IKA Writes: The sorry condition of our State Institutions; doom awaits
In January 2017, Ghana Police Service held a Press Conference to brief the media and by extension the nation about actions taken by the Police Service in respect of foot soldiers lawlessness after Nana Addo took over power from Mahama.
At the Press Conference, the police listed a number of people, mostly NPP sympathisers arrested for seizing some businesses and properties perceived to be manned by supporters of the NDC and owned by the state.
To be honest, at the Press Conference, every single reporter doubted whether the police service will follow the issue to the logical conclusion or chicken out like they mostly do when the identity of the offender is Kweku NPP or Kofi NDC.
After the Press Conference, one Senior Police Officer (name withheld) approached me and said “Isaac, not that we cannot fight these foot soldiers or bring the politicians to order: the truth is that we are not given the room to operate as professionally as we’d want to operate.
He added: “any police officer who tries to enforce the law to the letter risks getting punished in many ways.” He stated transfers and promotions as areas used to punish or reward police officers.
According to him, all they needed was total independence from the government so that in the execution of their duty, they don’t harbour the fear of getting punished for doing the right thing because the one at the wrong end is a politicians or connected to a powerful one.
This is clearly a frustrated senior police officer who is forced to close his eyes over wrongs because we operate a system that puts the destiny of the law enforcer in the hand of the potential law breaker.
When Obama paid his historic visits to Ghana in 2009, he made a profound statement that has become a sound bite to ward off the gun man from jumping to political leadership through coup de tat. “Africa Doesn’t Need Strong Men, It Needs Strong Institutions”
We lost sight of the most important thing he said which to me isn’t what has become our sound bite but what I have captured below:
“Democracy is more than holding election; it’s also about what happens between elections.” Nations with strong institutions that respect independent judiciaries, police forces and press are key to democracy, “because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives,”
We paid little attention to this because all we know about Democracy in this country is keeping a Civilian government in power. It doesn’t matter if the democratically elected government rises above the laws of the land and get state institutions to protect them.
January 4th to 6th remains one of the most chaotic days of my 9 years of practice as a journalist. During the accreditation for the handing over ceremony, NPP supporters invaded the National Accreditation Centre to be given special accreditation to participate at the January 7th Handing Over Ceremony. This is a public event that was opened to every Ghanaian and yet party loyalist felt they needed special accreditation to go to the Independence Square. Strangely, Information Service Department and National Security could not tell these supporters that they were not part of the process. In the end, it was a scramble for accreditation between journalist, dignitaries and party foot soldiers
Party supporters hijacking national events is not new and what happened prior to the 7th January event is unlikely to be the last, but I am looking for a Ghana where laws work and institutions don’t bend the rules because the offenders ride on an elephant or carry an umbrella even at dawn when it is not raining
At the accreditation centre, one police officer likely to be in his early thirties tried to ensure some orderliness by insisting on getting journalists first attended to before any ‘improvisation.
One foot-soldier took his name and threatened that the very next day he was going to lose his job. I knew it was an empty threat but guess what? In less than 5 minutes, the police officer had blown cold like frozen sobolo. He laid back and watched on for matters to worsen because his job was now on the line and given the fact that his colleagues had abandoned their duty, it wasn’t worth the sacrifice
Last week, we woke up to the news that Ibrahim Mahama received an invitation to answer questions at EOCO on some alleged 44 dud cheques he issued to Ghana Revenue Authority
If the allegation and facts of the matter are not distorted to fit into the widely held view that the brother of our ex-President indeed abused the power held by his brother, then it is a big deal and must be dealt with according to the law
My issue is EOCO and how they suddenly realized their powers and usurped the effort of Ghana Revenue Authority who were using their internal mechanisms to deal with the matter.
This Ibrahim Mahama and GRA issue has been dragging on since 2015: since when did EOCO realise that the brother of the former President had issued dud cheques to Ghana Revenue Authority?
GRA deserve a mention too. How many Ghanaians, with no political connection would have been given this leeway? Why did they wait until December 2016 when the NPP won elections before entering repayment agreement with Ibrahim Mahama.
It’s a shame that we live in a country that institutions forget their core mandate when it comes to dealing with politicians. Many Ghanaians including top businesses have gotten their items confiscated for refusal to pay their duties on time but not the brother of our President.
Power has shifted and it is time to redirect the privileges. After pampering him for two years and embarking on fruitless journey to the bank on countless times, GRA can now sanction Ibrahim Mahama for defaulting in payment and give him deadlines.
It is also true that in the event people refuse to pay or default in their payment, Ghana Revenue Authority use internal mechanisms to deal with the issue.
Ibrahim Mahama is not the first to do this and won’t be the last to do it but one law must apply to whoever does wrong.
How many times have EOCO investigated people for defaulting in their payments to GRA?
For the record, Ibrahim Mahama is not the first to issue dud cheques to the revenue authority but each instance; they have found ways internally to deal it. In cases beyond them, they have used the police successfully.
Ibrahim Mahama got a special treat from GRA because his brother was in power and is getting raw deal from EOCO because he’s no longer where the shots are called.
This is what happens when State Institutions operate at the whims and caprices of politicians.
Three days after Hon Kennedy Agyapong put his life on the line, EOCO moved to deal with Ibraham Mahama without even consulting Ghana Revenue Authority who had reached a repayment agreement with him, imposed a penalty on him and given him a deadline to pay.
This wasn’t the first time Hon Kenedy Agyapong raised an alarm on this issue. When he did it in the past, he was ignored because his government was in opposition and the culprit was in power.
Today, his government is in power so EOCO felt obliged to deal with the issue even though it was not in their jurisdiction
What happened to the whistle blowers act signed in 2006 to deal corruption even from speculation and whispering?
At best, the police should have dealt with the matter. This is how dud cheques are dealt with. Interestingly, GRA has not been able to respond to the number of cheques issued. They are afraid to contradict government sources with the fact only they can have access to. The spokesperson of GRA has declined giving the exact number of cheques on every single platform he has been on to set the record straight.
EOCO on the other hand bypassed all the dud cheques that have been issued to GRA to pick the one that suit their new political alignment.
Bank of Ghana issues dud cheques on regular basis, businessmen do it all the time, state in institutions do it all the time. Does it make this one right? Of cause not! But when there’s selectivity in application of the law, it undermines the integrity of State Institution and makes it difficult to rule out the political influence in their decision
As long as State Institutions cannot operate with absolute independence, lawlessness will thrive and the fight against corruption will forever remain a mirage.
So far, the whistle blowers act is the most useless law passed in Ghana’s parliament. This is why I am not even enthused about the Right to Information Bill.
Regardless of how many laws we make in this country, (For the record, we have some of the best in the World) without the political will and genuine desire of State Actors to see thing done right, we won’t make much progress in the fight against corruption.
Why should the President Appoint the IGP? Why should he appoint the Commissioner of CHRAJ? Why should he appoint the head of EOCO? Why should the president of the day have a hand in the appointment of the EC chair?
Who bites the finger that feeds him?
Whatever the objective of the framers of our constitutions were, from where I stand as a layman in legal matters, a lot doesn’t add up or to be diplomatic, most of them have outlived their usefulness.
In this country, it is clear that intelligent people deliberately make bad laws or undermine good ones to propagate their selfish and negative agenda.
However, the time is ripe to right some wrongs and save this nation in the future. This party supporters chaos that largely goes unpunished stands in the way of peaceful elections in this country.
We are sitting on time bomb. It isn’t every day that supporters of opposition parties will chicken out in the face of abuse because their party lost the elections. In the year 2000, NPP Members attacked NDC Member without a single arrest from Ghana Police. In 2008 NDC Members did same to NPP members and got away with it. It repeated itself this year.
One day, the abused will react and things will get out of hand. This country’s long term security and stability can be sustained only if we allow State Institutions to operate without any political interference.
There is no difference between Civilian Governments that prevent State Institutions from operating independently and a Military Government. Both are affront to democracy.
Credible elections are not enough: Credible institution is the way to go.
God save this country
Isaac Kyei Andoh