I come to you today with a note of empathy with a section of the Ghanaian populace that may not follow the mandatory wearing of nose mask as directed by His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Let me first start off by saying it is incumbent on every individual to protect him or herself as we are indeed not in normal times and therefore your negligence can be the trigger to get someone infected by the novel coronavirus.
Also, to the skeptics, who don't believe there is coronavirus disease; it is okay to disbelieve but don't let your faith be the basis for somebody to lose his life or to cause misery to an innocent family. This is to say in your disbelief, please don't be careless and for lack of a better word ''stupid'' to expose yourself to this insidious disease; hence should you manage to infect yourself, find a way to prevent yourself from spreading it.
Folks, coronavirus or COVID-19 is real. You know why I think it's real? Because almost everything that has a name on planet earth exists, however you have an absolute right to disbelieve there ever exists a disease called coronavirus.
My fellow Ghanaians, having established this common sense; pardon me to say in all of the update addresses on COVID-19 by the President, it is obvious the core message is we all have a role to play in preventing the transmission of this dangerous virus that has since infected over 15k people and others unfortunately have lost their lives.
We however thank God for the impressive numbers that have recovered and pray for all COVID-19 patients to fully recover. Amen!
Now, all that I have earlier said is just a preamble.
What I am really concerned about is the order to face a jail term should any person fail to wear the nose or face mask.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, during his regular updates on COVID-19, stated emphatically that the wearing of nose mask has become mandatory and failure to put on the mask could land the offender in very serious trouble.
Well, there is a law to that effect.
The President has enforced a new Executive Instrument (E.I 164) which makes the wearing of face or nose mask to be in force for three months and shall apply to all parts of Ghana.
People who fail to wear the masks in public therefore commit an offence that is punishable by a fine of GH¢12,000 to GH¢60,000 or a prison sentence of four to 10 years.
The E.I. was issued by the President pursuant to the powers granted him under the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012).
The new E.I. reads that “wear face masks, face shields or any other face covering that covers his or her nose and mouth completely when the person is in public or leaving or returning to his place of abode.”
Section 4 (1) of the E.I. 164 also mandates the police to make random checks to “ensure enforcement compliance”.
Also according to Section 4(2) of E.I 164, offenders of the nose mask rule shall be punished in accordance with Section 6 of Act 1012 which states that “a person who fails to comply with the restrictions imposed under the Executive Instrument issued under subsection 1 of Section 2 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 1,000 penalty unit (Gh¢12,000) and not more than 5,000 penalty units (Gh¢ 60,000) or to a term of imprisonment not less than four years and not more than 10 years or to both''.
I must admit it is a good initiative to get everyone to wear the masks since, in this season of coronavirus, no one has the right to challenge the safety protocols. I commend the President for making the wearing of mask mandatory. This shows great leadership and a leader who is committed to ensuring the safety of his citizenry.
Nonetheless, no one should go to jail for not wearing the mask. Nobody deserves to be in prison for committing an offence as not wearing a nose mask, not a jail term of even a day. Subjecting offenders to a prison term of four years and/or more, in my opinion, is an abuse of any persons' fundamental right and an injustice.
I say this because not wearing the mask could arise from several factors apart from the strange reasons that it will suffocate people or an unbelief that the virus exists.
Today, I had an experience where a lady forgot to pick her mask; she was however responsible enough to buy one on her way but I kept thinking what if a Police officer had met her before she purchased a new one.
Does it mean she will have to pay such huge fines or go to jail or both?
So, if caught not wearing nose mask can cause imprisonment meaning just because someone didn’t wear a mask which can happen out of human mistakes like forgetfulness etc, someone may be sentenced to at least 4 years in prison.
My question is will these people be released from prison when COVID-19 is over?
And my lawyers, is it a crime not to wear nose mask or it’s an offence? An offence that can be punishable by other means like detention for some hours or community service or just some other equally punitive measures to warn the offenders and also deter others but not to waste someone’s life in prison just because the person didn’t wear mask.
So, in today’s Ghana, one can go to prison for an offence as not wearing nose mask.
Indeed, we’re not in normal times. I implore every Ghanaian to wear nose mask and adhere to all safety protocols but to commit someone to jail sentence over nose mask is one of the most absurd opportunities to misuse justice.
Except the victims will be released from prison once COVID-19 vaccines arrive but if somebody is going to remain in prison for mere thought of not wearing nose mask, Mr. President; I think the law needs a review unless I’m not reading correctly!
In fact, Mr. President, as a Ghanaian, I think I equally have the right to make a humble appeal for my brothers and sisters, who may not be wearing the mask, particularly the recalcitrant ones who just don't want to put it on.
My appeal is very simple, no one should ever be locked up in prison for such an offence.
I subscribe to a responsible punitive measure to deter people from following the footsteps of these category of people who flout the orders but to be in prison, nope!
But why prison? Is there no other way to sanction the offenders? I mean how?
I would like to ask any person who may choose to disagree with me; do you really understand jail sentence? Like to say someone has committed an offence of not wearing nose mask and that’s enough grounds to send the person to prison? Can’t there be a different way to penalize them?
Who are those who understand this law because I don’t?
Lastly, this should not warrant any Police brutality on the offenders either. We all understand we are in dangerous times but it shouldn't excite any kind of brutality. Let's bear in mind that there was once a Spanish flu, Polio and other equally dangerous diseases but in all, God in His infinite wisdom, provided the cure or the solution.
So, I ask again when a cure or vaccine is provided for COVID-19; what will become of the “mandatory nose mask rule” offenders who may have been imprisoned for 4 years and not yet covered their jail term?
Let's go over this Executive Instrument again, Mr. President!!
Fellow Ghanaians, this too shall pass!!!
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