President Akufo-Addo on why he cannot sign Witchcraft, other bills due to constitutional issues
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has explained to Parliament that, even though the contents of the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022, (Witchcraft bill) and the Armed Forces (Amendment) Bill, 2023 have his support, he cannot assent to them because of constitutional issues.
The President has explained that the way and manner the two bills were prepared flouts Article 108 of the 1992 Ghana Constitution and he, therefore, cannot assent to them due to the constitutional issues.
"After thorough consideration in the light of constitutional issues, I'm unable to assent to these bills," President Akufo-Addo stated in a letter he sent to Parliament.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin read the letter in the House on Monday morning [December 4, 2023].
Speaker Bagbin explained on the floor of the House that during a conversation between him [Speaker] and the President last week, the president raised specific constitutional concerns.
"I raised specific constitutional concerns regarding the bills related to Article 108 particularly the nature of these bills which were introduced to Parliament as private member's bill rather than being presented by or on my [President] behalf."
Article 108 of the 1992 constitution states: "Parliament shall not, unless the bill is introduced or the motion is introduced by, or on behalf of, the President -"
"The content of these bills have my support but we need to ensure that they are enacted in line with established constitutional and legislative process," President Akufo-Addo's letter to Parliament stated.
The letter said the concerns raised were significant and have profound implications for the constitutional integrity of "this Legislative action."
"Any legislation we pass must be in complete alignment with the provision of our constitution.
"I intend to have the bill reintroduced to Parliament on my behalf in due course," the letter said.
Another bill the President is also unable to assent to is the Wild Life Resources Management Bill, 2023.
Unlike the other two, the President indicated that this bill was introduced on his behalf.
However, the letter said various provisions of the bill requires Parliament to reconsider the move to ensure that the bill when enacted will be in alignment with established constitutional legislative process.
The letter said once the necessary considerations and review were done an action will be taken.
The Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which is now popularly referred to as the Witchcraft Bill, explicitly criminalises the practice of witchcraft accusation and proscribes the declaration, accusation, naming or labeling of another person as a witch, and its related matters.
The object of the bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), to prohibit the practice by any person as a witch doctor or witch finder.
It formed part of the broad policy measures to deal with attacks and human rights violations arising out of witchcraft accusations.
The bill was laid in Parliament on March 31, 2023, by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Madina, Francis-Xavier Sosu, on behalf of other co-sponsors.
They are Mr Sosu, MP for Pusiga, Hajia Laadi Ayii Ayamba; MP for Wa East, Dr Godfred Seidu Jasaw; MP for Krachi, Helen Adjoa Ntoso, and MP for Afram Plains North, Betty Nana Efua Krosbi Mensah.
On the Floor of Parliament on Monday, November 27, 2023, it came up that five months after Parliament had passed the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which makes it an offence to accuse any person of being a witch, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was yet to assent to it to become law.
It was the Minority, championed by the MP for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, who maintained that the failure of the President to assent to the bill constituted a constitutional breach which should not be countenanced.
In the ensuing debate, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, explained that the President had noticed some technical challenges in the bill and had arranged to meet with the Speaker to iron them out before passing it into law.
Clarification from President's office
The Office of the President on Tuesday, November 29, 2023 clarified that President Akufo-Addo had not been silent on the bill and that it was presented to him on Monday, November 27, 2023, the same day the Speaker made the accusation.