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Opinions of Saturday, 14 August 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Justice, thuggery and a big mall

There is an eeriness about what goes round and most especially, whenever it comes around: It is another noisy and acrimonious one year into a new political administration and another line-up of former public officials bound for the court house to face the dreaded bogey of our criminal justice system-the charge of causing financial loss to the state.

Take note, Jomo, that this law does not say a public official stole money outright but that he took decisions that led to the loss of public money.

The official may have done so through poor judgment or in deliberate collusion with others. The charge of causing financial loss, is qualified by the word “negligently” in the first instance and “willfully” in the second.

Former officials of the Rawlings administration were convicted of the charge and spent years in jail after former President Kufuor came to power in 2000. Now, former Kufuor aides are going to face the same charge.

The natural instinct for survival and the forces of self-preservation are heaving mightily against the tide of accountability and former officials who have been investigated or are being investigated for alleged financial crimes, appear to be buying all the time they can get with hot arguments and objections over the propriety of some of the legal procedures being employed.

The fetish priests of spin are shouting themselves hoarse on radio and television talk programmes and political forums, trying to convince everyone that those being investigated or charged are victims of political persecution and that there is no evidence to successfully prosecute them.

Some in the NDC are using the same mediums for converse propaganda, insisting there is water-tight evidence to convict some officials of the previous administration of financial crimes and that Attorney-General Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu should be fired by the president for taking all eternity to prosecute them.

Some in the NDC say Betty conned President Mills into giving her the Attorney-General’s job with impressive anti-NPP oratory during the last election campaign. Now they claim, Betty is taking her time in prosecuting officials of the previous administration because she has so many friends in the NPP!

Betty now says election season propaganda is entirely different from the administration of criminal justice in a manner that is in keeping with the rule of law. Hallo..!

It is now clear that many in the NDC would have preferred a senior party cadre well steeped in jurisprudence and staunchly loyal to the left right up to a bloody fault.

Hey, it is not the business of agents of propaganda and spin to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to prosecute and convict those who have been investigated or are being investigated, is it, Jomo?

Methinks the authorities should educate all the political propaganda agents turned self-appointed investigators, prosecutors and defence lawyers in the media and on political platforms to please, please, buck off and let the rule of law take its course.

The system is out to rip us off again with noise and confusion, Jomo, but it shall not, for it is a serious criminal offence for anyone to use any method, practical or psychological, to impede investigations into alleged crimes or the judicial process.

Let public prosecutors place all the evidence they have on the scales of criminal justice and let the courts weigh the evidence in full public view, so that guilt or innocence may be established for all to see, is what I say.

I cannot condemn and condone the same thing in one breath can, I, Jomo? Do you recall my rage over the kidnapping of the Tubuodomhene Nana Asare Baffour last week by bodyguards of the Techimanhene and my call for the punishment of the perpetrators?

This week, the Asantehene threatened that he would personally order the kidnapping of the Techimanhene Oseadeeyo Ameyaw Akumfi IV if those responsible for the kidnapping and torture of the Tuobodomhene last week are not punished.

Given the kidnapping and brutal attack on the Tuobodomhene by thugs, the Asantehene's anger is understandable, but was the Otumfuor’s statement not an open incitement to violence and a show of contempt for the rights of another individual? How could the king himself take the very same action he finds barbaric and repugnant?

What happened after the Asante King’s outburst? The youth of Tuobodom and Techiman massed up in their respective towns harassing perceived traditional enemies and all ready for war.

This cannot go on, Jomo. No one is above the law. Absolutely no one. Not even the President who is the number one citizen of the republic.

Repeated failure over the decades to identify and punish the perpetrators of mass violence has led to a brazen and frightening contempt for law, order and social discipline among our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and brought the country to the cliff overhanging disaster. Judging from the politically and ethnically-motivated violence going on in Ghana everyday, it appears that we are headed the same way:

We may try the security prescription which the Nigerians have neglected to take for years but which in the wake of the massacre in Jos, they have vowed to take: Wherever there is planned violence make sure those responsible are promptly and severely punished.

The level of acceptance by the government and people of Ghana that no one is above the law, that there is not one law for the privileged and another for the ordinary people will be put to a very severe test in the case of the estate encroachment on the Tema Motorway.

It is great to have a shopping mall the size of the size of the Accra Mall in the capital of our great republic. The rub is that this one sticks out of the landscape like the proverbial sore thumb.

When the construction of the mall, began, I told someone that somehow something about the location of the project did not appear right.

Now the Lands Commission says the mall was built 45 feet into the motorway. { Why cant the Lands Commissioner go metric like everyone else, for Heaven’s sake?} There are other multi-million dollar projects sitting pretty on the motorway:

The owners of the projects have encroached between 17 and 68 feet onto the reserved zone of the highway: The Trassaco Valley, Accra’s Beverly Hills, the famous Action Chapel, the MTN Warehouse and the Baff Estate Warehouse.

Having chased out large numbers of poor people displaced years ago by ethnic conflicts up north from the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah shanty town in Accra, we wait to see what will happen in the case of these properties which belong to some of the most influential and powerful people in the land!

George Sydney Abugri is a prolific, multi-award winning, Ghanaian newspaper journalist. Read more of his articles at or email him at