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Opinions of Sunday, 16 August 2009

Columnist: Amegashie, Felix Mawulolo

Gory Stains On The BNI!

“He who seeks equity, must come with clean hands” goes the maxim, but as it is the case in Ghana today, the functionaries of the New Patriotic Party are bent on destroying the sanctity of the Bureau of National Investigations with their numerous law suits as a clever means of stalking the investigations the BNI has been conducting into numerous cases of malfeasance, fraud, forgery and “causing financial loss” to Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana.

Mention should be made of the guerilla tactics employed by the BNI during the eight (8) year tenure of Ex- President Kufour, in effecting arbitrary arrests, seizure of passports and unannounced searches of the chambers of functionaries of the NDC who served under Ex President Jerry Rawlings.

First, passports belonging to Nana Ato Dadzie, Nana Ohene Kenah and Mr. Ato Ahwoi (all public officials in the erstwhile Jerry Rawlings led NDC administration) were seized in broad day light upon specific policy directives from the government of our Oxford-trained lawyer Ex president Kufour looked on and beamed with smiles against his failed “rule of law” and “Zero Tolerance for Corruption” mantra. The Ghana bar Association, the academia, civil society and religious organizations failed to question the sense and legality of the ruthlessness and indiscretions of the BNI under the NPP led administration. In the days, invitations to be interrogated by the BNI were done by phone calls and text messages.

Second, Kufour made the bureau so dreadful that one dared ignoring such invitations especially if you find yourself on their opposing side. Again in the days, Nana Akuffo Addo who was Attorney General found nothing wrong with the illegalities perpetuated by the BNI that set the dangerous precedence for successive governments to pursue albeit the human right challenges that were rife in this system. Nana Akuffo Addo even went a step further to commission the Fast Track Court, another illegality, until he was “bloodied” in court by Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata in a legal suit. It took the machinations of the Oxford-trained Ex President to appoint more Justices to the Supreme Court just for the purpose of reviewing this decision.

Third, was it sheer ignorance on the part of the Ex-President, Mr J.A Kufour and the Ex-Attorney General, Nana Akufo Addo, at the time to engage the services of the BNI and the CID to seize passports belonging to members of the opposition in pursuit of their definition of the fight against corruption or it was a clear case of political witch-hunting and sheer hatred for the NDC that saw these administrators throw the laws of Ghana to the gutters and chased the former NDC functionaries with wanton vengeance?

Fouth, granted that the BNI is prevented from further seizing passports and other travel documents belonging to any citizen in the course of an investigation and the citizen absconds upon his or her personal conviction that the law might catch up on him or her, whose responsibility will it be to produce the persons in Court to face trial? What I foresee is that the BNI will be rampant in going to court to adduce any kind of evidence (tenable or not) by ex-parte motions as thrum cards to make arrests of suspects the cases they probe. My fears are that this paradigm shift (by this court ruling) will open a new chapter for the BNI to make frequent and arbitrary arrests anytime a suspect is needed just testify by a “yes” or “No” response.

Again this ruling will also encourage public officials to corrupt themselves while in office and fly out of town minutes after the general elections to avoid being prosecuted. By all these standards, we are creating a rather dangerous environment that will sanction periodic arrests and detentions by the BNI under any government if all the BNI and the Police need is a warrant that can be granted in any court anyway.

I sympathize with the defense lawyers of the public officials on trail. The Fabiles, Kulendis and the Odames. These are “biased” professionals who need to earn their pay. They had been quiet in the Mafioso days of the Kufour led administration when the same BNI was ruthlessly used to arrest, humiliate, abuse and in extreme cases torture citizens suspected to have committed an offence or the other. Some NDC functionaries were haunted by the security agencies until they sought asylum in foreign lands, some died in custody and others lost their investments. I will not regret to say that these Lawyers (who are trained to protect the rights of the common man irrespective of their political biases) decided to break their culture of silence in recent times because it is more economical to do so under the Mills led NDC Administration.

The NPP does not have the moral standing to question the tactics of the BNI and the CID when worse forms were used under their administration as nothing has really changed today except the colours of government. The infringement on the human rights of Mr. Hodare Okine is still fresh on our minds. The arrest of Miss Dzidzor Tay by the BNI in relation to a comment she made on air, the search of Mr. E.T Mensah’s residence and his subsequent detention and stripping in the premises of the BNI without access to a lawyer are very fresh on our minds. If indeed what is good for the goose could be equally good for the gander, then I opine that the Courts should consider the spirit of the law establishing the BNI carefully not just the letter of the law and give this country better standards for our institution in order to strengthen them.

It is indeed very early for the BNI to give up on pursing the cases on their records and again it is too early for the corrupt officials under the NPP to go rejoicing over a so-called “victory for democracy”.

The BNI has been a very strong and formidable component of the National Security apparatus and the pursuit of all kinds of legal gymnastics against the BNI should not deter their resolve to weed Ghana of corruption in anyway. We will keep watch and add our voice to this debate to condemn the condemnable and defend the defensible without fear or fervour. God Bless our Homeland Ghana!

Felix Mawulolo Amegashie

Lix_mawulolo@yahoo.com