IMF puts the Nation’s per capita income at $2,223.

It is worth stating that, in the view of the authorities, per capita income is a measure of the amount of money earned per person in a nation or geographic region. Per capita income can be used to determine the average income per-person for an area and to evaluate the standard of living and quality of life of the population.

Looking at the per capita income of Ghana according to the 2019 report by International Monetary Fund which stood at 2,223 and the exchange rate as at June 18, 2020 by Bank of Ghana which is 5.65, the multiplication of it will give a total figure of GHC12,559.95. Thus, every Ghanaians is entitled to GHC12,559.95 if all monies are shared today.

It simply means that, in Ghana today, a health crisis management, by the State, has put every Ghanaian in a position where one offence disentitles him or her of her entire wealth; leaving him with nothing or maybe some pantry sum of GHS559.95, if she is lucky to have a minimum fine. Gauging from the happenings under the Ghanaian criminal justice system, not too many people get that lucky with a minimum punishment. Even much more seriously is that on top of a fine, one could end up in prison with a possible Covid-19 to be managed by the very State that has put him in prison. This is calamitous.

Salary of the Ghanaian

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Integration, puts the minimum wage of the Ghanaian people at GHC 11.82 per day. The salary of many stands at GHC 354 more or less per month. A graduate recruited by the State in Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) is on a GHC 700 wage per month. It thus means, for example, that a NABCO personnel would have to save 18 months of her wages to be able to pay for one offence of failure to wear a face mask or be in prison for up to 10 years.

Parliament

Our National House of Representatives, Parliamentarians, are even more shocking. These men and women we pay, cloth, shelter and feed, oftentimes have no respect to the land where they come from and or the constituency they represent. If they did , this provision on punishment in the law would never have passed. Some of these Parliamentarians come from places where almost all the people would not see GHS12,000.00 in bulk together as their own money from cradle to grave. It is just amazingly shocking our own Members continue to do this to our people and our land in the face of national crisis.

Conclusion

Mr. President amend the law. As an accomplished legal brain and an excellent political leader, you know this law has already failed for it would not work and never will. Covid-19 is a national health crisis, even global; it is not treason and fatal armed-combat. GHS60,000.00 and or 10 years maximum punishment for failing to wear a face-mask? Machine guns in the toddlers orphanage home for crying for food. Is that what this has become? Remove your draconian E.I 164, Mr. President, or face draconian failure of an outrageous law. Our honest views and opinions.

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