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Opinions of Monday, 5 July 2010

Columnist: Assam, Balemwo

I Still Don’t Want To Believe

By Balemwo Assam

I have a lot of friends in the Custom and Excise establishment who are very genuine patriotic citizens. I still believe it’s not all the Custom and Excise officers who’re corrupt but we have a whole bunch of social miscreants amongst them, metamorphosed into the uniform to expropriate people they encounter no matter how law abiding citizen you choose to prove.

You can best understand me if you have ever encountered these masqueraders at the border or at the sea-ports, posing in uniforms as Custom and Excise officers with rapacious agenda. They will frustrate you, through every foul means possible to expropriate every dime from you not for the government but, for their own pockets.

Processing a document that will take a minute can take the whole day to be signed by them. They can even inform you the documents are lost just to frustrate you into submission to their whims. They can use every means to excessively charge you to even abandon any valuable item there. These people operate without any bridle to calibrate their operations.

Some few months ago, we had a patriotic citizen who went round the country to expose the level of corruption going on at our borders. I still don’t want to believe what I’m hearing. I just heard the case involving the Custom and Excise officers who were exposed by the journalist’s, has been dismissed from the court of justice. Citing failure of the prosecutor to appear in court necessitated exoneration of the culprits from prosecution.

Most Ghanaians saw the video tapes produced by this patriotic journalist called Anas Aremeyaw who garnered them for maximum evidence. Even though I’m not an authority when it comes to the law, common sense tells me something’s not right in this instance.

I don’t think we necessarily need a particular prosecutor to deal with the case in which Custom Officers were exposed evidently collecting bribes from smugglers. If you watched the tapes, these officers were clearly and gleefully stashing money they collected from the smugglers into their pockets in broad day light. Instances like these do we need a particular prosecutor to get them through due process?
It’s the same judiciary that will throw somebody into prison for stealing a tuber of cassava for years or a taxi driver into jail for a broken taillight but cannot even prosecute a perpetual legalized metamorphosed armed robbers posing as Custom officers, equipped by the people of Ghana with guns to catch smugglers who have broken the law glaringly. By citing unconvincing excuses that, the prosecutor did not show up. What of if the prosecutor drop dead, what happen to the cases they handle, will those cases be flushed down the tubes and the culprits freed?

What precedent are we trying to bequeath to the up-coming generation? Are we saying the guiding principle of our moral fabric in society does not exist anymore? That our courts cannot deal with people who engage in nefarious acts if they’re wearing coat/ties and pushing pens? Are we saying people are going to be punished only if they’re private citizens? Are we clearly demonstrating that, any functionary with the government who’s a thief cannot be prosecuted?

Are we clearly tacitly demonstrating, if you’re working in government or in government institutions, you’ll be covered if you steal but if you’re a private individual you’ll be jailed? Do we have two laws in Ghana, one for the private individuals and the other for masqueraders in government circles? Are we glorifying evildoers in our society if only they are from the government sector?
Here we are with disguised miscreants amongst trained professionals manning vantage points of entry into the nation, to collect revenue for the government. These miscreants with ill-gotten monies are competing among themselves, buying plush cars and building mansions throughout the country without any iota of guilt or shame. Some sending their wives and girlfriends abroad to shop whiles they chill in expensive hotels pretending all these funds comes from their salaries just as any ordinary worker in the nation.
Everybody knows what’s going on with regards to these groups of disguised miscreants yet, nobody want to talk about them or get them exposed. So if a citizen risk his life to bring to the fore misdeeds of these people in our society with glaring evidence and the culprits are left with flimsy excuses, it’s unacceptable. A patriotic journalist, who exposed these miscreants nationally, should be commended, glorified, and honoured because it was a patriotic duty. We should be very proud of a journalist of this calibre who’s not interested in unnecessary gossip to divide people but is actively involved in shaping the basic tenets of our future.

