Regional News Tue, 24 Feb 2004

I am grateful to my wife- petitioner tells NRC

Cape Coast, Feb 24, GNA- Mr Vincent Miah a 78-year-old retired goldsmith, from Dunkwa-on-Offin, on Tuesday told the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) that he was grateful to his wife, Mrs Sarah Miah for her commitment and care for him, when he became incapacitated as a result of maltreatment meted out to him by some soldiers in 1982.

Mr Miah, who was giving evidence of the NRC's first day of its sitting in Cape Coast, said he had 10 children with his wife and that she had been faithful to him and did not leave him when times were hard for the family.

The wife accompanied Mr Miah who is blind and has a deformed right knee and wrist, to the hearing.

He said after the December 31st coup, he returned from Ayanfuri a village near Dunkwa-On-Offin, sometime in 1982, where he had gone to buy some gold, and met some young men playing draught behind his house and went there to watch.

He said while there, a military vehicle pulled-up and six soldiers got down and started shouting and asking "who is cash man"?. He said when and when he owned up, they ordered him into his room and asked him to produce the gold he had bought from Ayanfuri, and the soldiers took the gold and a weighing scale and later arrested him.

They then ordered him to board their vehicle, to send him to the police station. On the way, they ordered him to get down from the vehicle and two out of the six soldiers, started beating him with the butt of their guns and kicked him with their boots, breaking his right leg in the process.

He said after the beating they gave him a stone and asked him to hit his head with it several times, after which they ordered him to board the vehicle and again was taken to the police station, but no charge was preferred against him.

Mr Miah said other residents of the town, including one Mr Barimah, and Mr Oppong were also arrested and detained at the police station for sometime before they were all taken to the Tarkwa goldfields bungalows then known as "ABA".

He said at Tarkwa, one sergeant Brobbey, who was the leader of the soldiers, asked that the others should be sent to Takoradi, but he was asked to go back home.

Witness said he rather went to Axim, since he had information that some policemen were looking for him back at home.

He said he stayed in Axim for one and half years, where he sought treatment for the injuries he sustained and later went back to Dunkwa-On-Offin but "nobody asked him any question".

Mr Miah appealed to the Commission to recommend some compensation for him since he lost all his capital because the soldiers seized his gold bars, and he was now weak and could not do any work. Mr Christian Appiah Agyei and Maulvi Wahab Adam, two of the Commissioners, later inspected the injuries on his leg and wrist and said: " my Lord, his right knee and wrist are completely deformed. The knee is in a bad state".

All the Commissioners, sympathized him and commended him for travelling all the way from Dunkwa to give evidence, and also commended his wife for "staying solidly behind her husband all these years".

Another witness, Jerry Odei Nyarko, a former chairman of the workers union of the then Ghana National Trading Company (GNTC) told members of the Commission (NRC) that he has become impotent as a result of severe beatings he received from soldiers and members of the then workers defence committee (WDC) in 1983.

Mr Nyarko, said he was arrested by some soldiers and members of the then workers defence committee (wdc) after a meeting on May 31 of that year, beaten severely, and together with some other union leaders, later taken to the military barracks at Apremdu, and that as soon as he got there, some soldiers shouted " another meat come", and was again beaten and locked up in a guard room with four others.

Mr Nyarko said from the guardroom, the soldiers came to fetch him at thirty minutes intervals and repeatedly struck him with sticks, combat boots and other missiles, and that he did not know why he was being treated in that way until he was asked how much he had received of the money some lawyers had brought to the union leaders to incite workers to go on strike.

He said that same day at about 12 midnight, he together with some of the union leaders, Hassan, Ofori, Affum and Dadzie, who were with him, were asked to come out and because he could hardly see as a result of the severe beatings, the soldiers hit him in the abdomen with the butt of their rifles each time he ran into them on his way out of the room.

When he and his colleagues got outside they saw an ambulance parked outside and were asked to get on board, and when they enquired from one of the soldiers whom he got to know as sergeant Amofah where they were going, he told them to "shut up".

