VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 on the Order Paper -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report.
Mr Speaker, I was here yesterday, but unfortunately, I was late and I have been marked absent. Mr Speaker, so, if it could be corrected. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Any other corrections? Hon Members, the Votes and Pro- ceedings of Wednesday, 21st June, 2017, as corrected are hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings. Hon Members, correction of Official Report of Friday, 16th June, 2017.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I rose before you closed the door on the correction of the Votes and Proceedings. Mr Speaker, I noticed that the list on page
Thank you. Hon Members, any corrections regarding the Official Report?
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Friday, 16 th June, 2017.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, while sympathising with the United Kingdom and victims of the ravaged fire on the twenty-four (24)-storey residential apartment block built in 1974, we take a cue to draw vital lessons. Ghana's fire regulations, which were extended to include residential buildings, are undoubtedly very good in all purposes. Like many other Laws and Regulations in Ghana, the main challenge is its implementation. How can existing buildings be made to comply while ensuring that new buildings correspond with the new fire regulation directive? Mr Speaker, the Grenfell Tower Fire has become a political event because people are calling to question, whether the British Local Councils and Government cared about the health and safety of its people. How could fire ravage, I understand, a recently refurbished building to such an extent? Also, people believe property developers and owners only think about their profit. This tower building, according to reports, was a known fire trap. Now the Greenfell Tower Fire has destroyed a lot of property and claimed seventy-nine (79) lives with still more people presumed missing as at June 19, 2017. Mr Speaker, I would want to take this opportunity to call on our various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to take structural fire audit on our existing structures, especially public building to ensure that they are habitable and safe for humans and to enquire about their functionality. Mr Speaker, I would applaud the British Prime Minister, Theresa May and London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who called for an enquiry into the situation leading to the fire. Mrs May, however, indicated that survivors of the fire will be housed somewhere in central London and this is laudable. It is known widely in Ghana that, apart from arson, most fires in buildings are caused by electrical faults or volatile Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or other domestic fuels. The most recent fire in Ghana was the Central Stores Building of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) which happened on Friday, 15th of June and was ably put out swiftly by the Ghana National Fire Service. Investigation is ongoing to find the cause, but there is a hint that it may be due to electrical fault because the building is old or it was as a result of heat accumulation due to over stuffing of the store. Mr Speaker, according to Al-Jazeera reports on June 18, 2017, the Grenfell Tower Fire is unprecedented in the UK's history because, no fire apart from this one had gone beyond two floors before being put out, especially because the building was just recently refurbished, but the forty-three (43) year old structure got engulfed entirely by this ferocious furnace. The fire points out one clear disadvantage of high rise buildings and calls for all safety standards and precautions to be taken. The imminent fear is that, the remains of the structure could collapse anytime. Now, the question is, are we safe in Ghana as per our building rules and regulations, construction rules of thumb and standard methods of measurements? This is because, we rely on those of our colonial masters, the British. This is a question that needs immediate thought and answer because Ghana's climate is different from that of the UK. Whereas it snows in the UK, it does not snow in Ghana. Why then can we not rely on our data and statistics based on our own research and development? Mr Speaker, in doing so, we should not forget that, times have changed and that society is bedevilled with many problems like climate change due to the greenhouse effect, leading to rising temperatures
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for this ably made Statement. Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I am very grateful for this opportunity. Mr Speaker, I would like to commend the Hon Member who made this Statement for drawing our attention as a country, to our state of preparedness when it comes to handling fire outbreaks. It is not only about managing the fire outbreaks, but how to prevent them as well. Mr Speaker, recently in Ghana, we have had quite an appreciable number of fire outbreaks in our markets and other public places. Most of the time, we conclude on the causes of the fire outbreaks, even before the investigations start. The first thing we hear is that, it was an electrical fault. Secondly, people say that -- Sometimes, it could be arson, especially when the frequency is so overbearing that it causes people in authority at a particular period to be unpopular. Mr Speaker, unfortunately for us as a country, the outcomes of most of these investigations that are carried into fire outbreaks, remain the preserve of a few people. The contents are not publicised and the public is not made aware of who was culpable or whose actions led to the fire outbreak. At least, if these reports are made public we can follow and make sure sponsors of fire outbreaks are duly punished. Mr Speaker, another important issue which we have to look at, is Fire Permit. I am aware that all public buildings ought to get fire permits before they are constructed. It is not only public buildings, but fuel stations and others. We have had a significant number of public buildings and fuel stations with the permits, but when they are investigated, it is realised that the permits were issued when they had not satisfied the conditions for getting them. Mr Speaker, Fire Permits have become like Driver's License, where a lot of people have the licence, but they are not qualified to drive. Mr Speaker, I would propose that we should have a strong audit system to vet the permits that public buildings and enterprises have regarding their ability to operate. Mr Speaker, someone must obviously supervise the supervisor; and I refer to the Ghana Fire Service. Mr Speaker, one other important issue we have to look at, has to do with how we handle people who have been established to have caused fires. I remember the last time when we had the fire outbreak at the Kumasi market, there was a driver who apparently had loaded a lot of mattresses, and the residents there cautioned him that anytime a vehicle is so high up and touches the cables, it usually lights up and causes fire. This man, in spite of the warnings, was bold enough and acted with impunity and drove through and immediately he passed, the wires touched and the fire outbreak started. Mr Speaker, it was so serious. After having caused all that mess, he still sat in the vehicle and did not stop to allow his
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by Hon Aziz Muniru. Mr Speaker, the Statement could not have come at a better time, given the dangers and threats that we all face. As we watched how that building in London was razed by fire, many of us thought of our own Tower Block (Job 600 Building) and what our fate would have been if, God forbid, one day, we came to work and had a similar situation? I recall in the year 2009, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was guttered by fire and many people who turned up, including the crew of the Ghana National Fire Service, looked on helplessly as the building blazed on.
Yes, Hon Annoh-Dompreh?
Mr Speaker, I rise to corroborate many of the things that the Hon Member who made the Statement has touched on. Mr Speaker, clearly, we do not need to re-invent the wheel. We need a multi- sectorial approach to solve this menace of fire. The planning department of our country would have to improve upon their performance. On many occasions, when we get news of fire outbreaks, it becomes very difficult for the operators to access the places that these fires had occured. So, the planning department would have to improve upon their performance and plan our cities well. Mr Speaker, it is not everything that has to be controlled by the Central Government. As a country, in our march to institutionalise decentralisation, we need to strengthen our Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to not only pass relevant by- laws, but our seriousness towards the passage of relevant regulations and by- laws should be the same as our efforts at ensuring that these by-laws are ensured. We have passed many laws. Sometimes, we have issues of enforcement. So, enforcement is basic, and we have to advert our minds to that as well. I am aware that attempt is being made by this House to pass a new Regulation which would be sponsored by the Ministry of Energy to control the importation of electrical equipment and other paraphernalia. It is important we ensure that these good laws are passed and also enforced. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement recommended local solution, and that reminds me of many fire outbreaks that have occurred in our country. I recall vividly, not to remind us of the pain, the one which occurred at Kantamanto and how the ex-President brought in expatriates from America. I was very sad when I heard that we had to bring experts from the United States of America (USA) to tell us how to solve our fire problems. Well, be it as it may, what is most disheartening is that, even with all these antics, as we speak, the report is still at large. When are we going to have that report of the Kantamanto fire outbreak and the report on the expatriates who were brought in from the USA to tell us how to solve our fire problems? It is quite miserable; I hope that we would open a new chapter in our body politics and our attitude towards fire outbreaks. Mr Speaker, the siting of gas filling stations is becoming problematic. And it brings into wake the attitude of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Petroleum Authority. Sometimes, one would wonder if we have the personnel there who are competent to man these very critical institutions of State. Some of these gas filling stations, if we cursorily assess them not even from a technical point of view, we could see that clearly, where these gas filling stations are sited pose danger to innocent lives. Yet, they are sited with a certain unfriendly impunity which precipitates the outbreak of fires, or even makes it difficult where we have fires, in our attempt to control them. Mr Speaker, the National Insurance Commission would also have to improve upon their performance. Fires that have been recorded in our popular market centres in a way could have been reduced or stopped altogether. The National Insurance Commission is on the heels of insurance companies in our country to ensure that they go out there and mount a crusade of a good education. We must educate our people. There are many things that are basic. It appears to me that the Insurance Commission would also have to put their act together and ensure that the insurance companies go out there and educate our citizenry. Mr Speaker, we have the solution to the problem. We are not going to wait for expatriates to come and tell us how to solve our fire problems. We must strengthen the GNFS with modern technology to fight fire outbreaks. We appear to be used to, for want of a better word, the “outdated” technologies and approaches. Let us strengthen and (GNFS) build the capacity of the and I hope that, with the greatest respect to the new Government that has shown signs of fighting fires, we would get the report of the Americans who were brought in to tell us how to solve our fire problems.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by Hon Abdul Aziz Muniru. Mr Speaker, I would state categorically that, whenever fire breaks out and destroys lives and property, one of the principal functions of the GNFS is to put out those fires and also come out with investigative Reports. Mr Speaker, when the Kantamanto market got burnt as a result of a combination of factors such as lack of access, poor wiring, electrical faults -- Arson was not even ruled out at the time. Arson is criminal, however, if we have to punish someone for the commission of that offence, first of all, we ought to have apprehended an identifiable person who is of sound mind and capable of standing trial. Mr Speaker, in the situation where arrests might not have been effected and fire investigators come out with a determination that, the fire was as a result of the work of arsonists, it becomes difficult to state conclusively that the outbreak was as a result of those arsonists, because they would evade any arrest. Even if we arrest them, we have to take them through the trial process, and it is only when we are fortunate to secure convictions, that we can confidently say it was the work of arsonists. Mr Speaker, I recall -- I know Hon Members are very eager to hear from me on what happened to the Report that we commissioned the Americans at the time of the Kantamanto Market Fire Disaster which was presented to Government. Up till date, Hon Members and the general public are of the view that, that Report ought to have been released for public consumption. Mr Speaker, we need to stress the point that, when Reports emanating from fire disasters are presented to government, much depends on the nature of the Report. If the Report is classified, it would be the height of irresponsibility to release the content for public consumption. Mr Speaker, in specific relation to the Kantamanto Market Fire Disaster, I recall that our own GNFS carried out investigations and the Reports were released. The content of those Reports were made public because they were not classified, but at that time, it was in the wisdom of the President to bring in our American counterparts, not to spite the GNFS, but to assist in unravelling the circumstances surrounding the numerous fire outbreaks that we had witnessed at the time --
Hon Member, do you know for sure that there were classified contents in that Report -- As a matter of fact?
