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Opinions of Thursday, 30 April 2009

Columnist: Atitsogbui, Paul Parker

Setting The Record Strait: Government Is Not Interfering In Sports Admistration

I feel compelled to share my opinion on the hullabaloo being generated from the recommendation made by the James Marshall committee on the outcome of Kotoko/Accra Hearts of Oak match at the Baba Yara sports stadium which led to the lost of 4 souls and several injuries. I must emphasized with all certainty that there is no power or authority under this sun that has jurisdiction over this case other than the government of Ghana under whose jurisdiction this incident happened, i.e. FIFA, FA or international court(Hague) and thus rubbish the argument that the government is interfering in the sport administration.

FIFA rules make it clear that no government should interfere in the administration of its FA and countries like Kenya, Tanzania among others have been sanctioned for going contrary to that directive. But the key point that people are refusing to appreciate in the case of Kotoko/Hearts match which is different from that of Kenya and the Tanzanian situation is the fact that this involve lost of lives which bothers on criminality and therefore goes beyond the jurisdiction of the FA. A typical example is the case of Barton (ex-Manchester city captain) who slapped a colleague at the dressing room. Clearly, his action falls within the confines of the English FA, yet the Police prosecuted him for that offence for a simple reason that his action bothers on criminality and therefore can only be handled by the state. In a similar situation; May 9th, it is the state which constituted the Commission of Enquiry (Okudjeto commission) to investigate and make recommendation to the state of which the police officers involved where recommended for death penalty, even though they appealed and have the sentence quashed. The fact remains that government’s action did not amounted to government interference as being peddled today.

Now considering the incident at the Baba Yara stadium where 4 lives where lost, the substantive question that comes to mind is, WHAT CAUSED THESE DEATHS? Postmortem clearly shows that they died through suffocation. The question then again is WHAT CAUSED THE SUFFOCATION? Which is obviously the over packed stadium of extra 9000 people (according to reports). The question again is WHO CAUSED THE OVER PACKED STADIUM? The uncertainty of this question compelled the government to constitute the James Marshall committee to investigate and make recommendations.

Now looking at the facts on the ground, it’s obvious that the police officers on duty collected money from some fans and allowed them to use unapproved entry into the stadium. Indeed, at this point it is so obvious that the police officers were culpable to the overcrowding at the stadium. But before we prosecute the police, let’s look at one important scenario. At the cause of the police unlawful act is Mr. Sylvester Owusu (CEO of Kotoko) upon whose request the police were brought to the stadium, pulled up at the crime scene and instead of bringing those criminal police officers to order, he rather ratified the situation to decriminalize the criminal activities. In fact, he went as far as collecting bin buckets and collect money from those using the unapproved entrance by so doing attracted more people to use those routs. In law, Mr. Sylvester’s action has broken the chain of causation and therefore making him responsible for any outcome of his action which of cause is the death of the fans. Explaining chain of causation: if I unlawfully attempt to slap a little boy, and in his attempt to avoid the slap push a table which in turn pushes an old lady and dies as a result, the chain of causation has not been broken and therefore I will be held liable for the old lady’s death even though the charge could only be manslaughter for lack of mens rea. On the other hand, if the little boy had fallen on Mr. B and that provoked him and pushed the little boy who in turn pushes the old lady and dies, there has been an intervening act which will exonerate me of the death. Relating this scenario, Mr. Sylvester Owusu’s action has broken the chain of causation and therefore making him culpable of the crime.

However, the police being under lawful contract/constitutional mandate to enforce the use of the approved entrance the intervening act could not consume them of any criminality, yet they cannot be charged without any reasonable evidence. And the question now goes, where is the evidence? And the simple answer once again is the evidence has been destroyed which I will come on that later, and therefore, the police could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence. In fact had it not been for the money collected by Mr. Sylvester Owusu as evidence against him, he would have never been charged of any offence for lack of evidence.

The argument that Mr. Sylvester got to the stadium late and for that reason his action couldn’t have caused the deaths is to my estimation untenable because, even if we can established that the four people died before he came to the stadium, his action a lone is punishable. Indeed, if the four lives were to be factored in Mr. Sylvester’s punishment, he will at least spend the next five years in jail.