He said whilst they were standing there, a private car pulled up and another soldier whom he later got to know was called Lieutenant Yiennin, head of the intelligence unit at Apremdu, asked where they were being taken and he was told they were "going to be exterminated". He ordered that they be taken back to the guardroom where Mr Nyarko said they were released after three days and asked to report daily at the barracks at 0700 hours but when a friend took him to report the next day, he was picked up by the WDC and taken to 'ginger barracks' where he was further brutalised.

Witness said he later found himself at the Effia-Nkwanta hospital where he was on admission for three months.

Mr Nyarko said as a result of the beating he received, he had severe pains in the abdomen and had difficulty in urinating and also had blood oozing from his ears and a swollen chest and had been impotent for the past 10 years.

He said when he eventually recovered and went back to work, the chairman of the WDC one Asiedu, whom he described as his friend, put pressure on management to dismiss him because "he had tarnished the image of the company", but he was allowed to stay on.

He said he did not petition or seek compensation at that time because "the WDC was powerful", and could even cause the dismissal of members of management and that he also lost 15,000 cedis "which was a huge amount at that time".

Mr Christian Appiah Agyei, one of the Commissioners, and a former TUC secretary-general, expressed concern about workers who support military take over and help in brutalising their fellow workers and said such incidents as narrated by Mr Nyarko, should be a "lesson for all".

Mr Francis Amihere, a former security guard at the Flagstaff House in his evidence told the Commission that on February 24 1966, he went to work where had and his colleagues had information that some soldiers were planning to overthrow the Nkrumah government and that he and his colleagues put up fierce resistance when the soldiers came to take over the house.

He said a gun battle between they and the soldiers went on up to 12 midnight and that they (security men) finally surrendered when they realised they were outnumbered, and that they were then conveyed into a vehicle to the police headquarters where they were beaten up by soldiers and taken to Burma Camp and then tothe Ussher Fort prisons and then Nsawam prisons where he was incarcerated for 22 months.

He said he was released on December 7 1967 and went home to find that he had lost all of his property, while his wife and two children who were aged 4 and one and a half years at the time, had left for Axim their hometown.

Witness said he was not paid any compensation, but his colleagues with whom he was in prison, are receiving pension, and told the Commissioners during question time that he was never tried before being imprisoned.

Mr Stephen Wilfred Arthur, said he was at the time of the 1966 coup attached to the intelligence unit of the Presidential Details Department, and served undercover as a player for the Sekondi Independence football club.

He told the Commission that he was picked up at Cape Coast after the coup where he had come for a training session with the team and that he and one Joseph Techie-Menson, another member of the team were taken to the Cape Coast police station, locked up and later taken to the Sixth Battalion Camp, Takoradi, and interrogated by a regimental sergeant-major there.

He said later in the evening a group of army officers came with some provosts, ordered them to remove their shirts and had them beaten as a result of which he had blood oozing from his ears, and nose as well as a swollen face.

He was later sent to the Sekondi prisons where he was detained and released after about eight months, with no charges being preferred against him.

After his release he went home to discover that his belongings have been looted, and that he has since then, been traumatised as a result of his ordeal.

He however told the commission that he has forgotten, as well as forgiven the soldiers who brutalised him, but that he was seeking compensation for what he was made to go through.

Abubakar Hajj Issah, an employee of the Cape Coast Polytechnic, who filed a petition on behalf of his late father Issah Bobby, a CPP activist, was asked by the chairman of Commission, Mr Justice Kobina Amuah-Sekyi, to produce a witness or documentary evidence of his father's arrest and detention, since the Commission had found no evidence to that effect, adding "help us so that we can help you".

Issah, had earlier told the Commission that he was six-years old when his father was arrested after the 1966 coup by some soldiers and that his father's long detention affected his education.

He said his father, who was also a goldsmith at the time of his arrest, could not return to that profession because of the ordeal he went through and had to seek employment as a bus cleaner and that his gramophone which he used as a praise singer, for President Nkrumah, and his refrigerator, were also looted when he was arrested.

He said he had to strive to make ends meet and to cater for his little brother, and told the Commissioners, all of who sympathised with him, that he was " sad and angry" because his lack of education and inability to "become someone in life", has made his other siblings, particularly, his sisters, to look down on him, although he is the eldest. 24 Feb 04

Source: GNA