Yes, Mr Speaker, at that time I was privy --
For every Report -- And this should be with regard to every government -- When the matter is a of public interest, the Report must be publicised. If the Report cannot be publicised for any legal or constitutional reason whatsoever, the people of Ghana, no matter what government it is, must be told the reasons for that. Hon Member, you may continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, to continue from your own admonishing --
Hon Member, if we go on with “ifs”, accountability of the Executive to the Legislature would be lost.
Mr Speaker, very well, but the point is that our GNFS came out with a report which was very extensive and it covered reasons for the said fire outbreak, and recommendations were made to deal with the future occurrence of such fires. Mr Speaker, let me add that as the Government of the day, a lot was done by way of retooling the GNFS and building capacity, so that our fire men and women were put in a better position to deal with future fires. So, Mr Speaker, as the Hon Member for Tamale North stated, many equipment were imported into this country; over 120 fire tenders were procured for the GNFS and that made it possible for several fire stations to be opened across the length and breadth of this country, including the fire station right here in Parliament. Turntable ladders were also bought, but I must say that what is lacking -- and I would implore the Government of His Excellency, President Nana Akufo-Addo to take this very seriously and make the necessary intervention -- we do not have hydraulic platforms. The fire experts have had occasion to make representation to that effect. The hydraulic platforms would make it possible for personnel of the GNFS to climb up to any height that is conceivable to deal with fire or to effectively fight and control fire when there is an outbreak. Mr Speaker, now that we are beginning to have high rise buildings in Accra, we are reliably informed that, the number of floors our Fire Service can handle is up to four floors, but these days we can count up to 20 and even more floors. What Government must do with immediate effect is to ensure that the hydraulic platforms are bought for our gallant fire men and women. Mr Speaker, a lot of them have lost their lives fighting fires, because what happens often is that, when they go to put out fires they inhale a lot of toxins, and this is an area we must look at and put in place compensation schemes for our gallant fire men and women. Mr Speaker, to conclude, with regard to the Report that Hon Members are very interested in, I would state categorically that, as and when the Reports are
Thank you very much. There would be a number of other Statements, and I trust that Hon Members would all have the opportunity to contribute. Meanwhile, if Leadership do not have -- Yes, Hon Muntaka?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I equally rise to support and associate with the Statement ably made. Mr Speaker, with regard to what happened to the Grenfell Tower in London, I would say that it was a very unfortunate incident. We all know that the United Kingdom is a country that has very high safety regulations and laws that are very biting; unfortunately, this happened. Mr Speaker, if you listened to the commentary on how things happened, the most surprising of all was how fast the fire was able to engulf the whole building. Mr Speaker, with regard to the number of deaths, as of yesterday, there were a lot of arguments. The residents are not very happy because they believe the Police are hiding some information, but the Police are also saying that, they would want to be sure of the numbers. This is because they would want any information that comes from them to be the most authentic. As of yesterday, they said the number of deaths was seventy-nine, but they expect this number to rise. Mr Speaker, if we look at the time the Fire Service got there -- It is said that the call was made and within five minutes, not less than forty fire tenders were around the building; yet, the fire was able to do this much damage. If this incident had occurred in Ghana, I doubt if anybody in that building would have escaped, apart from maybe, those on the first or second floor. Mr Speaker, it draws attention to the ‘Job 600'. I remember when the ‘Job 600' was commissioned, the Chief Fire Officer told us clearly and plainly that they do not have the capacity to deal with fire, should it happen beyond the sixth floor of the ‘Job 600'. Mr Speaker, this was said more than a year ago. Up to date, nothing has been done to either strengthen the GNFS or to engage them to see what is needed to assist them to deal with fire outbreak beyond the sixth floor. Mr Speaker, therefore, for those of us who are beyond the sixth floor, each morning we would have to pray that as we climb the lift to our offices, we come down safely. Mr Speaker, this is however, not a child's play. This is something that, as a House, we need to take very seriously. This is because apart from ‘Job 600', in Accra now, we have other buildings that are more than twelve floors. What happens to these should the unfortunate happen? Mr Speaker, aside that, as law makers, this is where I am happy that in your opening statement when you got sworn in, you said that you would encourage us as Hon Members of Parliament to come up with Private Members' Bills. Mr Speaker, as we speak now, there is no specific law that deals with safety in our country. They are just scattered in laws around. To have a law in our country that has been passed by Parliament detailing safety, we do not have. We only have a little here and a little there; but we need to have -- No country can ever survive in the way the modern world is going with internets, a lot of gadgets and the sophistication, without clear laws regulating safety in our country. Mr Speaker, many of us have travelled across the world. In many countries, even in small conference rooms that take ten people, immediately one enters, someone would come in to give a breakdown on safety issues. They would inform people of the particular place that they would have to pass if something is to happen in that particular conference room. They would also tell them where to assemble after they have passed through that particular place. Mr Speaker, we have all those measures in place, but in Ghana, we depend on the phrase, “God would provide.” Unfortunately, in Africa, I believe we overburden God with things that we have to do. God would only do the sophisticated things; but for the natural things, we would have to do them ourselves. This is because, God could only do the supernatural to help us. For the natural things, God has given us the wisdom and the knowledge, and others have taken the lead. So, we cannot continue to rely on God for those ones. Mr Speaker, in this Chamber, as we Sit, God forbid, if there is fire outbreak, what would we do? I have been in this House for over a decade, but I have never been told that should there be any fire, I should go in a particular way, get down and assemble at a particular end. We just come in and Sit. Even during orientation, we do not get any briefing on fire safety measures. I am on the House Committee, where Hon Members appointed me to; but the House Committee members are not experts on how to deal with safety. These are things that we all talk and laugh about and leave it there. We need to follow up on these issues. Mr Speaker, lastly, I would speak on the general average Ghanaian attitude. Our attitude towards things are just too bad. The laissez faire or the “I do not care attitude”. They would say to themselves, “Why should I have fire extin- guishers in my house? I could use that money to pay a month's bill in my house.” Mr Speaker, out of the 275 Hon Members of Parliament, if you call the Fire Service person to march each and every one of us to our homes now, I doubt if you would get even up to 50 of us whose houses are fire safety compliant. We just build and just hope that God would continue to protect us. Mr Speaker, I sincerely believe that this House should take the lead. We should try to put together the pieces of legislations that have been scattered in the many legislations about safety into a safety law. We should also make sure that as these things happen, we are all given the right training about the use of the ‘Job 600' and its safety measures in this Chamber and in our homes; so that as leaders in our various constituencies, we would lead
Thank you very much, Hon Minority Chief Whip, particularly with regard to your reference to the need to revise and consolidate our laws to regulate fires in this country. Yes, Hon Majority Leader, or Leadership?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, since I do not intend to make an input, I wish to yield to the Hon Member for --
Would you want him to speak?
Yes, Mr Speaker.