Regarding the theft charge, Mr. Sylvester’s action amounts to an attempt to rob the sports council, Internal Revenue, VAT and any other institutions entitled to certain percentage of the gate proceeds before the net amount settles in Kotoko’s account. In law, the ingredients needed to establish theft is Dishonesty and intention to permanently depriving (mens rea) and appropriation, property and Belonging to one another (actus reu). And by all standards, all these ingredients are established. His dishonesty was intended to deprive the state permanently of its share of the gate proceeds; there was a property which is the money and appropriation of money belonging to one another.

The argument that the money is for Kotoko and for that matter Mr. Sylvester in his capacity as CEO of the former has the legal right to take the money is totally wrong, and that explains why Kotoko is not responsible for the collection of the money at the gate in the first place. Besides, its possible to steal your own property: If you send your car to the shop to be fixed and leave it in the care of the shop owner, your legal possession right has been transferred to the shop owner and you can only have the car back at the consent of the shop owner, anything short of that amounts to stealing. Importing this idea into the situation at hand, the possession right of any gate proceed at the gate has by implication been transferred to the sports council and therefore the only right any Kotoko member or any other stakeholder other than the sport council have to touch/collect the money at the gate is with the consent of the sport council. Anything contrary to that amounts to stealing. On the other hand, Mr. Sylvester would have spared himself of this charge if he had sent the money to the sports council to defeat the element of mens rea. Yet again, the argument that Kotoko is a limited liability company (LTD) and thus the government could not dismiss its CEO is misleading. The fact is, government cannot appoint or decide who should be the CEO of any LTD but can prosecute and charge any CEO of LTD who indulges in criminal activities while executing his duties. Amal Bank is a LTD yet the bank of Ghana was able to ask for the dismisal of its CEO.

Mr. Prince Oduro Mensah

Facts available to the public shows that Mr. P.O. Mensah, CEO of the National sports council wanting to update himself of the exact incident that transpired at the stadium on that faithfully day, brought a computer engineer (a staff at Esi Pong sports stadium) to retrieve the captions on the CCTV at the Baba Yara sports stadium. In the process to retrieve the information, the CCTV got damaged, destroying all the information on the memory card. The sports council was left with no option than to fly in the manufacturers of the CCTV to repair the machine, at the expense of the state. The question yet to be answered is whether the CCTV indeed got damaged in the process or the information was intentionally damage to satisfy certain purposes.

Of cause in his capacity as CEO at the sports council, Mr. P.O Mensah has all the right to request for the information on the CCTV without permission from any authority. Yet, again Mr. P.O.Mensah is much aware that the CCTV is controlled by the national security and therefore has no business in going behind the later to retrieve the captions on the CCTV, unless he has any hidden motive which is not known to Ghanaians. I am still at a lost as to why Mr. P.O. Mensah did not asked the national security to retrieve the information for him, knowing very well that they control the security code, if indeed the information really got damaged in the process of retrieval. Subjecting this scenario to ‘objective text’, the only logical conclusion one can draw is that Mr. P.O. Mensah intended to edit the contents of the CCTV to suit a purpose before the national Security Council could be officially called to tender the CCTV to the James Marshall Committee.

The net effect of Mr P.O. Mensah’s action is providing an escape root for criminals to go unpunished and by so doing has denied the decease, the injured and their families of fair judgment and in my candid opinion Mr. P.O Mensah should not only be removed from his office but be jailed to serve as deterrent to others. In the nut shell, the minister must be highly commended for speedily and efficiently bringing those culprits to order and insisting discipline in the ministry. Of cause with the culture of impunity that is deeply rooted in our present “officialdom” culture, people will resist the effort of the minister and possibly try to implicate him as was done to Mallam Issah. So Mr. Minister, keep it up but be careful of the people around you. The committee must also be commended for a good job done. People should also not be allowed to use their political affiliation and hide behind Kotoko to sabotage the government. If they did not criticize Mr. Kuffour for setting up the Okujeto commission and Rawlings for the Gbadegbe committe, then they have no business criticizing this government. I know for sure that those who staged the demonstration are NPP sympathizers and not Kotoko fans as they claims to be. If we really want to insist discipline in our institutions then we must allow the law to take it cause devoid of political affiliations.

Long leave Ghana sports, Long leave Ghana.

Paul Parker Atitsogbui