President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who through the Ghana Prisons Service granted some 808 prisoners amnesty over the deadly coronavirus pandemic, has shockingly said he is not in a position to grant “amnesty” to some radio stations shut down by the National Communications Authority (NCA), and order their return on air to aid the fight against the global crisis.
His position has thrown many into a state of surprise, having granted amnesty to the 808 prisoners whom he did not jail but used his constitutional powers to ensure his appointee released them to decongest the country’s prison before their severally hit by the virus.
This was after National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo pleaded with the President to grant amnesty to these radio stations just like how he did for some prisoners recently.
Mr. Ampofo is of the view that many people are politically inclined to these radio stations and in a time where people need massive education and information on COVID-19 it will be best if the licenses of these stations are given back to them to operate by broadcasting to their audience in the languages they understand and acting accordingly.
But instead getting the Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the NCA boss Joe Anokye and the owners of the radio stations to sit down over the matter, the President was blatant in his response to Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo saying he can’t grant such a request and the radio stations should follow laid down procedures to get back to business.
“I am surprised about the amnesty for the radio stations, the law is very clear on why they have been closed down, they were not closed down by me so it is difficult for me to be the one to unlock them. The procedures are there, I am surprised almost a year these procedures have not been used to get back on track, they need to engage the NMC and use all procedures available,” the President said at a meeting with various political leaders at the Jubilee House.
Some broadcasting stations were shut down by the NCA, the Communications regulator and radio-frequency licensing body in Ghana in 2019.
According to the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, some of these stations were cited for various infractions in an audit exercise by the NCA.
The NMC also said several radio stations were shut down because these stations were operating without valid authorization.
The stations, Radio XYZ and Radio Gold, are both owned by persons affiliated to the opposition NDC and this raised a few eyebrows as some felt it was a political witch hunt.
Ghana is still battling with COVID-19 and has recorded 205 cases so far with 5 deaths.
Recently the Ghana Prisons Service has activated the process for the release of the 808 prisoners who have been granted amnesty by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
“The list has gone to the stations and they are doing the documentation and then release them,” the Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Prisons Service, Courage Atsem, had told the Daily Graphic in Accra.
Although he could not give figures, he said his “checks are that all those granted amnesty at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison have been released”.
He said the release of the prisoners depended on when the documentation would be completed.
“It depends on how far the officer in charge and his team are able to do the documentation for the release, but I believe that by now a lot of them have gone out,” the PRO stated.
On Thursday, March 26, 2020, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo granted an official pardon to 808 prisoners based on the recommendation of the Prisons Service Council and in consultation with the Council of State.
A statement issued by the Director-General of Prisons, Patrick Darko Missah, explained that the list included 783 first-time offenders who had served half of their sentences, 11 seriously ill prisoners and three aged (very old) prisoners.
The others were seven prisoners on death row whose sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment and four prisoners serving life sentences whose sentences have been commuted to 20-year definite terms.
Explaining the process for the release of prisoners granted an official pardon by the President, Supt. Atsem said: “When the President comes with the list of inmates who have been granted amnesty, the Prisons Headquarters submits the list to the various stations for them to implement the amnesty.”
“The stations have to check their records to be sure that they are releasing the right people,” he added.
Providing further details of the amnesty, the PRO said those whose life sentences had been commuted to 20 years would have their 20-year sentences take effect from the time the amnesty was granted.
“It means they will now start afresh,” he said.
He said per the law, for one to qualify for amnesty from death row to a life sentence, that person might have done at least 10 years on death row.