All right, Hon Member, you may do so. [Interruptions] --
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, I rise to make a brief --
You are honoured. The Hon Majority Leader has conceded to you. Hon Member, you may continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I also thank the Hon Majority Leader for this opportunity. I rise to make a very brief comment on the Statement made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, usually, when fire outbreaks are mentioned, the attention is seriously on residential and commercial facilities. Fire outbreaks have devastating effects on every aspect of our lives. Mr Speaker, we have lost so much of our forex coffers because of fire outbreaks. We have lost cash crops because of fire outbreaks. Mr Speaker, the most important thing which the Hon Member who made the Statement said is that we need to educate our people about fire. I believe preventing fire outbreaks should be the key. Mr Speaker, the Bekwai Municipal Assembly hosts the GNFS officer in my constituency. Most of the time, they want to give education on fire. Mr Speaker, they are willing to do this, but they are challenged in terms of resources to undertake this important assignment. Mr Speaker, I wish Hon Members would allocate part of their Common Fund to support GNFS in their Districts, Municipalities and Metropolitan Assem- blies to undertake this important assignment. In my view, if the 275 Hon Members of Parliament are ready to support GNFS with these resources, it would help a lot with the education which they are willing to undertake. Mr Speaker, on residential and commercial facilities, the commonest sources of fire outbreaks include poor electrical wiring and inferior cables used for wiring. What the Energy Commission is doing, Mr Speaker, is to train about 5,000 electrical wiring contractors and license them, so that if a builder or contrac- tor could have access to Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) metres, the contractor who does the wiring is supposed to be a licensed contractor from the Energy Commission before ECG would connect him or her to the national grid. Mr Speaker, I believe this is a very important thing and we need to commend the Energy Commission for coming out with such innovative way of helping us to control fire outbreaks in our homes and commercial areas. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. I said I would be brief. I would end here and commend the Hon Member who made this important Statement on this floor of the House. Thank you so much, Mr Speaker.
This is a very important Statement with several implications. The Hon Minister for the Interior, who is also a member of this Honourable House, is invited to inform that House on: 1. The introduction of hydraulic platforms to assist firefighting in Ghana as well as fire prevention generally. 2. The Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and the newly established Committee which would assist Hon Members with Private Member's Bills should consider revision and consolidation of all our laws on fire regulation in Ghana including insurance and the establishment of a construction industry develop- ment council which exists in several other countries so as to control this menace. Thank you. We have a second Statement from Hon Ekow Hayford, Member for Mfantseman, on accommodation of policemen and women and resultant issues. Accommodation problems of GPS personnel and its effect on policing
Mr Speaker, I rise to make this Statement to shed light on the inadequacy of accommodation for personnel of the GPS and to raise matters that ensue from the lack of adequate accommodation. The GPS is mandated under article 200 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and the Police Service Act, 350 (1970) to perform the following: Protect life and property Prevent and detect crime Apprehension and prosecution of offenders Preservation of peace and good order; and Enforcement of all laws, acts and decrees with which it is directly charged. To achieve these objectives, members of the Service have to be well trained and highly motivated for this onerous job. However, a visit to most of our police barracks in the country leaves much to be desired. Accommodation for the officers is woefully inadequate and most of what exist are in bad shape. Some of them have never seen any serious renovation for a long time. Mr Speaker, this has come about as a result of low and inadequate budget allocation to the Service over a very long period, indeed, over many decades. Ghana is endeavouring to meet the United Nations (UN) standard of five hundred (500) civilians per one (1) policeman. This has unfortunately exacerbated housing deficit in the Service. Consequently, many of its personnel are given the option to rent their own accommodation for which rent allowances are paid. This situation has led to: Personnel mobilisation problem Delay in their response time Ineffective supervision leading to indiscipline Extortion on the part of some police officers because of exorbitant rent deposits required of them and Increase in crime. Personnel mobilisation -- It always becomes difficult mobilising personnel to undertake assignments, as officers live in different locations, sometimes, far between. Delay in response time -- Flowing out of this difficult personnel mobilisation, also comes the delay in response time of the Police to attend to emergency situations. Mr Speaker, imagine the Police calling out officers from Ablekuma, Adenta, Amamole to deal with an emergency situation in Accra. This would require considerable amount of time, which would hamper their response time. Ineffective supervision -- Mr Speaker, renting of private accommodation after training, has tampered with post-depot training. Personnel fraternise with old civilian friends. Instead of the officer changing society with his new experience, the society rather, unfortunately, often succeeds in changing them. There is, therefore, the need to erect and renovate more barracks to, at least, groom these young officers to instil police culture and discipline in them for a specified minimum period. One important aspect of the Ghana Police Service's internal checks and balance is the role of barracks sergeant. The barracks sergeant is responsible to the officer in charge of the district for the cleanliness and sanitation of the barracks, as well as all disciplinary roles enshrined in the Service Instructions No. 114 of the Service (Barracks Rules). The effect of this role is lost on officers when they are allowed to rent their own places and are out of the barracks. Extortion by officers -- The initial deposit required to rent a room, in the big cities alone can put a strain on the finances of a young officer, leading some of them to resort to the unfortunate situation. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I am of the view that private participation in the housing sector of the Police would help alleviate this situation. The Police is a friend mandated to protect our lives and properties; let us join hands to ensure that they have a better living condition. Thank you.
I would be grateful if those who have the chance would not rise for now, so that we maximise the opportunities. Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting me the opportunity to comment on the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague on the other side of the House. Mr Speaker, we all agree that the Ghana Police Service has a very important role to play, both in protecting us and providing the conducive environment for us to live in and thrive with the hope of contributing our quota to the forward march of our nation. Mr Speaker, I was raised in a number of police barracks; the Police Depot in Kumasi and the Jachie Pramso Police Barracks. I can fully appreciate the content of the Statement made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, as we move along, it is always important that we look at other jurisdictions to see best practices that we could adopt to augment what we already have. The issue of accommodation for police personnel has and would continue to be a challenge. Rather than trying to provide public accommodation for our serving officers in the Ghana Police Service, I
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for that good suggestion.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. I rise to comment on the Statement ably made by my Hon Friend, Hon Ekow Hayford. Mr Speaker, it is true that the Police do not have enough accommodation; but as we lament on that, we should also question ourselves on how they use the existing accommodation that they have. Mr Speaker, it is true that when we go to the barracks, the rooms are so small that the police officers are compelled to put their refrigerators and other gadgets on the corridors. It is not a healthy sight.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to comment on the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague on the issue of police accommodation and the putting up of barracks for the police officers. Mr Speaker, it is very important that our security personnel, especially our policemen who we solely rely on mostly in our communities, have good accommodation. Mr Speaker, looking at the issues we are surrounded with these days, it is very important that policemen or service men live within communities. Mr Speaker, that notwithstanding, it is also very important that they have barracks where some of them would live and be able to go out whenever the need arises. We know very well that, in this country, it is not all policemen who are able to get accommodation in the barracks. It would be quite a difficult situation if we think that we should build or have structures all over. At least, we could look at the districts. We have those who go to the hinterland where sometimes, there is no accommo- dation. They go to places where they need to get their own accommodation. I agree that, we should have barracks situated in each district capital, while others should be given rent allowance to enable them get their own accommodation within the communities where they have been deployed. Mr Speaker, I humbly make this suggestion because, some of the security issues are not normally handled ordinarily. So, if all police officers live within communities where they might not get good accommodation and have offices of their own where they could work, it might be a problem for some of them. I think it is better these barracks are in individual districts while other officers are given the opportunity to rent. I am aware that, these police officers are given some allowances for accommodation. The question is, is it enough? Are they able to get decent accommodation? That is the biggest question. This is because, we have observed in this country that most barracks do not have big rooms. The rooms are so small; for whatever reason, I do not know why Police officers are given just one room with a small porch. Sometimes, there is no porch and so police officers who have spouses are dunable to live in the places where they have been accommodated. I am aware that some of them have to rent accommodation for their spouses wherever they live. They have all their cooking utensils, fridges and others outside, exposed to the weather and whatever. So, I would want to suggest that if these barracks are to be considered and built, they should be built in such a way that every officer would have a good place to accommodate him or her with their spouses and children. This is because they need to take care of their children. They should not be built as they were built in the good old days. It was just a single room and the officers did not know what to do. Mr Speaker, I would plead with your goodself, that, if this suggestion is to go out, the two should be considered. However, they should look at whether the allowance given for accommodation is good enough. Are they able to get good places to rent? This is because I know most police officers are either in Accra, Kumasi or other urban areas where the cost of accommodation is very high. Also, many a time, a landlord may want accumulated rent of two, three or even five years. If the police officer is paid a meagre amount, he or she would be found wanting. Mr Speaker, if these suggestions and recommendations are taken on board, it would go a long way to help our service persons. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. The last contribution.
