Uncertainties Around Swearing-In Ceremony
Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko John Boadu Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
The fate of the acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) becoming the substantive head of the Police Service hangs in the balance, after he used brute force on demonstrating law students on Monday, injuring a number of them in the process.
So far, the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), the powerful Gaby Asare Otchere-Darko, a cousin of President Akufo-Addo, Sylvester Tetteh, the new boss of the National Youth Authority (NYA), the NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Sekondi in the Western Region, have separately either condemned the IGP, James Oppong-Boanuh directly or hit hard at the Ghana Police Service for the inhumane manner the students were treated.
The bad publicity, comes exactly three days after the Council of State, at its meeting last week reportedly confirmed the appointment of Mr Oppong-Boanuh as the substantive IGP and according to information; an official announcement from government was going to be made in days.
The 61-year retired Police Officer, has been acting since the removal of his predecessor, Mr David Asante-Apeatu, who was removed from office by President Akufo-Addo, weeks to the expiration of his two-year contract.
Few weeks ago, he received mixed reaction in his of handling of the four Takoradi missing girls, commendation in the manner he handled the two Koforidua officers, who were caught on video brutalizing a suspect and many other issues.
Mr Oppong-Boanuh, has been described as a lucky man because just when it appeared he was about to end his career, he was granted a one-year contract service in October 2018 as Deputy Director-General of the Police Service effective October 8, 2018 to October 7, 2019 by President Akufo-Addo.
He has since gotten a two-year contract, which extends his stay till October 2021, where he would leave office at age 63.
However, the unprofessional conduct of the Police on Monday against the law students, appears to have marred his stay in office with many wondering, if the action of his men, will have any effect on his confirmation by President Akufo-Addo.
Hundreds of law students and members of the public hit the streets to demand for change in a demonstration dubbed #OpenUpLegalEducation.
The protesters were prevented from marching to the Jubilee House to present a petition to the President, and in the process of blocking the demonstrators; the Police fired rubber bullets and sprayed hot water at them.
The leaders said after the police struck, they attempted negotiating with them for only the leaders of the protest to go ahead to the seat of government to present the petition.
The officers, however, did not budge and rather fired rubber bullets and sprayed water from their cannons to disperse the protestors.
This was after the police, according to protestors, had declined to help maintain order during the demonstration, citing a shortage of staff.The leaders of the demonstration, however, said the last-minute information from the law enforcers, would not stop them.
According to 3news.com, ten protesters were arrested by the police. But there are reports that Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Darme, had hooted at the protesters who wanted to present their petition to him. This is what infuriated the demonstrators.
Many well-meaning Ghanaians, including the nephew of President Akufo-Addo, Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and government, have all condemned the brutalities.
Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, a member of the NPP, has condemned the act by the Police for forcibly dispersing the protestors with tear gas.
In a post on his twitter page, Gabby, called on the IGP and his Regional Commander to explain the actions by the police.
Gabby described the action of the police as “needless and shameless” and “disgraceful”.
“The Inspector-General of Police must explain this”, he said. “This is disgraceful! The IGP and his Regional Commander must explain this needless and shameful, excessive use of force”.
Parliamentarian, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, also called out the law enforcers for the excesses. He wrote on Facebook: …” enough of the senseless use of force.”
“Impunity will continue as long as perpetrators are not punished and as long as the rest of us remain silent. The law students who protested today deserve far more than our sympathies; they are entitled to swift justice.
Just too many victims, enough of the senseless abuse of force! What led to the clashes?
Police stormed the streets to stop the protestors from heading to the Jubilee House to submit a petition to the presidency on mass failures at the Ghana School of Law”.
The government has also waded into the matter saying the confusion was unacceptable.
Speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said, the confusion was “an embarrassing spectacle and it is unacceptable.”
“Generally, it is totally unacceptable that an otherwise peaceful demonstration by people who want access to legal education will end up in the scenes that we saw on television and social media.”Though the police have justified the use of force against the students, Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the police should have exercised restraint.
