EVERYBODY IS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW - TRUE OR FALSE?
“EVERYBODY IS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW” – TRUE OR FALSE?
Good morning my Ghanaian Compatriot. I don’t know how often you have heard this Ghanaian popular legal phrase: “EVERYBODY IS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW or NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAW.” These phrases are often shouted loud enough on roof tops but lacks essence in terms of application.
That notwithstanding, you well may have heard that our Parliament – the law promulgation arm of government has of recent passed two important bills: One which bans the use of the mobile phone while driving and the other which prohibits smoking in public places, just like the several other ones that were passed over the years.
A lot of resources have always gone into this kind of herculean exercise which eventually only remains on our statutes ending up under lock and key as enforcement becomes insurmountable a problem. This, to me, makes mockery of the effort since it is not worth it. Know why? My Ghanaian Compatriot, the answer is simple: The very people who make the laws are not different from those who actually break it. In other words, the makers of the law are the same people who apparently champion the flouting of it. How?
Eh! My Ghanaian Compatriot, you seem to be asking too many questions today. Anyway, see, when the police accost these people for breaking the very law they make, the first question they obviously ask is: Do you know who I am? When the duty-bound police defends the law and effected arrest, another arm of the law jumps to the rescue of the Big Man.
My Ghanaian Compatriot, you are banned from using that your rickety mobile phone while sitting behind your steering wheel, so says the brand new law. What I find essentially ridiculous about this law is the clause which allows the use of Bluetooth earpiece or hands free. Our learned experts who designed the law claimed the emphasis, in this regard, is on the handling of the phone with one hand and controlling the steering wheel with the other and therefore considered this act as distractive. Therefore you can connect your phone to a Bluetooth or hands free device, which I believe you don’t have, and I can guarantee you are at loggerheads with the law. Their argument is likened to some vehicles in other parts of the world which have such devices fixed in them. Can you imagine this wholesale importation of an idea without critical analysis of our peculiar situation? Meanwhile the vehicles they are referring to are mostly used by security services or are designed for a particular purpose.
So my Ghanaian Compatriot, I vehemently disagreed with this logic! Whether you connect your phone to any hands free or hold the phone to your ear to make or receive calls, both scenarios are distractive and capable of leading to anything, and that is where I think the emphasis should be. Unpleasant information would not ask if you are using hands free device or not. If the call is so important to you, why not park and make it or receive it and then continue your jour journey? Accidents occur anyway but some are avoidable!
In 2005, as I could at best recall, a draft bill was presented to cabinet and it was expected to get to parliament for debate. Finally, that crucial bill has been passed into law. My Ghanaian Compatriot, what do you make of the ban on smoking in public places? Are agencies and security services in charge of this enforcement well resourced to effectively enforce the law for the desired impact or it is going to be yet another nine day wonder?
Ghana was one of the forty (40) countries in the world to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the world’s first set of legally binding rules – meant to address catastrophe to public health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as its member states pressed for the FCTC which contains the blueprint for coordinated global action to address one of the significant risks to health.
Since tobacco epidemic is a challenge with global dimension, one would reason that it is only a concerted national efforts supported by unbiased global action that the vision envisaged in FCTC can be attained.
My Ghanaian Compatriot, don’t be alarmed when I tell you someone dies from tobacco related use every 6.5 seconds, according to the WHO.
Are you also aware we have two groups of smokers? We have the active smoker who actually use cigarettes or pipes or chews the tobacco. Then we have the passive (involuntary) smoker who gets exposed to smoke. This is also called Second Hand Smokers (SHS). The latter according to health experts, is a mixture of more than 4,800 chemical compounds plus 69 known carcinogens. According to WHO, SHS is human carcinogen for which there is no “safe” level of exposure.
Sadly, my Ghanaian Compatriot, children are the most harmed. WHO estimates that almost 700 million of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke. In as much as I’m all for the new law banning smoking in public places, I can only be happy if the law is enforced without undue interference for it is one thing passing a law and the other having it properly enforced.
Public places of convenience are most noted for smoking. Then we have entertainment centres such as drinking bars. Mention can safely be made of slums that appear to have served as dens for smoking and its related nefarious activities. Swoops have been conducted by the police; people were arrested only to be set free to continue from where they have left off. How really do you think this law will be enforced? Your guess is as good as mine.
My Ghanaian Compatriot, you and I have lived in this country where attempt at enforcing certain laws and by-laws have failed. In case you forgot, let me just refresh your mind with a couple. Attempt to discourage the use of vehicles with tinted glasses failed; the AMA failed woefully to rescue the major streets of Accra from hawkers and vendors, and several other examples.
Wait a minute, consider this: The law allows our President and other Big Men to use vehicles with tinted glasses and yet the same law prevents me and my Ghanaian Compatriot from tinting the glasses of our rickety cars. What a shame on the part of the law! Obviously it is only some who are equal before the law.
My Ghanaian Compatriot, sometimes when I have to talk too much on paper bringing things like this to your attention, I feel serious pains in my arms. I’ll be brief next time; I promise.
We need total attitudinal transformation as a people; we need to respect our own laws; our courts and those who are in charge of enforcement of our laws must assume the much needed duty-bound attitude bearing in mind posterity will always judge us. So let’s find the missing part to the phrase ‘nobody is above the law’ and let it apply to all persons at all times.
Thanks for your time, my Ghanaian Compatriot.