Mr Speaker, I rise to support and associate myself with the Statement on the floor. It is true that the Police in this country are really suffering with respect to accommodation. If we go to various districts, we would realise that, most of the accommodation are rented. I see no reason people accuse police officers as corrupt, because this act is the beginning of corruption. This is because, getting accommodation from private people, in the first place, makes landlords become facilitators. Whenever someone has a problem, he or she has to pass through them. That is the first point to determine whatever case is at hand. Secondly, I paid a visit to one district when I was the Hon Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing. We went to inspect accommodation, one room -- unlike in the colonial days when the police officer only stayed in the barracks with his wife staying far away from him. This was because, he was supposed to be prepared at any time to go to work. Mr Speaker, I have seen it. I am the Hon Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development and I know what I am talking about. I say this with a lot of passion. The Police are working, but lack of better accommodation affects their productivity. So, I would prevail upon the Rt Hon Speaker to talk to the Hon Minister for the Interior, to see how best a better budget allocation could be made in future to begin getting better accommodation for police officers. Internationally, we would realise that they are among the best people in peace keeping. Yet, when they come here, they have bad accommodation which affects their operations here in Ghana. However, outside Ghana, they get better accommodation and therefore, operate very well. So, if they are given better accommo- dation, I am very optimistic that they would do better for this country. [Interruption.] I would not listen to him. My Zongo money would come and I would help them. Mr Speaker, on this note, I would like to thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. Both sides of the House should help make sure that in future our police officers get better accommodation, and that would enhance their productivity. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Any contributions from Leadership? Hon Members, we have another Statement which stands in the name of Hon Collins Owusu Amankwah on “Drivers”. The plight of “work and pay” drivers
Mr Speaker, I thank you for this unique opportunity. Mr Speaker, hire purchase is a type of asset finance that allows individuals or companies to have and control assets on agreed terms, covering depreciation and interest, to cover capital cost for a specific period of time. Mr Speaker, under a hire purchase, the buyer has to pay a higher price for the item bought, which includes cost plus interest. It has been observed that the system creates artificial demand for the product since there are no other alternatives for buyers, especially drivers. Buyers mostly do not get their instalments back after they have defaulted in payment of a vehicle or an asset. Mr Speaker, under hire purchase agreement, goods are sold under specified conditions. The owner or seller is not entitled to enforce the agreement unless the agreement is in writing and signed by the hirer or buyer and requires a statement of the cash price, the hire purchase price or total purchase price, the amount of each instalment by which the price is to be paid, date or mode of determining the date upon which each instalment is payable is given to the buyer. “Work and pay” in this context, is a term used to describe a system of individuals who do not have the means of buying cars but procure cars from individuals or companies on a loan or a repayment system. Under this arrangement, drivers enter into agreement with the vehicle owner or dealer, to pay a set amount each day, usually five to six days a week, ranging from 50 to 60 Ghana cedis daily and after two to three years, the driver owns the car. Mr Speaker, even though ‘work and pay' arrangement is a commercial agreement between a car owner and a driver in which the driver makes regular predetermined weekly sales to the owner over a period of usually two to three years. After this, the ownership of the car is transferred to the driver upon satisfactory performance. Normally, the driver is responsible for all repairs and major maintenance. 1 suggest that there ought to be an established body or authority to regulate such relationship in terms of hire purchase agreement. Mr Speaker, the plight of these drivers in this business is worrying and needs to be considered. These drivers are expected to make specified daily or weekly sales to their owners and also for maintenance and servicing if the car breaks down. Additionally, the drivers cater for all taxes relating to the operation of the vehicles as commercial vehicles. Much more distressing, these drivers pay between 48 per cent and 50 per cent interest rates per annum on the cost of the vehicle for this type of business. The drivers are compelled to work beyond their abilities to make more sales in order to be able to pay the cost of acquisition. Vehicles given to these drivers are second hand or “home-used”, so, after the three years of payment, the vehicles are often left in a deplorable condition. Where a driver, for whatever reason, is unable to make sales for three weeks, the person loses the initial moneys paid. Often, drivers who take loans from banks and other financial institutions have their cars impounded when they default in payment.
Hon Members, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Members, order!
Yes, Hon Ntow?
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute and associate myself with the Statement which was ably made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, this hire purchase is in many forms, and here, we are limited to the purchase of vehicles which are used as taxis for commercial services. It is very appalling and disgusting if one meets a taxi driver who does this “work and pay”. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague mentioned that, the interest rate was between 48 and 50 per cent, but sometimes, it is up to about 80 per cent. Recently, I met one taxi driver who said he had a problem with the vehicle and when he saw the car documents, he realised that the car owner had tripled the original cost of the vehicle and he was supposed to work and pay, so that the vehicle could be his. Mr Speaker, by the end of the first and second years, if one was not fortunate to get vehicles like Toyota or Nissan, but got KIA and other types of vehicles, the engine goes off and all the work the driver had done would go down the drain, meaning the driver had worked for nothing. Mr Speaker, recently in my consti- tuency, a micro finance company assisted some of the youth to buy vehicles and because they were not able to meet the target and defaulted, the vehicles were taken away from them after a year. As the Hon Member rightly mentioned, it is very important that the Bank of Ghana (BoG) regulates all these “work and pay” issues that prevail in the nation. Mr Speaker, this hire purchase is an avenue for the creation of employment for our teenage youth, but then, we would want to plead with the car owners to be very sympathetic and assist them to have some amount of money for their living. This is because, a taxi driver might have a wife and three children. By the time he realises the car has broken down and he has defaulted, the car is taken away from him. Mr Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity.
Hon Member, you have not spoken today, so, I would give you the opportunity to contribute.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement which was on hire purchase or “work and pay” as it is known in various circles. Typically, this is what we call financial leasing. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague who just spoke highlighted the problems and the pitfalls as they pervade now. Most drivers or those who acquire these assets, are exploited. This is because, there is a risk of repossession; that is, they are reposed if they are not able to pay or they default. Apart from that, repossession of the actual cost of that financial transaction ends up being very prohibitive and exploitative. Mr Speaker, that notwithstanding, it is important we realise that financial leasing; high purchase or “work and pay”, is one of the options which makes asset acquisition very easy. It helps in spreading expenditure or the amount of money one has to pay on the asset over a long period of time — one amortises it over a long period of time. It helps with cashflow because most people who want to begin this transportation business, do not have any fixed money set aside to help them acquire the vehicles. Therefore, the most important thing is that, we need to regulate this transaction to ensure that prospective lessees, that is, those who have to use these financial assets and the taxis, are not exploited and that the cost to them are within recommended cost, and also to ensure that their rights under such financial leasing conform to the laws of the Bank of Ghana, regarding financial leasing. Mr Speaker, as I have said, the Bank of Ghana has laws regarding financial leasing. It is not every company, organisation or any individual — Actually, what exists now is in violation of the
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I have no doubt that the “work and pay” scheme helps drivers or our people who do not have the needed resources to get considerably new cars to use on our roads. Mr Speaker, we know that many of the accidents which happen on our roads are because of rickety cars which have problems with their brakes, et cetera. So, it is a good thing because, drivers who would want to use newer cars, but do not have the resources to pay, for instance, GH¢40,000 or GH¢35,000 can get a car that they can use. Mr Speaker, however, as had been mentioned early on by all of us here; the way people who engage in this business exploit these drivers must be stopped. Mr Speaker, many people who do not even have registered businesses are running “work and pay” schemes by themselves from their homes — Individuals who do not pay tax in anyway are running this scheme, giving exorbitant prices to drivers to pay and they also have a way to take back the cars when they default in the payments. Mr Speaker, I would want to add my voice to the fact that, the Bank of Ghana or whichever institution is responsible — This is because, it is more or less a money lending, microfinance or banking service that these people are rendering. They must be controlled and checked. Efforts must be made, so that our drivers or our people, in their quest to get new cars, are not exploited to that extent. Mr Shaibu Mahama — rose --
I will listen to the Hon Member from the Minority and after that, Hon Patrick Boamah and Hon O. B. Amoah — I would want you to guide the House; what is the legal position of hire purchase; whether when a person has paid any part of the high purchase agreement, it is legal to purport to recover the vehicle from the owner? I would want you to assist us in that respect.
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by Hon Collins Owusu Amankwah on the plight of “work and pay” drivers. Mr Speaker, financial intermediation is one sure way of getting to people who do not bank. Therefore, hire purchase is a clear way of getting people who cannot otherwise gather money to buy an item to do so. So, the hire purchase or “work and pay” has actually helped many drivers. Mr Speaker, I have had the opportunity of reviewing an agreement between a driver and a sponsor. The agreement was so skewed that I knew the driver would run into trouble. So, as a lawyer, I advised him to go and change a few clauses that were contained in the agreement. Mr Speaker, I saw that the driver was very desperate in getting the vehicle to work. So, he went back and the sponsor told him that this is what he has been doing and he would not change it. He came back to me and I told him he would run into trouble in the next few weeks, but he said he needed to work. He went in for the vehicle and he was in trouble in the next six months and the sponsor had to recall the vehicle. Mr Speaker, I sympathised with him, but sometimes, one can do very little. It is for this reason that I believe a legal aid of a sort should be provided for such drivers to be able to review the agreement. Mr Speaker, as a senior member at the Bar, you would agree with me that, the courts are inclined to interpret bilateral contracts very strictly. Once a person is sane, the person can read or give to a lawyer to read and advise accordingly. Even if they go to court, the interpretation is quite straightforward; if a person defaults, they withdraw the vehicle from him or her. I support the Statement and the fact that the Hire Purchase Act, (1974) needs some reform that may include the “work and pay” of drivers to be able to protect them. They really need protection and I believe that, this is the right call and this House must come to their aid and help them.
