Private legal practitioner, Samson Lardy Anyenini, has chided the president for using a public health emergency to re-introduce a much maligned bill, allowing him and his officials to spy on citizens.
In his Samson’s Take segment on Newsfile, Mr. Anyenini pointed to Executive Instrument 63 which he explained is more dangerous than the Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill, infamously called the Spy Bill, which civil society organisations and the NPP fought hard against in 2016.
Under the latest piece of power at the president’s disposal, “all your mobile money data, transaction and wallet details, merchant code, bank details – practically your every private transaction details the telcos are being compelled to disclose to the government,” the article reads.
Even worse, Samson Lardy Anyenini said, this EI 63 has no expiration date, implying that the president’s fresh powers could still be used in normal times after coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Ghana is in an election year. It could, he conjectured, be used to target political opponents.
Incidentally, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) fought hard alongside CSOs in resisting the ‘Spy Bill’, introduced by the Mahama government.
Essentially, what the NPP criticized while in opposition, it is doing worse now that it is in power, Mr. Anyenini suggested.
He noted that leaders with despotic tendencies love to use terms like “national security” and “public interest” to justify spying on citizens.
Samson Lardy, a TV show host, expressed fears the president, who is a lawyer, may be “added to the list of autocrats in democracies exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for selfish private ends.”
The legal practitioner condemned the president’s introduction of “sweeping powers” and called for a public response to get the president’s new-found and potentially long-lasting powers to be undone.
He called on Ghanaians to heed to the warning of a Supreme Court judge, Justice Francis Kpegah in a landmark case Awuni vrs. WAEC in 2004 when he said a “nation that stands by and looks on while the rights of the individual are slowly pecked at, eventually pays the ultimate price of finding its own rights eroded.”
The President, under the guise of establishing emergency communications system to aid contact tracing, on 23rd March 2020 signed an E.I. 63 introducing what, in respect of your telephony transactions, mimics what was collectively rejected on very sound reasons which have not changed even in the face of Covid19.
All who campaigned actively to get the “Spy Bill” withdrawn, read the new 4-page E.I. 63 and discover an even worse version of the “Spy Bill” and thing you fought against in KelniGVG smuggled under section 100 of the Electronic Communications Act, without need for parliamentary scrutiny and without safeguard and supervision by any third-party or a court of law.
The bottom line is, the President has handed himself (and through those he will act) general sweeping powers never the contemplation of section 100. The law’s requirement is for a specific request at a specific time for state intrusion into specific suspect’s telephony records over a specific suspected act of criminality by that specific individual and the requested access ought to be for the duration of tracking that individual and gathering evidence of his criminal conduct.
The purpose is law enforcement and national security. The law certainly does not permit this blanket power to have full access to all records, at will, of all customers of all telcos, and for the state to be allowed a permanent presence at the telcos through a central device controlled by the state for unrestrained access to every customer’s record.
All your mobile money data, transaction and wallet details, merchant code, bank details – practically your every private transaction details the telcos are being compelled to disclose to the government. By section 99, if there was war or the President had declared a state of emergency, as would be supervised by parliament, then he could “assume direct control” of the telcos and determine their operations. A section 100 E.I cannot do a section 99 warfare or state of emergency operation of the telcos, so this is clearly an unconstitutional and illegal act that must be stopped immediately! This is clearly intended to get all the government could not in normal times get from telcos including through KelniGVG which did not get the support of the central bank.
Watch! There is no timeline to this E.I. so the government, the state is under no obligation to stop using this president-only-made law to do what it seeks. If I understand the technical details correctly, it would seem it could be used including potentially for some checking on political opponents, and that’s what the NPP in opposition feared most in kicking against the “Spy Bill”.
May President Akufo Addo, a man with known democratic credentials not be added to the list of autocrats in democracies exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for selfish private ends.