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Opinions of Saturday, 8 April 2017

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

Re: Akufo-Addo defies Ken Agyapong; sanctions Delta Force arrest

So, is that it? In Ghana, a whole president has to sanction for the police to have the authority to arrest people clearly perpetrating crime. And if it’s not the president, then it’s Kwaku Baako on television threatening the transfer of the Ashanti Regional Commander of police before the police do what they are being paid monthly to do. So, I ask myself, the same old question that generations have asked in our little “Banana Republic” to no avail; who is actually in charge of law enforcement in our country?

There can be no democracy, no rule of law, no good governance and no human rights without law enforcement. And when we have a corrupt police force that exists only to please the incumbent and do their bidding, for fear of being dismissed or transferred, then Ghana is in trouble.

Democracy works in America and the United Kingdom only because laws are enforced. That is the same democracy that people like Nana Akufo Addo learnt and came to Ghana to preach to us over decades about multi-party democracy, respect for human rights – the jargons go and on. No one could ever have imagined, that to the likes of Nana Akufo Addo, democracy actually meant coming to power at all costs, even with the help of specially trained vigilante Delta forces, ever so eager to break the law and wreak havoc on a nation. But there you go.

Ghana’s problem is one of a lack of law enforcement. Galamsey is a result of a lack of law enforcement. Corruption is a result of a lack of law enforcement. In America, the BNI do not need a second invitation to start poking their noses into rumours of corruption. In Ghana, the whistle-blower is asked to provide evidence or keep quiet. Deaths on our roads, poor teacher attendance, choked gutters and flooding, poor sanitation, failing National Health Insurance – lack of law enforcement! Delta Forces, Invisible Forces, Azoka Boys – lack of law enforcement.

And until such time as we can develop a truly independent, well-equipped and well-trained police force, and until such time as we can attract our best brains into the intelligence service with good remuneration and service packages, we should forget about Ghana being the beacon of democracy in Africa. We will continue to be what we are - a small banana republic, trying to imitate democratic systems we barely understand.

A friend of mine was recently involved in an accident in the UK. He happened to have been travelling with his wife and their five year old daughter. It was quite a serious accident. Both the wife and daughter had to have operations to arrest internal bleeding. Comparatively, he got away lightly, with just broken limbs to contend with.

We were by our friend’s hospital bed a couple of hours after the accident, when the police arrived. They explained to my friend, very nicely as it turned out, that he had to blow into their breathalyzer to check if he had had any alcohol. Because they were so nice, I was emboldened to ask what they would have done if my friend had been unconscious. They said they would have taken a blood sample and that the law allowed them to do that.

If my friend happened to have been above the alcohol limit, and thank God he was not, they would have bided their time, waited for him to be discharged from hospital, however long that would have taken, and nicely met him at the hospital door to take him into custody to answer for his crime. That is the job they are paid to do, and one they do to the very best of their ability. And they would do the same thing even if it was the prime minister’s son. That is what Ghana has to aspire to, and need I say, we have a long way to go.

My humble opinion is, that we could try addressing the problem by electing a police and crime commissioner in each of the ten regions. An elected police commissioner would not have to be a policeman. Any member of the public who qualifies according to certain laid down job specifications could stand for elections. The police commissioner elections could be organised every four years in but two years before the presidential elections. Their core functions would be to ensure that policing in their regions are as effective as could be. They would have the power to appoint and fire regional police commanders.

The election of the police commissioner would be by law, non-political, though I am aware, that in Ghana, political parties would quietly creep in in order to be able to exert as much influence as possible. Be it as it may, one thing the public would never gamble with is their security and believe me, they would never vote for an incompetent person merely because of rumours of support from some political party. The president would have no right to fire or transfer a police commissioner and this independence would augur well for law enforcement in the country.

So, we can talk all day about building a modern Ghana, of a modern railway service from Takoradi to Paga, of one factory in every district and jobs for our people, of a dam in every village whether they need it or not. But unless, and until, we build an independent police force capable and willing to safeguard our democracy, we will never be able to achieve the lofty targets we have set for ourselves and generations will look back at us with dismay for opportunities lost and dreams unfulfilled.

Papa Appiah