Hon O. B. Amoah, I would want to hear you on this matter after which I would recognise the Hon Member.
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement ably made by Hon Collins Owusu Amankwah, and to state that the issue being discussed is very pertinent, to the extent that, it has become very common for the average person to engage in what is now termed, “work and pay”, which indeed, is a form of hire purchase. As far as the Hire Purchase Act is concerned, certain terms and conditions must be met before one can indeed, say it is hire purchase. Mr Speaker, unfortunately for most people involved, they do not even seem to appreciate the fact that, there should be a binding agreement between the two parties. They are just interested in approaching a man of means and saying that he would want the man of means to buy a vehicle for him or her to run it on work-and-pay basis which, frankly speaking, is on hire purchase terms. At the end of the day, the person would not complete the payment. So, at a point in time, the financier would just take the vehicle back and it becomes a very big issue.
Hon Member, as for the pro bono, I am not interested in your comments on that. There are requirements under the bye- regulations which apply to pro bono services -- we should all respect that. Hon Member for Gomoa West?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. I rise to associate myself with the Statement. Is it as though the position of the law as of now is not protective of the hirer or the buyer in this case? If I may refer all of us to section 8 of the Hire- Purchase Act, it states clearly that when half of the amount had been paid, the goods or the car in this instance becomes what we call protected goods. So, it is now at the instance of the buyer to terminate it. Mr Speaker, but we see instances where people have paid up to 80 per cent, but because they do not know the law and did not involve any lawyer in the preparation of the agreement, the owner who has the financial muscle uses his financial power to just retrieve the vehicle from this poor taxi driver and he then becomes destitute. Mr Speaker, so, the law as it stands now is not as archaic as we think it is. In fact, if we look at section 8 (4), it defines what ‘protected goods' are. It says that, and with your permission, I quote: “Protected goods are goods in relation to which the following conditions are fulfilled -- (a) that the goods have been let under a hire-purchase agree- ment or sold under a conditional sale agreement; (b) that one-half of the price or total purchase price has been paid (whether in pursuance of a judgment or otherwise) or tendered by on behalf of the hirer or buyer or a guarantor; (c) that the hirer or buyer has not terminated the hire-purchase agreement or conditional sale agreement, or (in the case of a hire-purchase agreement) the bailment, by the virtue of any right vested in him.” Mr Speaker, what it means is that once he has paid 50 per cent, it is at his instance to terminate the agreement. But if the buyer in this instance wants to keep the goods, then his liability is for him to make payment to the owner of the property. So, in that case, if the owner is sowing, it would then be a matter for money had and received. He has no title to the vehicle anymore and I think that public education in this regard would also help these poor taxi drivers to, at least, also prosecute their rights under such circumstances. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
In fact, this is the part I was interested in. That there is protection built in the law for people who have managed to pay 50 per cent or more. But that part appears not to be told those who are taking a loan or investing. So, the lenders are taking advantage and trampling upon the rights of those people. I am so glad that you have made that come out so strongly. Mr John A. Jinapor — rose --
Yes, Hon Jinapor?
Mr Speaker, kindly permit me to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement and for the contribution because this is an education platform for all of us. Mr Speaker, as you rightly said, most of us did not even know that upon the payment of 50 per cent of the agreement, the seller cannot just move in and confiscate your vehicle as it is being done. More often than not, what one realises is that, one is given the car, then the seller keeps a copy of the key and when the vehicle is parked, they send strong men to tow the vehicle away. Sometimes, there might be valuable property or goods in the car, yet, the car is towed away. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I think that beyond this, we also need to educate people. If one does not need the facility, they should please not go for it. It is not just with vehicles; when people hear
Hon Member for Bantama, did you hear the Statement? I know you are a lender [Laughter.] I would want to hear your version.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. I did not hear the Statement being made on the floor, but I was given a copy yesterday and I looked at it. I would like to make a contribution to the Statement and to state that the role of micro-finance remains quite important. It is not a gap that cannot be filled by the traditional companies. Of course, the interest rates for people who buy cars through microfinance institutions -- Work and pay is quite high, but that is also partly because the cost of lending in Ghana as a whole is high. Mr Speaker, we have institutions that are lending to these microfinance companies as high as 40 per cent, 36 per cent and I have been a practitioner as you are well aware since the year 1997. I have built one of the biggest micro- finance companies or savings and loans companies in the country and for that matter, I have been involved and still involved in terms of what is going on in the industry. Mr Speaker, it is very high for people to borrow from the micro-financial institutions -- no two ways about that. How much does it cost micro-finance institutions to also borrow from the banks? Of course, someone would say that the Government has provided Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) as an alternative to make cheaper interest rates available. As we know, those loans do not really get to the people and the market is not competitive enough. There are so many banks that are not going where the micro- finance companies go and the cost of borrowing -- Mr Speaker, let me give one example. If one has a million Ghana cedis, a traditional bank could just give it to one customer and they would never step a foot to this borrower to collect this money. However, if this money was given to a micro-finance institution, they may end up giving it to about a thousand people; this is a million Ghana cedis. They would have to go there every week to collect this money and do not forget that, when banks give out money, they give one-to-one or two-to-one collateral security. This means that for every Ghana cedi one borrows, they must provide an equivalent of two Ghana cedis to secure bank loans. Mr Speaker, many micro-finance companies do not do that. What they actually do, is what we call cash lien; they take about 10 or at most 20 per cent in many cases and for that matter, most of the loans are not secured. Of course, in simple economics, one realises that the higher the risk, the higher the returns all things being equal. That is why some of our people who cannot access bank loans either because of closeness to them or because the traditional banks would not take care of them, the micro-finance companies come in to fill the gap. For that reason, it would cost them so much. So, if there is something we could do, we should not condemn these micro- finance companies, rather, we should be able to facilitate easy access to loans. That having been said, I would also say that, even though as an advocate, those micro-finance institutions that rob people and tarnish the reputation of micro- finance companies, should actually be punished. This is because, if we do not, they would end up tarnishing the reputation of many micro-finance institutions that are helping Ghanaians. For instance, in Ghana, we have over 500 micro-finance institutions. A few of them, probably about 20 of them, are causing micro-finance institutions to be tarnished. What are we doing to support those who are doing well? Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity.
Very well. Does the Leadership want to make any contribution to this?
Mr Speaker, this is a very interesting topic because where we have the hire purchase law, most of these people who undertake these services first of all, do not even know the existence of that law. And because they do not know the existence of the law, they would not even know how the law operates and for that matter the risk they are going in for. I think that, if we can begin to have a way of education, where the people who
Hon Majority Leader, do you not intend to make any comments? Very well.
Mr Speaker, I am cautious. This is because the interest in this matter, if one is not careful, you do not know where you would land yourself. So, I would want to stay clear off this.
Hon Patrick Yaw Boamah, you are not a Leader.
Mr Speaker, I am a -- [inaudible] --
Mr Speaker, this Statement is very important in the sense that, it calls for total overhaul in our taxi system. Mr Speaker, most of us have travelled out there and have seen how the taxi system operates and the hire purchase that we are talking about pertains within the taxi system. Most of the Metropolitan Assemblies could undertake such enterprises by procuring vehicles, numbering them and giving them out to would-be drivers to raise money for the Assemblies. Mr Speaker, most of these taxis are not in good shape. They may want to be replaced, but when one drives on the roads to work, one sees the state in which they are, but the fa me ko, to wit, the money is not there. So, I believe that it is an avenue that the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) must look at, so that we formalise our taxi system and have very good taxis on our roads. Mr Speaker, that is my contribution.
I think that the Hon Minister for Employment and Labour Relations has shown interest. I would give him a chance.
Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to associate myself with the Statement ably made by our Hon Colleague. I believe that there is a fundamental problem in our financial system, so, all these hire purchase arrangements came about because we do not have a definite financial system that addresses the needs of these would-be taxi owners. It is good that our Hon Colleague has raised this and it should attract the attention of the financial market operators. Mr Speaker, at the national level, you would recall that there had been several national interventions. Gone are the days when Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) made arrangements with individuals whom they lease some of these vehicles to. As intimated by the Hon Deputy Minority Leader, very often, people would go for these offers and when it was time for them to repay, they are nowhere to be found. I believe that, this also brings to light the issue of proper addressing systems and the identification of people, so that people cannot easily go for a commitment and when it is due, they would relocate or change their address systems to make it difficult for them to be identified. Mr Speaker, having said that, I would say that, the financial institutions should take advantage of the big market that exists and be able to develop products that would certainly suit the market. When that is done, our taxi operators may not have to necessarily pay -- In some cases -- 200 per cent of the cost of the vehicle may be over, a year period or two years. When we are able to do that, we would be able to sanitise the local transport system. Mr Speaker, once again, I would want to associate myself with the Statement ably made by our Hon Colleague. Thank you.
Very well. One thing I take out of this Statement and the discussions so far is that firstly, not many people know about the existence of the Hire Purchase Act, and the protections therein built for the borrowers. For lack of a better word, those who have borrowed to purchase the vehicles and the protection after paying 50 per cent. So, if the Hon Member who made the Statement together with my Hon Colleague lawyer would take space and make statements to the press, probably we would generate a lot of discussions tomorrow and the public would be educated. So, congratulations on the Statement. Hon Members, the last Statement is on the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr and it is by the Hon Member for Salaga North, Hon Alhaji Mumuni Alhassan.
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful to you for granting me the opportunity to make a Statement on Eidul- Fitr: The need for a two-day holiday. Mr Speaker, Eidul Fitr is one of the two main festivals of Islam, which is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan. This is a day Muslims all over the world give praises and thanks to the Almighty Allah for enabling them to fast for a month. On the day of Eidul Fitr , Muslims observe a special prayer at open places in the morning. They then gather in their homes and communities as families and neighbours to feast and socialise. Mr Speaker, Ghana being a secular State, it is an honour to the Muslim Community that the State has instituted a holiday to enable Muslims observe the Eidul Fitr. However, it is important to know when the Eidul Fitr is celebrated. Eidul Fitr is celebrated a day after the end of Ramadan. In other jurisdictions, the celebration lasts for up to three days. In Ghana, however, only a day has been graciously designated as a holiday. Mr Speaker, I am not oblivious of the economic cost of holidays in Ghana. But certainly, nobody can discount the enormous social benefits of enjoying a well-deserved holiday. Mr Speaker, there are certain issues affecting the holiday. First of all, the Islamic Calendar is not easily predicted. It is based mainly on the lunar with a month having either 29 or 30 days. For instance, this year's fasting month of Ramadan started on 27th May, 2017. Therefore, if the Ramadan is going to end with 29 days, it means that the fasting will end on 24th June and the actual holiday will be on Eid day which is 25th June. However, if the Ramadan month ends with 30 days, then the Eid day will be on 26th June, 2017. However, whether the Ramadan ends with 29 or 30 days can only be known with certainty after 6.15 p.m. of 24th June, 2017. But waiting till 6.15 p.m. which is at the end of business hours, especially on a Saturday, to announce a holiday date would create great discomfort to the general Ghanaian community. Businesses, schools and other economic activities would be disrupted if any unplanned holiday was announced after the end of the business day or on a weekend. Therefore, considering the time of sighting the moon and the convenience of organising the Eid celebration at the national level, our respected Muslim Leaders would usually decide to safely consider the Eid day to be the day after the 30th day of Ramadan fast-month. That way we could easily plan better for the Eid day. This gives the Eid Day Celebration planners enough time to prepare the prayer site at the Black Star Square in Accra and other parks in the regional capitals for the celebration. It also affords State actors, other dignitaries as well as the working community in Ghana the opportunity to plan their calendars. The argument had been that, Eid is celebrated for three days; therefore, picking a day out of three days to satisfy all stakeholders is convenient. Mr Speaker, unfortunately, there have been a number of occasions where the Eid date was conveniently determined to be a day after the 30th day of Ramadan only for the moon to be sighted on the 29th day of Ramadan. This would then compel the leadership of the Muslim Community to inform Muslims not to fast on the “actual” Eid day but to celebrate the Eid a day after the actual date. Though our leaders have good intentions, these advance announcements have created some unpleasant situations among the Muslim public in some communities. But this unhealthy situation can easily be avoided. Mr Speaker, I humbly propose that the State considers an additional holiday for the Eidul Fitr celebration. The first day of the two-day holiday should be fixed on the estimated 30th day of Ramadan, which is also likely to be the Eid day. Then the second day of the two-day holiday would either be on the actual Eid day or a day after the Eid. A two-day holiday will make it possible for Muslims to celebrate the Eid and also allow the entire Ghanaian community, businesses, academia and the general public -- almost 30 days to plan their calendars. Mr Speaker, as I indicated, I am also very concerned about the economic cost of holidays. I would, therefore, further propose a caveat to my proposed two- day Eid holidays, which is that, if any of the two days falls on any statutory holiday or non-working day, that particular day would not be pushed forward to the next working day. Mr Speaker, it is my believe that if my humble proposal is duly considered by the relevant authorities, it would not only enable the Muslim Community to conveniently observe the Eidul Fitr, but afford the entire Ghanaian Community enough time to plan their calendars. I hope the Hon Minister for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs would liaise with the Hon Minister for the Interior to make a case for a two-day Eid Fitr holiday for the Muslim Community in Ghana. I am optimistic that His Excellency the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo would be more than gracious in accepting this humble proposal. Mr Speaker, I would like to appeal to the Muslim celebrants, especially the youth, to be modest in their celebration and avoid any incidents that would mar the occasion. Mr Speaker, permit me to wish Muslims all over the world, especially the Muslim Community in Ghana, particularly in Salaga North Constituency, Eid Mubarak (blessed Eid) in advance. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. Alhaji Abdul-Rashid Hassan Pelpuo (NDC -- Wa Central): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to associate myself with this Statement ably presented by the Hon Member from Salaga North. Mr Speaker, Eidul-Fitr is a very important period for all Muslims. Eidul- Fitr is a very important festive occasion for all Muslims. It marks the end of the Ramadan fast; the month long fasting during which Muslims fast for 30 days, nonstop. It is also the ninth month on the Islamic Calendar. It is a period when Muslims turn to God to purify themselves, to rededicate themselves, and it is in fulfilment of one
Hon Sulemana, I have not heard your voice for a long time. So, I would give you the opportunity first.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to associate myself with the Statement made by the Hon Member of Parliament for Salaga North. He is talking about Eidul-Fitr, which one cannot talk about without talking about fasting. Fasting is the third pillar of Islam. And to just share some few words on fasting with you, I would say it started when the Prophet Muhammed, Sallallahou Alayhe Wasallam, to wit “peace be upon him”, migrated to Medina. When he got there, he met some Jews already fasting. So the Prophet also started fasting and encouraged his followers to also fast until there was a revelation through the Prophet. And that is Quran chapter 2 verse 183. With your permission, I quote. It says in Arabic: “Ya ‘ayyuha alatheena amanoo kutiba AAalaykumu alssiyamu kama kutiba AAala alletheena min qablikum laAAa akum Eattaoona …”
Hon Member, you are quoting from which document?
Mr Speaker, I am quoting from the Quran chapter 2 verse 183.
Yes, but I do not see you holding the Quran. Are you quoting from your head?
Yes, I have memorised it. Mr Speaker, normally, those of us who have gone through the Arabic school, we are taught to memorise the Quran, and so, we can quote without necessarily referring to the Quran. Mr Speaker, the Quran, chapter 2, verse 183, says that; “Ya ‘ayyuha a latheena amanoo kutiba AAalaykumu alssiyamu kama kutiba AAala alletheena min qablikum laAAaakum tattaoona …”
“O you ye believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that ye may (learn) self-restraint”. It made reference to the fact that some people were already fasting, and then when the Prophet got to Medina he also started fasting. Then Allah told him that it is compulsory for him and his people to fast.
