History is a guide for all those who want to move forward in life. In fact, history will seriously influence the present. Those who discard their history will only live to regret their actions. I say this in direct reaction to the activities of the police in the Upper West region which calls for national attention in seeking a permanent solution to the problem.
We have gone past the stage where any trigger happy uniform man or woman would take the law into his or her own hands and behave as if we have no any guiding principles of the very law that give all uniform men and women the power to operate.
For example, the 1992 Constitution at article 200 states that “There shall be a police service of Ghana” and the same constitution also states at article 200(3) that “The Police Service shall be equipped and maintained to perform its traditional role of maintaining law and order”.
It is in this regard that recent happening of police activities in the Wa Municipality calls for the proper reckoning of the entire situation so that the recurrence of such ugly scenarios will be done away with and a permanent solution would be found for such wanton behavior on the part of the police in the region. The police have been in the news for the wrong reason in the Wa Municipality once again.
On Saturday, April 1, at night, one Ali Rashid, a 24-year-old teacher was allegedly shot by a police officer, Constable Francis Kpenge for allegedly refusing to stop when he asked him to do so. The victim, a pillion rider, was on an unregistered motorbike and was rushed to the Upper West Regional Hospital where he was admitted and has been responding to treatment.
The recent brouhaha in the Wa Municipality between the police service and the residents of the Wa Municipality is nothing new and seriously calls for serious attention since the historical antecedent is very much available. We have not forgotten the incident of former Ghana Border Guards whose activities in the then Wa district which became so unbearable that residents of Wa in the late 1970s taught them ‘the lessons of their life’ even under a military régime. I hope that is still fresh in our minds?
SIMILAR INCIDENT IN 2005 BY THE POLICE
In the year 2005 January to be precise, a similar incident happened. How did it happen? A police officer found a motorbike rider with no registration number. The police officer immediately set out to arrest the man.The police were in a police jeep. They successfully seized the motorbike and for strange reasons which no one could explain the owner of the motorbike suffered a shot from the gun of the policeman effecting the arrest.
According to the police in attempting to put the seized motorbike into the parked police van the owner attempted to prevent the police officer from carrying out his official duties and in the ensuing struggle the gun of the police officer went off with the resultant effect leading to the death of the motorbike owner. And as usual, the struggle started with all the associated hullabaloo which ‘engulfed’ the entire municipality of Wa. Residents of the municipality went on a rampage to demand the cause of the death of the motorbike owner. But the police were wise!
They were able to ‘haul’ the father of the victim into radio studios to appeal to the general public of Wa Municipality to calm down since what happened ‘was an act of God’ and therefore ‘destined’ to happen anyway. And strangely enough he was heeded to and so the matter died a natural death.
On another occasion about the same time, the police chased another motorbike rider for riding without a registered number. They gave him a ‘hot chase’ and finally push him into an open drainage system and the rest of the story is what is being told today.
And so one can go on and on about police brutality concerning riding without registered number plates in the region by filling pages if one decides to write on it. No one is condoning the attitude of riding without any registered number since it is an effective means of checking crime and controlling criminal activities. Why would one not register his motorbike? That obviously leads to lawlessness and chaos, to say the least.
The behavior of the residents of Upper West Region especially in the regional capital leaves much to be desired. The concept of “Tijaa Bungyeni” has created a situation where law enforcement is highly difficult if not impossible to fully implement. Tijaa Bungyeni’ which loosely translates as ‘we are all one’ creates a situation where people at times behaves ‘irrationally’ as it encourages the idea of wrong doing much against law enforcement.
Anytime somebody breaks the law in the region especially in the Municipality, the tendency for ‘well-placed people in society’ to ‘kill’ the problem through Tijaabungyeni becomes greater and an order of the day,and so it is increasing difficult for the police to combat crime since most people are under the impression and so if he or she goes wrong, the belief is that there would a ‘rescue mission’ around to save him or her from his wrongful deeds from the grips of the police. Such is the scenario bedeviling policing in the Upper West Region particularly the regional capital Wa.
Instead of the police in the region to sit down and map out strategies to find a lasting solution to this problem they are rather engaged in the use of inexperienced officers and high-handedness which is not anywhere near yielding the desired results. But for the average law abiding Upper Westerner the situation is not a lost one.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE POLICE IN OUR SOCIETY?
The police are mainly a peace preservation body whose major functions are the protection of life, limb and property in the streets and highways places of public assemblage and commercial and property entered illegally from public ways. The police also perform the function of crime prevention, detection, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders.
In specific terms the main functions of the police as these apply to crime prevention can be categorized as follows (a) publicity(public education) on crime prevention strategies, including the dissemination of crime statistics and (b) preventive patrols and the apprehension of offenders. Is this the reality on the ground in the Upper West Region?
