By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Folks, we woke up this morning to be told that operatives of National Security Secretariat demolished the toll booth constructed at the Okponglo entry point of the University of Ghana from where the University of Ghana's designated collectors charged motorists fees for plying that route.
The National Security Coordinator Larry Gbevlo Lartey has justified the demolishing of a toll booth; and I wholeheartedly support him and the action taken by the security operatives.
Let me state Col. Gbevlo Lartey's justification before adding my own voice to the matter.
He had said that the structure had to be pulled down to ease congestion at the University’s entrance since it had been wrongly cited.
“They have started some construction at that point which I can see the intent to turn into a toll booth when completed and that has been removed because it cannot be there,” Col. Gbevlo Lartey said.
He added that, “there are two parts of this, the first thing is that it shouldn’t be there in the first place because they are causing complete nuisance to everybody and the second is that their intent to construct a toll booth there must be stopped now before they complete it”.
The University of Ghana started charging road tolls at the beginning of February to recoup a loan it took to fix its roads. The Students' Representative Council protested, and two students of the University have taken the matter to court and it is yet to be decided on.
Interestingly, the universities authorities sought to blackmail government by demanding about 2.63 million Dollars to not go ahead to collect tolls. The government didn't heed that request.
Unfortunately, the Minister of Transportation talked loosely (that he wished every community would repair roads in its environs and collect tolls, which might have motivated the University of Ghana authorities to go ahead with their plan to collect tolls).
Then, Parliament stepped in to worsen matters as its sub-committee on transportation approved the University of Ghana's intentions to collect the tolls.
Right then, the stage was set for what would cause the demolition of the toll booth and the insistence by Col. Gbevlo-Lartey that his Secretariat would quickly move to demolish anything of the sort re-constructed because the University of Ghana is part of Ghana and anything it does that conflicts with the norms must be tackled before it festers!!
I commend Col. Gbevlo-Lartey for being so resolute as to level the toll booth and prove that no one can do anything without authorization in Ghana.
An NPP-oriented lawyer, Egbert Faibille, condemned the demolition of the toll booth, describing it as "unlawful" and threatening to go to court against Col. Gbevlo-Lartey.
His claim that the demolition pre-empted the pending court case against the University authorities by two students whose lawyer he is, seems to be his main argument.
He claimed that the national security has no right to enter into the property of a semi-autonomous institution, albeit a public one, and pull down structures without a court order.
To him, the action is arbitrary and an anathema to the rule of law.
He wondered: “What aspect of national security operations say that when there is traffic on an ordinary course of road it has national security implications and National Security can just go in and pull structures down”?
To this "kokompe lawyer", I respond that he is ignorant of national security matters and should have known his station as such and kept to it.
The inconvenience caused motorists could trigger anti-government protests and constitute a major security crisis, if this "kokompe lawyer" cares to know. What constitutes national security is known to those charged with ensuring national security, not some so-called "kokompe lawyers" who have gained some kind of prominence because of their involvement in partisan politics.
I am delighted at what has been done to prove that no institution in Ghana is an island and that no one has any right to take any unilateral action with wide-ranging negative impact on national life.
The University of Ghana authorities may claim to have repaired that portion of the Accra-Madina road with funds from their own coffers; but they haven't told us how the funds were generated. Were the funds not part of the subvention given to such institutions by the government, meaning that it's public funds over which the university cannot claim authority?
Of course, the university authorities deserve commendation for taking steps to repair the road to make it motorable—and the government deserves maximum contempt for neglecting its duty in that context; but nothing warrants the imposition of tolls by the university authorities.
Tolls on roads are imposed by the requisite institution in charge of roads and highways (the Ghana Highway Authority and its mother-Ministry, with the approval of the government or Parliament, if need be).
No institution can just get up to do anything as has been done by the university authorities because anything of this sort has serious repercussions on people's lives and governance, generally.
What will happen if the people in areas endowed with natural resources also get up one day to impose tolls and levies on companies exploiting those resources or to erect barriers and begin giving conditions?
Law and order must be respected. In this case, National Security made the proper move.
Those who are condemning it over this action have a lot of thinking and learning to do. I am glad that sanity has been brought into this matter and will urge Col. Gbevlo-Lartey to sit up to take on anybody wishing to capitalize on this situation to cause needless trouble for national security.
The time has long since passed for stern action to be taken to check recklessness in public life.
Col. Gbevlo-Lartey and his team are security experts and know better than people like you which seed will germinate to cause national security problems. He is in control and has done the right thing.
People like you are too uninformed to poke your noses into those areas. Just stay off and let the security experts tackle the problem.
Beyond that point, you need to know that there are specific procedures for constructing toll booths and collecting tolls. The University of Ghana isn't mandated to do what it did.
You and Egbert Faibille are treading where you will be scarred. Don't go there. Allow Col. Gbevlo-Lartey and his team to keep Ghana peaceful and tranquil.
Those attributing the demolition exercise to a jungle situation are lost. This action is timely and most warranted. It doesn't signify a return to "military days" but it reassures Ghanaians that law and order can be ensured by the requisite institutions charged with sustaining national security.
All things said, though, the government must be ashamed for not paying attention to the problem when it first cropped up. Knowing very well the importance of that road, it shouldn't have looked on unconcerned for it to deteriorate to the point as to force the University of Ghana to step in, using resources from its coffers.
How do our Ghanaian leaders think?
I shall return…
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