Mr Speaker, fasting comes with so many benefits. It comes with health benefits. I have seen some Hon Colleagues who are not Muslims, but they are fasting, and if you ask them, they would tell you they do it to get healthier. For us Muslims, fasting makes us draw closer to our Lord, and there are so many benefits in fasting. Mr Speaker, one cannot talk about fasting without talking about Lailat-ul- qadr, the Night Of Power. The genesis of it is that, the Prophet was told by God that his followers would have an average lifespan of between 60 and 70 years, and then the Prophet was worried, because the followers of other prophets could get more than 100 years. God told him that he would give him a particular night, and that night would be more than 1000 years. That is the night we refer to as the Night of Power, and so the Quran was revealed to the Prophet on that particular night. Mr Speaker, the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan is where you can get the Lailat-ul-qudr. So, every serious Muslim, for the last 10 days, would not sleep. We wake up, we do what we call Tahajjud. We pray and supplicate to God for Allah's mercy for so many things. At the end of the day, we celebrate this whole month that we have gone through fasting with what we call Eid-ul-Fitr. Mr Speaker, the most important thing, in my view when it comes to Eid-ul-Fitr is the fact that there is what we call Zakat- al-Fitr. This means giving alms to the poor; so, every Muslim who has fasted for the 30 or 29 days is supposed to give out alms to those who are in need. It means that on that day, one does not have to celebrate and enjoy at the expense of ones neighbours. On that day, everybody should look happy. On that day, you should share with everybody; poor and rich, everybody is supposed to enjoy on that day. Mr Speaker, another important thing is that, because of the way people are supposed to benefit from this alms giving, we are not supposed to give it out on the very day that we are celebrating the Eid. We are supposed to give it out two or three days to the celebration, so that, if it is in the form of grains, the person is able to prepare it and enjoy the meals on that particular day. Mr Speaker, I would also talk about the way we celebrate this Eid. I would make an appeal to all Muslims in this country, especially the youth, that we should celebrate in moderation. Sometimes, our brothers would come out to celebrate, riding horses, motorbikes, singing and dancing, and end up causing accidents. That is not what we call Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. Eid-ul-Fitr celebration is supposed to be a period where we reflect on all that we have done during the month and pray that, we are able to continue with the good deeds that we have done in the month as Muslims. So, I would use this opportunity to call on all Muslims everywhere to celebrate this Eid-ul-Fitr in moderation. Now to the issue of whether a number of days be given out as holidays, Mr Speaker, I would thank the National Democrate Congress (NDC) Government for instituting the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday. It was during the regime of the NDC that this was instituted, and there is the need for us to commend the government for that. I believe that if we can calculate the lunar calendar very well, if we look at the Islamic calendar very well and all the stake, holders come together to discuss it, we would always come with a single day; one day that we can say that this day is the day we celebrate the Eid, and if we do that, the issue of 29 and 30 days would not be an issue, and so we would be able to celebrate it without necessarily asking for two days.
Hon Member, is your name Alex Adomako?
I am Alhaji Yusif Sulemana, Member of Parliament for Bole/ Bamboi.
You are not at your seat, because I was trying to check from here. That is good to know.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, as the representative of the National Chief Imam, I believe I am best qualified to contribute and make a comment on this very important --
Hon Member for Okaikoi Central, clarify it. Do you represent the Chief Imam in the House or you are his Member of Parliament?
I am his Member of Parliament.
That is better. They are very jealous about who their representatives are.
Mr Speaker, very well. Mr Speaker, the month of Ramadan is the holiest one on the Islamic calendar, and it begins with all social, moral and spiritual blessings. The following sentences of an invocation point to some of these blessings; “ O Allah, this is the month of Ramadhan, in which Thou didst sent the Quran as a guide for people and as a clear sign to differentiate between right and wrong; and it is the month of fasting, month of prayers, month of returning (to Thee) and month of repentance; it is the month of forgiveness and mercy…; the month in which is the “ Night of Qadr” which is better than thousand months…; O Allah, bless Muhammed Sallallah Alayhe Wassallam and his progeny… and keep me free for Thy worship and for reciting Thy Book”. Mr Speaker, Okaikoi Central happens to host or be the residence for two most important Imams in Ghana; the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu and Sheikh Umar who represents the Al Sunnahs. They all live in my constituency, and they live in peace. The month of Ramadan must be used to reflect these two leaders who represent the entire Muslim community in this country. Mr Speaker, Ramadan is one of the key pillars of Islam which requires every Muslim to participate when the fasting begins, but most often, we find out that during the period of Ramadan, Christians and Muslims co-exist, and some Christians even participate in the fasting period.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably presented by the Hon Alhaji Mumuni Alhassan, Member of Parliament for Salaga North. Mr Speaker, I have nothing more useful to add as far as the relevance -- [Interruption] -- of Ramadan and its benefits are concerned, as ably espoused by the Hon Member of Parliament for the Bole Bamboi Constituency. I believe he did justice to that. Mr Speaker, however, I would want to dwell on whether or not there is the need for us to have an additional holiday, when it comes to the celebration of Eidul Fitr. Mr Speaker, I compare, not to justify, and again not because we do not have some holidays that I find irrelevant already on our calendar, but just so that, the absurdity of such a request in the minds of some people may be erased. Mr Speaker, when it comes to the celebration of Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha, according to Islamic teachings, three days are usually reserved for the celebration. It is, or can happen within three days after the month of Ramadan. So, we may have situations where some would choose to celebrate it immediately after Ramadan. It is also thought that, if one does not do it immediately after Ramadan, then the day after, he could still do it, and would still be within the period of celebration. So, it is also for the third day. Mr Speaker, because this is a secular country, it is reasonable, and we do appreciate the fact that Muslims have been given one day to celebrate Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha. But if we do an assessment of how we celebrate other religious festivities in this country, then we would understand that, if we are required to have three days and we have taken just one day so far and are content with it, only for us to ask now, then it should not be considered absurd. Mr Speaker, this is because when it comes to the celebration of Christmas, we have the Boxing Day, also being declared a holiday after we have a holiday during Christmas. That also enables Christians to have what we call a very exciting yuletide, which many Muslims also do partake in. Mr Speaker, if we have the yuletide period, which sometimes gives us more than a day to celebrate, I do not believe this is asking for too much. Muslims also request that instead of being given three days to accommodate the period of celebration, an additional day should be added to the existing one. That is not to say that, I disagree with other schools of thought that suggest that, we have some irrelevant holidays on our calendar already. I do not believe an additional day would be considered irrelevant. Mr Speaker, during Eidul Fitr, there are some rituals. Apart from going to the Mosque, my Hon Colleagues have already talked about the need to share what one has on the day of the celebration. But one thing that is also encouraged and is said to be the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, which means the practices of the Holy Prophet -- peace be upon him-- is to visit family and friends. Mr Speaker, for example, if one goes to the Mosque on Eidul Fitr day, after prayers, apart from sharing the meal that he has prepared at home with his neighbours, he is also expected to visit family and friends. It is one of the requirements on Eidul Fitr day. One is supposed to visit people. Mr Speaker, so we could imagine Muslims doing all of that in just one day, and having to prepare in some cases for work the next day. We may end up just deceiving ourselves, especially, in Muslim populated communities like Tamale, where the day after Eidul Fitr, most offices are empty because people may have exhausted themselves in the celebration of the festival.
Hon Member, you should let him finish. He just said: “lastly”. After that I would give you the opportunity. All right. Is it on a point of order? Very well. Hon Sayibu, kindly resume your seat.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, the Hon Colleague keeps making statements like “irrelevant holidays on the calendar”.
Hon Member, you should please address the Chair.
Mr Speaker, these are holidays that have been approved by Parliament and I do not know why the Hon Member would want to refer to them as “irrelevant”. They are statutory holidays. So, I wish the Hon Member could tell us the holidays that are irrelevant. Mr Speaker, apart from that, I believe that the Hon Member is also getting to the area of generating debate. He is generating debate over this discussion when he compares Muslims to Christians and all that. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Mr Speaker, thank you for your guidance. Mr Speaker, if my Hon Colleague was listening to me, I did not say that any holiday was irrelevant. I said that, if we were to monitor debate outside of this House, many Ghanaians have said that some holidays are irrelevant, and I said that even as I ask for more holidays, I am not oblivious to that argument. Mr Speaker, I appreciate your directive. There is no irrelevant holiday as far as the approvals done by this House are concerned, but the argument out there was what I just made reference to. Mr Speaker, I thank you for your guidance. Mr Speaker, I was concluding on the recent celebrations that we have seen. When I talk of recent, I mean the celebrations in recent past, especially in some very notable communities where it is likened to what our elders say in Tamale that, many of us go through the sacrifice of worshipping Allah, only for us to conclude with the sacrifice of a dog. Mr Speaker, anybody wh under- stands Islam knows that, dog meat is prohibited. So, if one finished the month of Ramadan, and to celebrate on Eidul Fitr day, one uses dog meat as a delicacy, it clearly points to what a wasted effort one has engaged in for the last 30 days. Many of the celebrations we have seen of late call to question the sacrifices that we usually are expected to undertake within these 30 days. We have beach parties where all manner of things that are not accepted in Islam are done. We have the communities, and the kind of durbars they organise and the recklessness with which they celebrate, this does not depict the teaching that one is supposed to receive from the month of Ramadan. So, I call on all Muslims all over the world, especially, in Ghana, to celebrate Eid ul Fitr this year with a difference and reflect in the celebration some of the accomplishments that we are supposed to come out with when we engage in fasting in the blessed month of Ramadan. We should reflect peace, decency, good neighbourliness and charity even as we celebrate Eid ul Fitr instead of some of the negative acts that we have seen some of our youth engage in on this day. Mr Speaker, I appreciate your gesture. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to comment on the Statement on the celebration of the month of Ramadan. Mr Speaker, I grew up with a lot of Muslims in Kintampo and I know how good they are. I just want to make a brief statement to us, as a House to recognise and to commend our Muslim friends for the peaceful co-existence that we enjoy as a country. We know that, there are other countries, some of them being our neighbours, where the situation might be different. So, as we celebrate this month, I would want us to commend them. Also, I would want us to ask our Muslim friends to also pray for the new government. I know that they do that all the time. When you go to the Bantama Constituency, Muslims are very friendly, open and they supported whatever change that Ghanaians enjoy now -- to pray for the government policy that focuses on the zongo people where we have most of our friends in the Muslim community living and to wish them in advance. Barka da sallah. Happy Ramadan. Thank you very, much.
