By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK October 5, 2014
Sometimes when one listens to and reads the news from Ghana on the internet, one gets the impression that Ghana is a lawless state, though I know that the legal definition of a lawless state is no near the current situation in Ghana. However, the impunity of public officials, especially politicians is such that if they are not called to order, one day there could be civil disobedience. This article discusses a few of recent abuses of position, office and power by particularly the ruling elite within the President Mahama led NDC government and make suggestions for checking people who behave as if they are above the law by treating the laws, rules and regulations of the state with contempt.
Last week it was reported that Mr Ade Coker, the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the ruling NDC seized a private Kia Rhino truck and parked it in his house for days because the driver was involved in an accident with his vehicle. The report further said Mr Coker demanded Ghc 2,000 from the driver as cost of repairs for his Toyota Tundra before realising the truck and was alleged to have asked the driver, “do you know who I am, I am Ade Coker” when the accident occurred (see, “Arrogance of Power: Ade Coker seizes truck”, Daily Guide/Ghanaweb, October 3, 2014). When contacted by the Daily Guide, Mr Coker was reported to have confirmed the incident and even added that Gh 2,000 is nothing though he has since released the truck to the driver without collecting the Gh 2,000 (see, Ade Coker release truck”, Daily Guide/Ghanaweb, October 5, 2014).
Last week we also read about a District Chief Executive who disregarded a court ruling and was tried and jailed for contempt of court. Another politician and a former minister, Mr Kofi Jumah was reported to have been arrested for beating a suspected mobile thief. The Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive also caused the arrest of journalists and a couple of weeks ago, the Deputy Upper West Minister drove under the influence alcohol, knocked down a person who died later and did not even stop to find out what he knocked down but also refused to report the accident to the police. As at now all the public have been told is that the family has decided to seek an out of court settlement. I am sure that there thousands of such rampant abuses of office, position and power by the powers that be (the rich and powerful and those with connections) in Ghana.
I am not sure whether Mr Ade Coker has been invited by the police to explain his and omissions for taking the law into his own hands and how did he came by the Ghc 2,000 cost of repairs to his vehicle. In any democratic society where the laws, rules and regulations are respected, Ade Coker would have been condemned for his actions and resigned his position as Regional Chairman of the ruling party. The truck driver would have reported the seizure of his truck to the police and Ade Coker would have been prosecuted for illegal seizure of private property. In fact, it appears Mr Coker compelled the driver to drive his truck to his house so he hijacked the truck. In addition, the truck driver or owner would have sued Mr Coker for loss of earnings. The truck was parked in his house for six days and daily sales for six days would have been calculated with additional punitive award against him for his uncivilised behaviour (according to the reports he seized the truck on Saturday September 27 and realised it on Thursday October 2, 2014). .
It is not too late and I urge the police to prosecute Ade Cooker for acting illegally by hijacking the truck to his house. I also urge the truck driver or the owner to sue Mr Cooker for loss of earning for the days that the truck was parked in his house. That is one of the effective ways that Ghana can reduce the impunity and lawlessness in the country.
I find it difficult to understand the behaviour of politicians like Ade Cooker. They act as morons as they become power drank and lose their ability to reason and act objectively when in power. Did it not occur to Mr Coker that his actions would draw negative publicity not only to himself, his party and government but also the country as whole? Did it not occur to him that as regional chairman of the ruling party, his actions and omissions would be disincentive to investment in Ghana, especially, foreign investors? For example, some of the criteria foreign investors consider when deciding which country to invest include power relations between politicians and citizenry, levels of accountability, the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies in holding politicians accountable, etc. Did it also not occur to Mr Coker that by seizing a truck for six good days it would have negative impact on economic activity in Ghana, no matter how small? A trader who needed the truck to convey goods from one part of the country to another could not do business for that number of loss. The owner lost income and the driver lost his income for that number of day. The state lost the taxes that would have been paid from sales and the salary of the driver. The multiplier effect could be huge.