“The government also believes that the police must always abide by their clarion call which is to protect and serve…We are of the view that the handling of such a situation must always be done in a manner that allows a balanced achievement of the objectives.”
The NPP in a statement signed by its General Secretary, John Boadu, said while it accepted the position of the police that the demonstrators may have strayed outside the law, and were disrupting the normal usage of the public thoroughfare that passes in front of Jubilee House, it was, however, not convinced that the Police had to resort to such use of force and crowd controlling techniques to manage a crowd, mainly of students.
The police, the party said, must realize that, just like every other Ghanaian, they are also subject to law and ought to give confidence to the populace at all times that, in applying the law, they do so fairly to all manner of persons.
In the light of this sad development, the NPP is calling on the police hierarchy to look into the matter and bring persons who are found to have acted unprofessionally to justice to forestall future occurrence of this regrettable incident, it urged.
Finally, the party calls on the relevant authorities and state actors to grant a hearing to these students, who, together with many others, have consistently demanded for an immediate reform to legal education in the country, to reflect the realities of the 21st century.
“We do empathize deeply with the innocent students who may have suffered any trauma and pray for their speedy recovery,” it stated.
The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has also called for calm among agitated law students pushing for reforms in the country’s legal education system.
Addressing the students after receiving a petition from the students, the GBA President; Anthony Forson Jr., said the students will be updated after various stakeholder engagements on their demands. He noted that it may be necessary to expand capacity to increase intake.
“Quality should not be compromised. So long as we all agree, then all we have to do is to ensure that those who control the purse make sure that the facilities are expanded by training people to be able to train [lawyers].”
Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson AsieduNketiah, who has backed calls for reform in the country’s legal education, insisted that the standards should not be lowered.
But the Police have defended their action with the Accra Regional Police Command saying the about 300 persons were “embarking on an illegal demonstration.”
“At about 8:30 am today, October 7th 2019, a group numbering about Three hundred (300) believed to be members of a group of students who failed the entrance exams to the Ghana Law School besieged the entrance to the law school, sat down in the middle of the road thus, prevented a free flow of traffic” the police said in a press release.
The statement issued by the Public Affairs Directorate said made some allegations against the students including claim that they prevented a deputy AG from exiting from his premises. According to the Police, the sat in the middle of the on their road to the seat of government and pelted the Police with stones and offensive weapons.
“The demonstrators later continued to the Attorney General’s Department where they prevented a Deputy Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame from exiting the premises.
Later, the group reassembled close to the new court complex in Accra and picketed there for some time and went ahead to an office close to Ghana Institute of Journalism where they presented a copy of their petition to the Ghana Bar Association”.
They then headed towards Jubilee House and on reaching King TackieTawiah Overpass; they sat in the middle of the road and pelted the Police with stones and offensive weapons. In the process, police sprayed cold water and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Police encourages the pubic that while citizens have the right to demonstrate, they must do so in accordance with the law.
That requires potential demonstrators to furnish the Police with a notice at least five (5) days to the planned date (which was not observed in this instance). Demonstrators are also encouraged to co-operate with the police on route management and the conduct of demonstrations in order not to inconvenience other members of the public.
In the absence of these police may be required to restore order by means of reasonable lawful force. Police remains committed to assisting the public to enjoy their rights within the confines of the laws of Ghana”.
The protest followed the recent mass failure at the Ghana School of Law entrance examination where only 128 students out of the 1,820 candidates who sat for this year’s entrance exams passed.
The peaceful demonstration led by a section of law students who are demanding a probe into the recent mass failure in the entrance examinations of the Ghana Law School was halted by the police after they opened tear gas on protesters in a bid to stop them from delivering their petition to the president at the Jubilee House on Monday, October 7, 2019.
Out of a total of 1820 student who wrote the exams, only 128 students passed the entrance exams. The protesters also claim that the Chief Justice who doubles as the Chairperson for the General Legal Council has been ‘inhumane’ in addressing their grievances.