Mr Speaker, I rise to also comment on the Statement made by the Hon Member for Salaga North and to also say that in Ghana, Muslims and Christians have co-existed peacefully and that is one good thing about this country. As a Christian, I associate with the good side and the benefit of Muslims going through the exercise of fasting, prayer and sharing with the poor in society. It is one thing that is also practised among Christians because the Bible also teaches us the same principles of fasting, sharing with the poor and praying. These common things between us and Muslims are good for the peace that we enjoy in this country. Fasting indeed, has some health benefits and one of them is that, when one fasts, one's circulation improves. It reduces ones cholesterol level and it makes one healthy when one really fasts. Those of us who go through it, would see that, one feels fresh after fasting and I would want to encourage our Muslim brothers and sisters and everybody to join them to go through this exercise. Also, I would want to say that, as they go through Eid ul Fitr, they should be cautious of the celebrations because we note that, after celebrations, not only Eid ul fitr, even Christmas celebrations, one would realise that we have accidents. Even after the celebrations. There are other adverse issues like rise in pregnancies that sometimes are linked with the jubilation -- There are side effects of the enjoyment that we go through and these are why I would want to caution that, we should celebrate in moderation and ensure that we go through the exercise peacefully. Mr Speaker, I take the opportunity to wish all Muslims in Ghana, the Upper West Region, particularly those in Daffiama/Bussie/Issa Constituency Eid Mubarak. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, I also support the Hon Member who made the Statement. In fact, the Statement came with a request; a request to consider, a two day holiday instead of the one. Mr Speaker, I do not believe that request is preposterous or irrelevant. It is for us as a House and a country to look at the merits of the request and see whether overall, it would advance our cause or not. Mr Speaker, when my good Friend, Hon Suhuyini Sayibu was making his contribution, I was actually tempted to rise on a point of order, but I restrained myself and said I might take this opportunity to state that the request on its own is very laudable. Any attempt, like an Hon Colleague mentioned, to try to generate debate by mentioning other religions and how long
their holidays are, might make observers or stakeholders feel that it is because of what religion “A” has in terms of holidays that is why the request has also come. So, I would urge all to really look at that request and debate it on its own merit. We have co-existed. Our conduct shows that -- In fact, maybe, the longer the holiday, the more the rice and chicken that we all sometimes enjoy. So, we should try to let the request stand on its own and I believe that all those who are listening would look at it on its own merit. Mr Speaker, I would like to also add that -- like my Hon Colleague said -- fasting has not only spiritual benefit but physical benefits as well. It is one of the best ways to detoxify the body where the intestines would be able to breathe for some hours because nothing passes through them for them to be put to work. Mr Speaker, with all the benefits attached and with all the spiritual blessings, we hope that a critical look would be taken at the request and then we would see what the outcome would be. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our brothers happy Eid Mubarak and may we continue to co-exist in a peaceful manner. I am grateful for the opportunity.
I would go to the Leadership now. Hon Ahmed Ibrahim, the Christian Muslim, would like to comment? The Christian with a Muslim name.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity you have given to me. Mr Speaker, it would not have been nice if I did not make any comment about this issue at all. Mr Speaker, the issue of Ramadan is very important to the Islamic religion. I say this because, it is one of the five pillars of Islam which are taught in our educational institutions right from kindergarten up to class 6. Mr Speaker, certain things are very worrying. Sometimes, it is very painful when Muslims go through these 30 days of fasting, 30 days of spiritual purification, 30 days of cleansing and 30 days of an encounter with the divine Authority. On the day that is declared holiday, sometimes, so many things happen; some roads are blocked, riding of motorbikes, some disturbances happen and sometimes, some lives are lost. It is my prayer that, even the one day holiday that is given to them, they take it and utilise it without any casualty and without any loss of life. Mr Speaker, besides that, I believe the issue the Hon Suhuyini talked about, which was misconstrued to be the relevance of holidays, he did not say that there is any holiday in this country which is not relevant. But that, sometimes, people comment on the number of holidays that we have on our working calendar. Therefore, asking for an additional day to be declared as a holiday, is what was of much concern to him. Mr Speaker, it is true. Clearly, we have African Union (AU) Day, ECOWAS Day, 24th February --
Hon Member, which day is the ECOWAS Day?
I think 25th May, 1975, but I do not know whether that one too is a holiday. Mr Speaker, if we declare so many days to be holidays, then it tends to contract the number of days that one has to work. We are a lower middle income country therefore, adding some number of days to be declared as holidays, I do not believe for now, it may be a call in the right direction. Mr Speaker, however, we all know that, Muslims are given 30 days of fasting. When they are fasting and a Muslim worker is in your institution, you would have to relax the rules for them to be able to enjoy that kind of -- Mr Speaker, but we all know that, after that, very soon, in two or three months' time, they are going to get the opportunity to go to the Holy Land. And that one, government has some courtesies that are given to them, because of that, it would be very worrying when we begin to make that argument that Christians have this, therefore, Muslims should have this. When we begin to do religious comparison, the little religious tolerance that we are enjoying, the kind of peaceful co-existence that we are enjoying, very soon, would be seriously eroded. Therefore, I want to call on every Ghanaian that, peaceful co-existence is very important, religious tolerance is very important. Therefore, when one is making a case for ones religion, one must make a case on its own merit, but not compare, because Muslims have this or because, Christians have that, therefore, I am demanding for this. When we get there, this nation may not be heading towards the right direction. Mr Speaker, before I end my comment, I once again want to congratulate our cherished Muslims for their 30 days of fasting and also to call on them that, we are with them, therefore, on the day of breaking the fast, they must make sure -- it should not be that one is so happy in such a way that one ends up losing ones life. It happened last year in certain parts of this country and we do not want to witness it again. We cherish them, we value them, we love them and we want to see them alive. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker for the opportunity given to me.
Hon Naabu, ordinarily, after the Leaders have spoken, I would not have recognised anybody. But it is a very special occasion -- [Laughter.] -- Hon Naabu, I give you the floor.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to comment on this special occasion for the Muslims. Mr Speaker, my only appeal to them is that they should be tolerant -- both Christians and Muslims -- then we would live together as brothers and sisters. I know, like my Hon Leader just said, we wish that, by Monday, the celebration would end peacefully. And I also want to take this opportu- nity to announce that today is the seventieth birthday of the founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings and I wish him good luck and long life. Thank you, Mr Speaker. -- [Laughter.] -- [Hear! Hear!]
Hon Naabu, is it a maiden speech or the second one? It is in very good taste. Thank you. Hon Majority Leader, do you want to make a comment?
Mr Speaker, I think past contributors have made every point that ought to be made on this solemn occasion of the celebration of the Eid. Mr Speaker, just to say that the occasion should foster prosperity and equality of opportunities for all Muslims as well as Christians and members of other faiths in the country that together, we shall live in peace and unity in this country till eternity. Mr Speaker, the Hon Deputy Whip for the Minority has raised certain critical issues about demands. As humans, we can never be satisfied with what we have. I think that when we talk about these matters, we should be circumspect. This is because, if care is not taken, others would also begin to make demands on the State. For instance, the opportunity that is provided our Muslim Brothers and Sisters, the State bearing the enormous responsibilities in ferrying them to the Holy Land. What if Christians also begin to ask same; where would this nation be going to? So, much as I sympathise with issues raised, I think we should be circumspect in these matters. Let us realise that together, we constitute one country called Ghana. By fate, we are put together. Let us cherish what we have, where we are, and live in peace and unity. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Very well. On behalf of Mr Speaker and the whole of Parliament, I wish all Muslims countrywide, Eid Mubarak. Thank you. Hon Majority Leader, any indication?
Mr Speaker, I guess we would want to deal with issues relating to Public Business. But we have agreed at the level of Leadership to have some of them taken tomorrow and others next week Tuesday. So, having exhausted what Business that exists on the Order Paper for the day, except what I have alluded to, Mr Speaker, we may adjourn until tomorrow at 12.00 noon. Mr Speaker, I move that this House stands adjourned until 12.00 noon tomorrow.
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to.
The House was accordingly adjourned at 3.20 p.m. till Friday, 23rd June, 2017, at 12.00 noon.