Ade Coker is not deputy god in Ghana, in fact, he is only a citizen of Ghana before the law and it should remain so. He is not above the law and should not be allowed to take the law into his own hands and get away with it. If Ghana is to progress into a full middle income nation, then, law enforcement bodies must enforce the law to the letter. The law must not be a respecter of persons but the other way round. It is such impunity by politicians, the ruling elite, rich and powerful that is causing deaths on our roads, massive corruption, the huge budget deficit and the government’s inability to pay its statutory bills. That is why education, health and other essential services are bad in Ghana because of lack of resources through official corruption and the impunity of politicians and others.
No nation or society can develop with such level of impunity by the very people who are expected to ensure that law and order is maintained in the country. Ghana does not belong to Ade Cooker and his ilk but all Ghanaians. If people like Ade Coker, Lauretta Vivian Lamptey of CHRAJ, Alhaji Alhassan Imoro Alassan of the National Service Scheme and their cohorts are made to comply with the laws, rules and regulations of the state, impunity, lawlessness and corruption will be reduced to the barest minimum in Ghana.
Only the police, the prosecuting authority and judiciary can stop the impunity and the lawlessness by politicians, the rich and powerful in Ghana. First, the police must act without fear or favour and irrespective of one’s position or wealth in Ghana. Then, the Attorney General must prosecute those who breach the laws, rules and regulations without exception in accordance with the Constitution. Selective arrests and prosecutions along political lines must stop. Why should the state allow a minister who drove under the influence of alcohol (a criminal act in Ghana) and killed a person (a potential crime of man slaughter) to settle the matter out of court? Public interest should not have allowed it but only a prosecution of the minister and a jail term if found guilty would serve as deterrent to others. Recently a British minister and his ex-wife were jailed for speeding and driving whilst banned from driving and his wife for perverting the course of justice by claiming that she was the one driving the car at the time and not the husband when the car was recorded by speed camera.
Finally the Judiciary must expedite actions on such trials and not only in contempt of court cases. Here, the speed with which the Supreme Court contemnors and the District Chief Executive were dealt with was exemplary and we expect the same for all other cases. There are cases of corruption trials taking as long as five years to complete. Such delays do encourage the impunity and the lawlessness as well discourages law enforcing bodies (though, often, the delays are by the Attorney General’s Department as in the case of the Woyome, GYEEDA and SADA trials).
Last but not the least, society as whole must play a role in ending the impunity by politicians and the rich and powerful as well as the general lawlessness in Ghana. For example, community and religious leaders must condemn such behaviours and demand that action is taken against such deviants. Why has the Christian Council and other community and religious leaders not uttered a word on the CHRAJ Commissioner’s behaviour or condemned the actions of Ade Coker? They should not be afraid of accusations by politicians and must do so without fear or favour but without exception. The members of political parties must also challenge and condemn recalcitrant and moron members instead of defending and shielding them. No NDC member or the leadership has condemned Ade Coker for his unacceptable behaviour. Where is the conscience of the nation?
Ghana must make law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws and at the same time, the citizens must be made to comply with the laws to the letter without fear or favour and irrespective of position or wealth in society. If this is done for just one year, deaths on Ghana will reduce drastically, corruption will go down to the barest minimum, production will improve and income from taxes will shoot up with the economy improving. The government will have enough resources to improve health, education, pay workers living wage, reduce industrial strive, reduce borrowing and propel the nation to a true middle income status. Even ‘dumsor’ will also be affectively positively because all those who are involved in illegal connections will be arrested, prosecuted, the arrears recovered from them and more resources for the utility providers to invest and improve services to all Ghanaians.
I challenge President Mhama to ensure that the law is no respecter of persons in Ghana just for a year. For Ade Coker, he should know that he is just a citizen as all Ghanaians and not deputy god. In fact, he is a disgrace to his family, his party and nation and should bow his head in shame and resign his position without any further delay or be voted out of office.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge.