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Opinions of Monday, 11 March 2019

Columnist: Ace Anan Ankomah

Ace Ankomah writes: ‘Vigilante’ and ‘militia’ words bandied about

I see the words ‘vigilante’ and ‘militia’ being bandied about. Whenever issues come up, I go to my first source of comfort, the law, to see what I can find.

See what I just found:

ADEKURA v. THE REPUBLIC [1984-86] 2 GLR 345

The appellant, the operations officer of the Bolgatanga branch of the People's Militia, was on operational duty to check illegal fuel deals at the site of the Tono Irrigation Project. He was armed with an AK 47 rifle and while at post he spotted a vehicle coming from the site. He stood in the middle of the road, raised the rifle and stopped the vehicle.

The vehicle slowed down but negotiated a curve and didn’t stop. He aimed at the vehicle and fired five times in rapid succession, killing a passenger, Augustine Klakani, a student at Navrongo Secondary School. It turned out that the vehicle was travelling from Navrongo to Accra on official duty and had given a ride to the deceased, and that the driver had not seen the appellant because of poor visibility.

The appellant was charged with murder, and was convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court. He appealed. He lost. But the words of Osei-Hwere JA (as he then was) are very instructive:

‘It was argued that the appellant could derive justification under the provisions of section 31(d), (e) or (f) of Act 29. They provide as follows:

“31. Force may be justified in the cases and manner, and subject to the conditions, hereinafter in this Chapter mentioned, on the ground of any of the following matters, namely:… (d) authority to arrest and detain for felony; or (e) authority to arrest, detain, or search a person otherwise than for felony; or (f) necessity for prevention of or defence against crime.”

The question that necessarily obtrudes is: “What is the authority of the appellant to do any of those acts specified in (d) and (e)?” In spite of the high public-spiritedness which the peoples’ militia, without doubt, are expected to exude there does not seem to be any law that regulates the functions of the peoples’ militia qua an organ of the revolution. At least the appellant’s counsel could not point at any such law.

This is an unfortunate omission which calls for rectification. OTHERWISE A GUN-TOTING AND TRIGGER-HAPPY MILITIAMAN LIKE THE APPELLANT MAY BE TEMPTED TO RIDE ON A HIGH HORSE ABOVE THE LEGITIMATE AGENCIES OF LAW AND ORDER IN THE NAME OF THE REVOLUTION. Whether or not the appellant had any such authority must, therefore, be considered in the light of his capacity as a private person.’ [Emphasis mine.]

Maybe there is something to be learned from this. Maybe there is nothing to be learned. As for me, I am putting it out. Do with it as you please.

[PS. I heard, just a minute ago, that sometime in 1987, Billy Adekura (I now know his full name) the appellant, was pardoned by Chairman Rawlings and released from death row at Nsawam.]