But there has been a very big problem in terms of policing in Ghana particularly in the Upper West Region for that matter the regional capital Wa. The main problem of the police in the region is that it is not possible for the police to enforce the law and to preserve the peace without incurring some hostility and resentment. This is inherent to the very nature of police work.
And there have been criticisms against the police too resulting from the particular method or methods used in accomplishing their police functions. It is extremely difficult for a policeman to maintain his composure in all street situations even though it is expected and demanded of the police in nearly all police departments to remain well composed in all given situations.
And so the police in their quest to seek pragmatic solutions to street problems tend to apply high-handedness in their dealings which do not augur well for them and the larger society. A typical situation is the current confusion in Wa Municipality where police use of ‘brutal’ force has created the problem we have at hand and a twenty three year old teacher almost lost his life.
Nobody supports the action of the young man in the center of the controversy, especially to ride an unregistered motorbike where the police version have it that he resisted attempt to heed to police call for him to surrender his motorbike without a registration number. But the police owe the public a duty of care in handling issues relating to the very public they have been tasked constitutionally to protect. Otherwise the Wa situation is an avoidable one.
The police in the region may have lost their moral authority in running the affairs of policing. This may be as a result of the ‘exchanges’ that is beside the point in our current situation.
But I particularly like the definition of Lipman when it comes to corruption. Lipman defines corruption to mean “The intentional mis-performance or neglect of a recognized duty or the unwarranted exercise of power with the object of gaining some advantage more or less. Such is the nature of the problem at hand.
When the confusion broke out in Wa, there were allegations that the police were still collecting money from people whose motorbikes were seized in their operation which led to the break out of the confusion. I have maintained that the situation is not entirely lost.
For instance when the then MTTU commander Ferguson was transferred from Yendi from the Northern Region to head the MTTU in the region, he applied a method which worked to perfection which may be unparalleled.
If one was found riding without a crash helmet, all that commander Ferguson did was to calmly call thefellow, asked him to park the motorbike and then instruct him to go and bring his crash helmet and come for his motorbike. And it really worked to perfection. Then again he found a way dealing with unregistered motorbikes.
You were processed before the court and fined, that too really worked to perfection. And so the high handed approach which failed to yield any result as applied by others must give way to reason and common sense with the law fully operational with some exceptional cases since we are in a human society.
IS THIS HYPOCRISY OR WHAT?
While the police are busy chasing motorbikes without registration numbers, they live with daily lawlessness and commotion. The Road Traffic Regulation, 2012 law which makes it a prohibitive action to use motor cycle and tricycle for commercial purposes is happening right in front of the police in the region.
For instance section 128(1) of the regulation states that “The Licensing Authority shall not register a motor cycle or tricycle to carry a fare paying passenger” and goes on to state at section128(2) that “A person shall not permit a motorcycle or tricycle over which that person exercises control to be used for commercial purposes except for courier and delivery service and at section 128(3) it states that “A person shall not ride on a motor cycle or tricycle as a fare paying passenger”.
And the law prescribes sanction for breaking such a regulation. This is stated at section 128(4) “A person who contravenes sub regulation(1),(2) or (3) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than twenty-five penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than thirty days or to both”.
This law passed by the Ghanaian parliament has been violated with an element of impunity and in the full glare of the police in the Upper West Region. What do we see in the region here? Tricycles are engaged in what has been proscribed by law in our country and as if adding insult to injury these illegal commercial tricycles known by all as “Mahama Camboo” have found for themselves a parking space in the center of town carrying out the illegal commercial activities prohibited by law and the enforcement agency in this case the police are doing nothing and have done nothing about it. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. I NO BI SO?
These“Mahama Cambou” are more dangerous since they have no identifier on them and if indeed we are talking about non registration of motor cycles then we need to tackle “Mahama Cambou” head on since they are moving illegality. The nearest one can come to identifying any ‘Mahama Camboo” may be the color they use and nothing else. No one is endorsing lawlessness but the saying that what is good for the goose is good for the gander must be seen to apply here.
Police confrontations with residents of the Upper West Region might on the surface not appear to have any bad signals. But the recent demonstrations by residents should sound the death knell to all. It may be a simmering situation but may be boiling beneath the surface highlighting petty troubles.
A stitch in time saves nine!
In the heat of the confusion that has ‘engulfed’ the Wa township, a police officer has gone haywire on Facebook claiming that all the people of Wa including their forefathers are criminals and she writes on her Facebook wall which has gone viral:
“And all the natives in town are criminals including their forefathers”
“I will be glad when they demonstrate that they don’t need police in their so called hell. I don’t know whether am in hell or earth”.
“I hate policing in a stupid town call Wa. Proud to be a Voltarian”
“I don’t think this Wa fools will come to Wa police station and report their missing motorbikes”
“Police should perform miracles and get it for them”
I reserve my comment for your perusal!!!