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Opinions of Sunday, 28 November 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Taxes, poverty and killers’ rights

By George Sydney Abugri

I could always do with good news any day, Jomo, and truly wish I had some for you, cross my heart. Unfortunately, here is all the news I have: Frequent power cuts are threatening to cripple the economy again, motor traffic congestion in the capital has never been so maddening and Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Dufuor has just read his annual budget and left tax payers scratching their heads like baboons afflicted by a multitude of ticks and fleas.

The debate on the budget ended even before it started. As far as the opposition was concerned, the 2010 budget was the worst annual national budget since the creation of the first modern state. Dr Kwabena Duffuor and his government insisted it was the best thing ever to happen to national economic management.

The Minority in Parliament tried putting Dr. Duffour’s budget statement in the shredding machine, claiming it was intended to squeeze the last pesewa in taxes out of tax payers in order to make up for budgetary deficits in 2010.

Dr. Duffuor insisted his budget was certain to lead to substantial economic growth and stability. Who is lying? Darned if I have anything resembling a clue or rather let us wait and see how far the growth targets will be met.

On second thought, there was some “good’ news after all: In the old game of cops and robbers, the robbers are supposed to be the constant fugitives and the cops their pursuers but amid the epidemic of armed robbery across the country, the robbers have turned the tables on the cops and are chasing and killing every cop in sight.

Small numbers and an appalling lack of logistics, equipment and appropriate crime-busting technology have all but reduced our police force into a pack of boy scouts on a faltering picnic!

The “good” news is that alleged cop killer and veteran bandit, Johnson Kombian was captured by Togolese security agents and repatriated to Ghana during the week. He appeared in court sporting a puffed eye and walking with a conspicuous limp.

George Assemening his lawyer said the police had given his client a pounding of the limbs and muscles, which action he pointed out, amounted to a blatant abuse of his client's rights. See? Killers too have their rights, Jomo. It is a tenet of democracy and you either run a truly democratic society or a despotic and repressive one, no more, no less..

The police said the veteran bandit had carried the limp for years after he had been shot in the leg, but his lawyer said the police had no proof of that. {I will be returning to Kombian presently.}

Nothing justifies armed robbery and other violent crimes but hey, we must also acknowledge that most of our social problems are a result of the failure by nearly all the political administrations since independence, to put human beings at the very center of all development planning.

I suspect that when they drive through the streets of our cities, our leaders do not see the people for the crowds, as in the case of the woods and trees.

The average top political appointee cruising along in his big, gleaming vehicle sees the dense mass of people along the busiest streets alright but he is often unable to pick up at close range, the sweaty young woman peeling off the shell of a boiled egg and stuffing it with fresh pepper paste for the equally sweaty trotro diver seated morosely behind the wheel in stagnant motor traffic.

He sees the crowds alright but not the woman with an infant strapped to the back who has been standing in the sun for a millennium brandishing a couple of packets of dry biscuits no one appears to want or the famished looking character on the apparent prowl, eyeing trouser pockets and handbags in the crowd.

The policies which drive social development and progress are designed by people who are sometimes far removed from the everyday realities the mass of our people face. As a result they appear to have a skewed perception of what the real priorities of the people of communities are.

As if that were not bad enough, the regular international lending agencies tie the hands of our policy makers further by making all manner of demands as conditions for access to development loans and grants.

This week, I saw a group of about 15 fishermen on the Tema Beach Road, preparing old drag nets which had no doubt seen many a fishing season. While they worked, they sang what sounded like a fisherman’s adaptation of a traditional war chant: Simple, hardworking individuals determined to make an honest living with very limited resources.

They stood ankle deep in the beach sand wearing old shorts including some which appeared not to have been too laundry soap-friendly for a while.

Every community needs projects designed to optimize the use of its natural resources while addressing the peculiar needs of its people, don’t you think?

Cases of drowning and other accidents are fairly common along the beach for example, making the fishermen a valuable public safety resource: These fishermen know the sea and the sea seems to know them.

When it comes to emergency rescue, it is only these fishermen who dare enter the sea to attempt coaxing a drowning man away from raging waves. You factor all that in a special programme of social intervention. They get government support for a project that will help them catch more fish and live more decently. In return, you get a healthier, law-abiding fishing community with a corps of trained rescuers at the disposal of the nation.

Back to Kombian: There is this tale about Kombian’s alleged ability to dematerialize into plain atmospheric oxygen at his own prompting. Some say the rumour is only a superstitious alibi intended to divert attention from consideration of the possibility that he may have had police, prisons and administrative officials in the areas of his operation on the regular take.

The MP for Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo , Emmanuel Kwame Duut has staunchly denied allegations that he received cash from Koambian for his Election 2008 campaign. It is alleged that Mr. Philip Larry who was the Northern Regional Commander of the Prisons Service at the time of Kombian’s escape from the Tamale Prison, may not have done enough to ensure that he remained in custody.

Larry now happens to be the District Chief Executive for Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo and was in charge of the District Security Council at the time Kombian and his accomplices killed two cops last month.

Larry it also so happens, was my junior by one year at teacher training college in the 1960s and remained a close friend of mine for many years. I have never doubted his honesty and integrity but then, we shall await the outcome of investigations.

The Inspector General of Police should protect Kombian like a prized possession and guard the captured bandit like he would his own pair of eyes:

Having so brazenly pulled off so many robberies and jail breaks on the Savanna for so long and having come into contact with so many prison and police officers he may have the kind of information that will provide clues about the nature and organization of the army of bandits operating from coast to borders.

The challenge now is for Inspector General of Police Mr. Paul Quaye to convince Kombian to sing in any musical key of his choice! Email: Website: