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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Columnist: Amegashie, Felix Mawulolo

Mr. IGP, Your Move!

The hottest fiat issued by the Ghana Police Service that “no motorbikes be seen on the streets after 8PM” could be described as misplaced if not a rather harsh measure at curtailing robbery in the capital. Like using a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito larva, the directive, which was vehemently defended by DSP Kwesi Ofori, Director of Public Affairs at the Police Headquarters, should not earn the endorsement of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Paul Quaye, in my candid opinion.

I listened to arguments posited by one Mr. Abdul Basit, a Law Lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Ghana who also doubles as a Human Rights Lawyer, in an interview on News Night, a Joy FM current Affairs Programme on Thursday August 20, 2009. He raised serious objections to this directive from the legal perspective and warned the Police that the Institution is NOT a Law making one, not even with quasi-legislative powers and that this directive is a direct abuse of the rights of motor bikers at all levels. He stated further that if the Police are interested in banning the use of Motorbikes after 8PM, they need parliament for this authority. The Police on the other side expressed dissatisfaction to the extent to which they are being stalked by Human Rights advocates when it comes to issues concerning the methodology employed by the Police in fighting crime. I am not sure the Police got it right this time round. Following from these dissertations, I harangue that the IGP pulls the plugs immediately on the alacrity at which the Crime Unit of the Ghana Police Service is going about issuing all manner of fiats and directives at either curtailing rights of citizens or introducing all manner of illegal tactics into their operations. Foremost, the rational to this approach at combating crime falls flat on the face! It is laughable for the police to conclude that motorbikes can only be used to commit crimes at night. Again it is unimaginable for the Police to think that the citizenry or the Atta Mills-led government will sit back and allow them to undertake any form of extra judicial activities. This concern is most tenable at the heels of recent legal and constitutional defeat state institutions like the BNI suffered in our courts and I consider it is about time the Para- military institutions of state respected the rights and liberties of citizens, even though we have seen the exact opposite during the Kufour led-administration to which most human right activists and lawyers amazingly turned a blind eye on. The arguments for the use of motorbikes by many young persons are not far fetched especially in communities up North. It is more economical to purchase, register and fuel motorbikes especially by the average income earner, than other faster means of transport.

It is equally fashionable especially for the daring and adventurous youth to pride themselves in owing motorbikes which they use for both business and leisure.

It is again faster to transport oneself to and fro the chaos of city life on a motorbike than spending hours in heavy traffic that reduces productivity and national output. To the national economy, faster means of transportation are more preferable irrespective of the social cost that comes with it even in advanced countries.

For the Police to pigeon-hole themselves into believing that by banning motorbikes on the streets after 8 PM is the solution to their definition of the fight against crime is most pathetic. Conversely this directive is capable of creating social chaos and conflicts against the background that the Police might capitalize on this illegal fiat to extort monies from unsuspecting bikers( as it has already been alleged by one John Paul, whom claims the Police towed his bike from the threshold of his residence at night and hauled it to the Teshie Police station where he was forced to pay an amount of 100 Ghana cedis, or face legal charges, to the officer before the bike was returned to him; source joy fm news night Thursday august 20,2009). This is not far fetched as many motorists are in constant fight with the police for alleged extortions and other abuses on the roads especially in the rural areas. Take the transportation gaps in Tamale, Wa, Bolga, Navrongo, Walewale, yendi, Bawku and other major towns in the three regions in the northern part of Ghana. The phenomena of bad and unmotorable roads coupled with high cost of fuel has forced many citizens to own motorbikes as the cheapest, fastest and most economical means of transport and this dangerous path that the Police are charting will only explode into bigger conflicts and abuses on our roads.

Is it not common knowledge that most of our police officers do not understand the practices of the profession themselves? Is is not common that many of these young, over-zealous and get-rich-quick-crazy police officers only capitalize on the powers of state to take bribes from suspected persons. Many of them do not understand what the laws mean, let alone issues of human right.

It is against this background that I suggest the IGP takes immediate steps to stop this acts of illegality as it might have negative repercussions for government in view of the deficiencies that are rife in this directive. Instead of banning the use of bikes, I think the Police should rather ensure that unregistered bikes and vehicles be seized unconditionally at night and speed limits put on the riders of these bikes especially off the highways to protect life and property.

Again, the Police should be re-educated and re-oriented in line with the changes the IGP vowed introducing into the Police Service on issues of human rights and law enforcement to give meaning to the change we voted for in the last elections. The Police must not be given the leeway to do what they please cloaked in crime prevention but they should be reorganized and re-oriented to appreciate the rights and liberties of Ghanaian citizens in totality.

Isn’t it time, young graduates are considered for recruitment into all Para-military institutions of state to inject a high sense of responsibility and intelligence into the operations of these institutions instead of the usual B.E.C.E and S.S.C.E students into the service? Just meet any young police officer and ask him or her simple questions of the constitution of Ghana, the security and Intelligence act, and issues of Human rights and you will be amazed at the level of intellectual decadence and mediocrity that some of them display especially those who did not seek higher education after their basic levels. We need to strengthen our institutions and the first point of call should be the Ghana Police Service.

Mr. IGP, your move!

God Bless our Homeland Ghana!

Felix Mawulolo Amegashie lix_mawulolo@yahoo.com