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Opinions of Monday, 30 May 2016

Columnist: A.R. Gomda

Service with integrity

I thought another engagement with the media by the top hierarchy of the law enforcement service was unnecessary when the media honoured an invitation for a chat at the Cafeteria of the Police Headquarters last Thursday. My position was informed by the fact that a similar engagement was hosted by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) a fortnight or so ago earlier where the Inspector General Of Police (IGP) was a guest and even delivered a speech on the subject of ensuring a successful election in November.

I was wrong because the Ghana Police Service as the state institution mandated to maintain law and order should be the frontline agency organizing such encounters. The Ghana Armed Forces only plays a supportive role to the civilian Police especially when the latter is overwhelmed by the magnitude of a civil disobedience which threatens the sovereignty of the state.

The reception accorded us at the police headquarters was not bad. Perhaps being the special guests of the IGP, the usual mandatory requirement of the dropping of mobile phones at the Reception was wavered.

The Cafeteria is beautiful spotting an array of pictures of former IGPs from the olden days and near immaculate clean. The Central Band of the Ghana Police Service was at hand to provide music needed for such occasions.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) was represented by the Chief of Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, Brigadier Sampson Adeti whose management of questions proved valuable.

“Police/military operations are steeped in history,” was a hint given to a curious journalist who sought answer to how the two would be undertaking a joint mission during the polls.

According to the IGP when the civilian police are overwhelmed by a civil disobedience, the military is invited, an invitation which has a template. Following the restoration of law and order, the police would take over once more, the IGP explained.

Friday’s engagement was about how to ensure the success of the forthcoming polls with the IGP’s speech setting the tone for the interactive session which was the period when media persons poured their hearts out.

The IGP had earlier implored the media to join hands with them to deliver a successful elections in the country, assuring that the law enforcement agency and other security services will work together to ensure that all goes well with the national assignment.

The IGP spoke about reaching out to other stakeholders with a view to achieving the objective of another successful election.

Talensi popped up during the engagement when a question had the IGP stating that what happened in that electoral area has been reviewed and the appropriate lessons learnt adding that this impacted on the success chalked in Amenfi West in a latter by-election.

The interactive session was interesting for the media assembled because it is such segments which give, especially, the print medium their headlines, the promises of neutrality by security agents and so on, being mundane for the front pages. That is the reality of the industry no matter how much people think about it.

When we left the venue of the programme, I felt sorry for our host because the bit about the possibility of shutting down social media on Election Day was sure going to overshadow the substance of the engagement. I was not wrong as evidenced by the angst of Ghanaians the following day and beyond when the story screamed across the political and media terrain.

Interestingly, the authority to shut down social media is beyond the Ghana Police Service and so just how he would have done it is something I cannot fathom. Maybe he wields extra powers beyond what he already has.

I demanded of the Police Administration to support their personnel who in the course of the performance of their duties lock horns with politicians. There were instances during the limited registration exercise when some politicians sought to interfere with the work of police personnel on duty, failure to oblige leading to threats of action against them by the bullies.

Personnel must have confidence that their superiors would stand by them when politicians seek to punish them with transfers and other punitive measures. For such police personnel, scared about incurring the wrath of politicians, let them calm down because according to the IGP “if personnel operate within the ambit of the law and incur the wrath of politicians, I would support them to the hilt.”

A journalist posed a question regarding what happened at Ningo when DCOP Beatrice Zakpaa Vi-Sanziri then Commander for the Tema Region protested the deployment of soldiers to Ningo during the NDC’s riotous primary election in the constituency without her knowledge.

She was transferred to the Police Headquarters raising suspicions that the action was punitive.

Interestingly Brigadier Adeti present at the function on Friday, attributed whatever happened at Ningo to communication problem. He was then General Commanding Officer (GOC) of the Southern Command of the Ghana Army.

The IGP had explained earlier that the transfer of the commander was in the interest of her career development adding that she has been moved to the Police Headquarters to assist him. I looked at her countenance but was unable to state whether it was a wry smile or not. Be it as it may, the IGP smiled to support his assertion.

COP Prosper Kwami Agblor disagreed that there is a large importation of arms into the country because according to him, information about such developments are always available to him. The Interior Minister is vested with the authority to give the nod for the importation of weapons, information about which is copied him, he said. His remark followed a suggestion that there has been a rise in the volume of arms import.

COP Prosper Kwami Agblor, CID Director delivered important lessons on the acquisition of weapons by individuals; assignment vested in his department by law.

Individuals who seek to own firearms should first be vetted by the CID to ensure that applicants do not have criminal records, have the facility to keep the firearms and the means of acquiring them. Such acquisition is limited to single and doubled barreled firearms, short guns and pump action firearms.

Pistols, he said, must be applied through the Interior Minister and when these arrive at the airport, for instance, having been kept in the custody of the authorities of the aircraft, it is taken over by customs officials until the procedures for its return to the owner are exhausted.

Sellers of cartridges and firearms, he said, should have been given the nod by the Interior Minister after which the magazine where these are kept must have two keys, one kept by the owner and the other, the police. At any time when the need to open the facility arises, the police arms clerk must be present.

Mr. Agblor’s intervention was interesting especially for those who intend acquiring firearms for protection and perhaps hunting.

A group photograph and a sumptuous lunch by the host ended the programme, a repeat of which could be possible in the not distant future all things being equal.