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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Ali Abdul

The Ghana police and the law of ghana

The average policeman in Ghana is not only an indiscipline semi literate liar but is also an ego driven lawless employee of the state who’s conception of policing need serious is reviewing, if the dream of a modern justice in Ghana has to be achieve.
More than 89% of cases relating to the law in Ghana assume their formal nature with the police, as the starting point in the establishment of modern course of justice, when they have gained the attention of the police by being on the scene or the members of the public reporting the case to the police. One therefore expect the policeman to know his/her stuff better than the “kukunte chop bar” assistant type of policing, improvising tricks to wiggle him/her self out of issues. This unfortunate character lives our police officers with self seeking sense of having their way at all cost.
The next critical person in the course of establishing justice, by employing the law of Ghana in the life of the Ghanaian, is the judge when he/she is presiding over a case. Our Ghanaian judges are so comfortable in depending on the undisciplined corruptible police officers, on a case brought into court by a policeman, than a better knowledge of the law. In fact my last experience on Wednesday the 15th January 2014, at the Greater Accra and La Magistrate Court, confirmed my concerns.
What actually happened in the court, than anything else, exposed a dramatic atmosphere of too much familiarity between an ill-prepared unprofessional police officer and a judge with a very poor knowledge of the law. The judge indeed confessed to the entire court that he was not prepared for the case and was just sitting in for another judge, when his deformity assumed an unimaginable twist.
The case above relates to the Ghana Police charging 7 Nima Youths for “Demonstrating without Notifying the Police”. The charge relates to Public Order Law Act (ACT491) and what is being levelled against the demonstrators, is a criminal charge on behalf of the state.
The case started with the sitting judge having a blood stained eyes, arrogant, unkempt, shabbily dressed, unidentifiable, male police officer introducing himself to the judge. In fact it took the judge almost four times to ask the police officer to repeat his name, as the officer feels his name written in black with a brown background displayed on his chest, is more than enough for the judge to know who is standing before him. The judge has to scribe down something on the notebook before him, just to save himself from the bullying and lawless police officer. The judge shows he is as bad as any Ghanaian whose police officers move about without their ID numbers clearly displayed on their shoulders, for the purpose of identification.
I sat in the court room wondering what was unfolding itself before me. I then said to myself “God, the judge is sacred of the police officer”. Indeed the judge was scare of the police officer because this man and his colleague in plain cloth, displayed abysmal level of ignorance of the law and no one in the court room dare call them to order. One saw all these clearly unfolding when the seven Nima Boys were called to the witness box, their lawyer introducing himself to the court and the case proceeding.
The Judge asked the police officer in uniform, pointing at the 7 Nima Youths youths, “What are the charges against these people?” The police officer was clearly seen struggling with a reply, to which a plain cloth officer sitting among the crowd behind the uniformed police officer came to his rescue, “They demonstrated”. The police officer in uniform then repeated “They demonstrated”. The judge appeared a bit confuse, wondering where the answer was coming from. The judge still proceeded by asking, “They demonstrated against what?” The police officer in uniform fiddled with the dirty green folder before him, stuffed with dog ears stained piles of paper and replied “They demonstrated against the public”. The plain cloth police officer, who was not recognized by the court but seated among the audience of the court, then interjected again, “They demonstrated against their MP (Member of Parliament)”. The confused uniform police officer again echoed “They demonstrated against their MP”.
The judge looked even more confused and realising that the police officers are no good for purpose, he turned his attention to the lawyer of the youths, “Are you their lawyer?” The lawyer replied “Yes My Lord.” The judge then added with a clear facial expression of concern “They demonstrated against the MP?” The lawyer then replied “My Lord, they were demonstrating against the poor state of a community gutter and demanding for why it has not been constructed despite the award of the contract”.
The arrogant uniformed police officer then joined the conversation without being asked to, “My Lord, they demonstrated without a police notification”. The judge then looked at the direction of the police man and not knowing whether to call him to order or to accept a colleague contribution to the upholding of justice in Ghana, he turned back to the lawyer. The lawyer of the Nima youths then continued to explain himself furthers, “My Lord, my clients did notify the police and the information contained in their charges confirmed this. The police officer is referring to the Public Order Act where the law did says my clients cannot disagree with the police to discontinue with their demonstration, if they feel they want to do so. What the law says is ‘if the police asked a demonstrator not to go ahead with a planned demonstration and the demonstrators insist they are going to do so, the police then have to go to the High Court to obtain an Order to stop the demonstration’ My Lord, that is what the law says”.
The judge clearly has no clue about the Public Order Act and the duty of the police in maintaining the law. What then became obvious is the judge resorted to other tactics to save his face. The judge then turned to the uniformed police officer and asked in a patronising manner “Why don’t you think a warning or something of the sort will help?” The arrogant shabby looking blood stained eye policeman then reply “They broke the public peace.” In a confused manner, the judge probed further “Was anything destroyed?” The police officer then added “Yes, they were violent and two people were injured”.
The lawyer of the Nima youths then corrected “My Lord, it was a peaceful demonstration until the Police team appeared on the scene to disperse the youths by force. It was in the course of these skirmishes that a police officer and one of the demonstrators sustained injuries”. The judge then asked the vengeful unprofessional police officer “Why don’t you make them pay for the medical cost?” The attitude of the arrogant police officer and his plain cloth ill courted colleague showed they will be stopping at nothing than having the 7 youths sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment.
The judge saved his own skin, than throwing the case out of court by having it postponed to the 6th of February, Thursday 2014.
The seven youths who led the demonstration are made up of students, drivers, fathers, traders, teachers and citizens of Ghana. Wasting their time in court is what I struggle to live with, by my conscience of ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocate. I wonder why these same youths who were able to mobilize about two thousand persons of all ages for a demonstration over a filthy gutter, threatening their health, are not seeing the need to have the public joining them in the court.
The youths told me they are just buying time and want to be lawful citizens. They told me that inviting a huge population to the court premises will not be allowing the court and the police to prove to the people of Ghana that they are serving their own interest than the justice system of Ghana. They then let me into their next line of action which I hope should not happen. The next line of action depends on whether justice is seen to be done or the police and the court connive to punish the innocent.
Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
Chair/Coordinator
ECRA (ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocate)
(+44)7984445344, (+233) 261414221, yekali2002@yahoo.com