Maxwell Adam Mahama’s death is a call on us to carefully reevaluate and reform our justice system

MAXWELL MAHAMA LYNCHED The late Captain Maxwell Mahama

Wed, 31 May 2017 Source: Nathaniel Apadu

Last week, on my way home from work, I came upon three young men. Two of them had seized up the third. They alleged he had stolen a motorcycle belonging to one of them.

According to their own account, they had given the two thieves a hot chase, and that while negotiating a curve, one of the thieves had lost his balance and fallen off the bike at that spot where they were holding him.

Ignoring the comments by we onlookers to take him to a police station, the two young men gave the suspected motorcycle thief a sound beating. At the time I arrived on the scene with a friend, this young man was all covered in his own blood.

Apparently, his accusers wanted him to give them information on the whereabouts of his alleged accomplice, but the suspect kept insisting “I’m not a thief. I’m not a thief!” which attracted even more beatings until more attackers-about fifteen of them joined in the attack, wielding rocks, cement blocks, sticks, shovels, knives, and all sorts of attack weapons.

They beat him up until he passed out, took the time to revive him again, and then continued the beating.

Even when this suspected thief jumped into a passing taxi, the ravaging attackers did not waste time to break the car’s window thrusting shovels, cutlasses and sticks, and hauling rocks into it, in a bid to finish him off.

It was in a residential area. Apparently, someone had called the police, and a policeman in pick-up arrived on the scene. Well, for once, Ghana Police had responded promptly to an emergency call. I know you won’t rush to praise them yet. Suspect opened the door of the taxi and made a run for it – into the pick-up.

That was all he had been insisting while being attacked- to be taken to the police if they thought he was a thief. His attackers said they didn’t trust the police ant that it would be a foolish case upon arrival at the station and there would be no hope of getting back their stolen motorcycle.

Hence, they’d rather take their pound of flesh. He either shows them the whereabouts of his accomplice for them to retrieve the stolen motorcycle or they kill him.

The determination with which these young men were trying to recapture the young man from the police, reflected their deep mistrust of this institution and the country’s justice system in general. To them, letting the suspect in the custody of the police was tantamount to denying themselves justice.

To cut the long story short, many of the angry mob jumped into the bucket of the pick-up. However, our suspect did not make it to the station. The lone policeman, unable to bear the pressure from the mob any longer, released him to his pursuers, who took him to a nearby bush, put a tire round his neck and and the rest of the story is all yours to imagine.

But of course, the issue of instant justice has more to do with the mistrust of our justice system rather than it being part of our culture.

Let me put it bluntly. Ghanaians, especially the less wealthy and powerful see the police as a useless institution whose reputation has completely fizzled out like charred wood after rain.

To these Ghanaians, obviously in the majority, the police is the last place to go seek justice if you don’t have money, even if you are at the right side of the law.

Unfortunately, for the past years, this sad perception is becoming reality at an alarming rate and Maxwell Adams Mahama might as well be one of the thousands of Ghanaians who have perished on this altar of injustice.

If the call for a stop to instant justice are to yield any results, then the police institution should not only be seen to be working but also to be meting out punishments where it is due and rewards when the need arises.

In countries where the law is perceived to be working, there’s a belief in the justice system.

It really gets dangerous in a country where anyone can pick you up and lynch you just because they think you are an armed robber. I’ve encountered this incident twice in less than a month and all Ive asked myself is if the average Ghanaian is safe, bearing in mind that this could have been any other person.

Is it not because many people are sure of Adam Mahama’s innocence that we are calling for the heads of the perpetrators? Is it not also possible many of the other suspected criminals who have suffered the same fate could equally be innocent if subjected to an efficient and competent justice system?

But sadly, the latter is something we don’t have. Why wouldn’t people then take the law into their own hands? This latest incident is a red light that calls for a more serious evaluation of our justice system.

There must be a conscious effort to restore its sanity and credibility to it. It is only by so doing can we tackle the issue of instant justice properly.

With another precious life going down the grave, how many more do we want to count before we do something worthwhile to tackle the problem. Let’s be honest, we all are culprits in one way or the other when it comes to the issue of instant justice in Ghana. From the gang leader who mobilizes others to serve it to a suspect to the curious passerby who plays spectator to the act most of the time out of sheer curiosity.

The fact is we as a citizenry are all to blame. This weak system was created ourselves. And if we do not wish to experience even more ugly acts of lawlessness, then we must as well refocus on harnessing our institutions to win back the trust of the ordinary Ghanaian. Even if we Ghanaians are ready to follow this trajectory, we still have a long way to go.

Nathaniel Apadu


Columnist: Nathaniel Apadu