Should this be the remuneration of a patriotic citizen who tries to make it possible to filter the system with overwhelming undeniable evidence? Do we have to stab this patriotic citizen in the back for exposing deliberate leaking revenue basket of our nation? While our government keep hovering all over begging for funds to develop the nation?

The same measure of salaries are received based on positions by every Ghanaian worker in the country yet, apart from these Customs and Excise expropriators, most workers struggle just to get by the month. Any society that curtails its arsenals to battle evil will soon be consumed by it.
It’s amazing to see how some people will descend on anybody who mentions justice and accountability at any forum in this nation today, they will run you down. Anybody who dare mention justice and accountability’s attacked with the maximum force from every angle in our society to quiet that person with vilification and embarrassment. Why then do we rush to the churches and mosques every Sundays and Fridays to worship God?
When did it become a taboo to mention justice and accountability in this our nation? Are we in survival for the fitter’s society that justice and accountability is thrown to the dogs? If we fail to adhere to this social norm that prevails in every serious society in the world then, we should brace ourselves for volatile consequences the fallout may produce in future.
Watching those video tapes, the President was terrified, went to Tema harbour to warn their colleagues who indulge in these nefarious activities to have introspection of themselves, only for the officers to be released the following broad day light? Somebody should help us here, what’s going on in Ghana?
Here we have government legalized armed robbers milking a country dry in broad day light and the judiciary including people at the helm of affairs to prosecute them are stealthily, assisting them without any iota of guilt in their conscience.
We have some within this establishment, who’re elders and priest of churches yet they consciously spear-head these nefarious activities with clear conscience of covetousness. I wonder what they preach if they’re leading the congregation in their churches? It’s unfortunate we have some amongst them who have been to Mecca with these expropriated monies and surprisingly they happily respond if they are called Alhaji. These masqueraders expropriate monies from people without blinking or reflecting to the principles of their religions.
If we will allow this type of social injustices to freely continue then, the government should establish a National Fraud Institution to train all patriotic law abiding citizens how to also indulge in same tactics, to level the playing ground for everybody. Because some cannot be feeding glaringly fat on the government while others struggle just to get by every day. If we fail to account for positions and treasures we are suppose to hold in trust for the public then, we are not fit to occupy those positions.
If we think looking the other way while people use every means to extort funds from their places of work will bring peace to the nation then, think again. Let this be very clear to every peace loving citizen that, this situation has prevailed in most countries in Africa for some time and the results are not pleasant in spite of all the wealth generated in those countries. If you should ask every citizen from those countries who sincerely wants to be factual, he will elucidate, there’s no peace in those countries as a result, most people are crawling out of those countries if they have the means.
Ghanaians, we are drifting into the same slippery dark path. If a society runs amok without guarantors of accountability and the rule of law it’s very scary. Whoever tells you, if criminals wearing coats and ties or pushing pens to steal are left alone exude peace in societies, that person’s completely exhibiting fallacy, weather that person telling you is a Priest; an Imam; in the private sector or in the government circles.
It’s not ideal for a bunch of social miscreants to metamorphose into uniforms to loot the nation without any bridle to control the system in which they operate. Most Ghanaians are God fearing and law abiding citizens, for that reason we must do something about this social misconduct gradually viewed as a norm in our nation, it’s not.
But there’s glimmer of hope, thank God the attorney general has ordered the case to be reopened immediately on the same day it was dismissed. Society must frown on these types of judges who see nothing wrong by assisting in the creeping deterioration of our nation. It’s our hope this time the judges will deal with the case accordingly.

Our society’s gradually drifting into anomie if we don’t step on the brakes with maximum force to bring this canker to a screeching halt, we will all bear the brunt of unforeseeable consequences that may follow as a result. It’s unfortunate to say this but, that’s the undeniable truth in life. In any society in this world that lacks justice and accountability, peace is always transient in those societies. So anybody who loves Ghana must support accountability and justice. Out of these two principled foundations we will continue to enjoy peace.

Source: Balemwo Assam

Washington DC