By Diamond Beyonce Kpogli
The group, Right to Information Coalition has given government a 10-day ultimatum to impress upon Ghana’s parliament to pass the Right to Information Bill (RTI) into law.
The group threw the challenge to government at a press conference on Wednesday as part of efforts to press home their civil demands.
This year marks 22 years since the first Right to Information (RTI) draft Bill was drafted under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in 1996.
It also marks 16 years since the Executive arm of government in 2002 drafted the first RTI Bill. This draft Executive Bill was subsequently reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was never laid in Parliament until February 5, 2010.
Since then, the RTI Bill has witnessed a series of failed promises to pass it from both the governments of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). In 2012, the 2010 RTI Bill lapsed and was relayed in 2016.
In the final days of the 6th Parliament, an effort led by Hon Albert Bagbin, then Majority Leader, to pass the legislation was not successful after objections were raised by the then Minority NPP. Even as the NPP was raising objections with the RTI Bill 2016, it had promised in Section IV (c) of its 2016 manifesto to ‘ensure the passage of the RTI Bill if the present Parliament delays in doing so’.
Accordingly, upon assuming office, on Thursday, February 2, 2017, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia, restated the government’s commitment to facilitate the passage of the RTI Bill. Then on May 3rd, 2017 while speaking at an event to mark World Press Freedom Day, the Minister for Information, Mustapha Hamid declared that by July 2017 the RTI Bill would be laid in Parliament giving an assurance to Ghanaians that the passage of the bill was non-negotiable.
Unfortunately, the first year of the Akufo-Addo led-NPP ended with no action from the government. In response to enquiries as to the state of the Bill, both the Minister of Information and the Attorney General told Ghanaians that the Bill was with a Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by the Minister for Local Government, Hajia Halima Mahama who has been working on it.
It is against this background that the group, this year should end several years of vigorous struggle to get the bill passed.
Speaking to a member of the Coalition, Sampson Lardy Anyenini, he advanced the debate for the passage of the bill.
He further insisted that the bill must be laid before parliament rises by March 23 if President Akufo-Addo is still keeping his promise of passing the bill into a law this year.
“We understand that parliament rises on March 23…so the minimum for us is for the bill to be laid before parliament rises”, he said.
He added that they will advise themselves if their demand is not met because “there is no need to wait any longer”.