The withdrawal of soldiers, protecting the Speaker of Parliament, has landed the Akufo-Addo government in a bad light, as many have started accusing it of playing double standards.
Since the leakage of a letter, revealing the recall of the soldiers, the government, has been using two claims to justify its action in asking the soldiers to abandon the Speaker, Alban Sumana Bagbin and immediately return to the barracks, but these appear not to be making sense to anyone.
Bagbin, an unapologetic member of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who last year, became Speaker of Parliament to the surprise of many, following the 2020 general election which evenly divided the August House, leading to tense political debates, tension, acrimony and sometimes open fisticuffs.
Government’s first claim was that the soldiers, were not properly assigned to the Speaker of Parliament, but that has been disputed with official letters from the Clerk of Parliament, Cyril Nsiah, revealing that the Armed Forces High Command was written to, for the soldiers to be sent to protect the head of legislative body.
The second claim of the government on the controversy, has been that by convention, the Speaker of Parliament is not entitled to military deployments and protections, but that has also been dismantled.
The Ministry of National Security, has said the news about the withdrawal of the soldiers attached to the Office of the Speaker, has been given misinterpretations by a section of the Ghanaian public.
The Ministry said in a statement that soldiers do not form part of the security arrangement of the Speaker and Members of Parliament, adding they only come on a need-basis in accordance with stated state protocols, the Ministry explained.
The statement added that the security of the speaker is intact, no changes have been made to it.
“The Ministry of National Security would like to place on record that contrary to the aforesaid misrepresentations, all requisite resources including logistics and personnel required for full protection of the Speaker have been provided.
“It is worth noting that for the first time since 2017, the security arrangements for both the Speaker and Members of Parliament have been significantly enhanced.
“It also needs stating that personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces do not form part of the security detail for the Speaker and Parliament as Parliamentary security support is provided by the Ghana Police Service.
Any need for specific agency support is typically executed on the need-basis in accordance with stated state protocols.”
Many social activists have since released pictures of state officials and ordinary lawyers with soldiers as bodyguards.
One of the pictures is that of Frank Davies, who was one of President Akufo-Addo’s lawyers in the 2021 Election Petition filed by the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress, John Dramani Mahama.
A soldier was seen following and carrying Frank Davies’ bags and books, while on his way to one of the court sessions. Mr Davies at the time was also the Board Chairman of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
Other pictures making the rounds after the withdrawal of Mr Bagbin’s military guards, are those of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jane Adukwei Mensa.
In her case, she had countless number of soldiers with her at her Labone residence, in her office, while many others travel with her or move about with her around town even to her church, The Lord’s Garden Ministries, led by Apostle Lyanne Koffi.
Indeed, ace journalist and Managing Editor of Insight Newspaper, Kwesi Pratt, took complaints of the inconveniences the military detachment had posed to the neighbours of the EC Chairperson, to radio.
The soldiers had armoured vehicles parked in, and around her residence.
There were also reports of them holding guns and searching through cars of private individuals entering the area or going to their homes.
But the true state of military deployments around her was really felt during the 2021 election petition hearing where just like Frank Davies, the heavily armed contingent laid siege in and around the Supreme Court building each morning to protect the EC Chairperson while others drove with her to the court sessions.
Those soldiers, many of whom were deployed ahead of the 2020 election, have not been recalled to the barracks.
They are still around her. At his vetting as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, it was revealed that Godfred Yeboah Dame, also had a soldier as a bodyguard, while serving as Deputy Minister of Justice.
Interestingly, his boss, Gloria Akuffo, had a police officer as her bodyguard. Mr Dame, suggested that the nature of his work and his risk assessment led to the decision to have a soldier to protect him.
Reports are that Mr Dame still keeps military bodyguards deployed by the government around him. There are reports of prominent pastors in Ghana also getting military deployments as security. One such claim is that Duncan Williams, the head of Action Chapel International Church, also has soldiers guarding him.
Aside from the deployment of soldiers as bodyguards, there have also been instances where soldiers were sent to areas to serve as Land guards, while others have been used in illegal gold mining sites in which senior military officers, journalists, politicians and private businessmen, had their personal and financial interests.
One such incident led to the death of some residents of Ga East, who rose up against attempts to take over their lands by some senior military officers, in August 2020 at Dome Faase, near Obom in the Greater Accra Region.
The clash happened while the soldiers were protecting the property believed to be owned by the Mponuahene of Akyem Apedwa, who turned out to be an impostor with Okyenhene Amoatia Ofori Panyi, calling for his arrest through a petition to the Ghana Police, but this was not done, as no prosecution took place.
A coalition of Ga communities, which comprises over 20 communities, refused to allow the soldiers on the land because they accused the Mponuahene of Akyem Apadwa and the Akyem Traditional Council of taking their farmlands from them. This led to some exchanges, which quickly escalated into a melee, with the residents clashing with the soldiers.
General Oppong-Peprah, at the time deployed more soldiers to the town, where many residents were beaten, wounded and hospitalized.
One man died in the incident, forcing the MP of the area, Sophia Akuako, to issue a statement condemning the dastardly incident.
The circumstances under which the soldiers were there was never probed. Manso Tontokrom in the Amansie South District of the Ashanti Region, also had soldiers providing security at a mining site, but Minister of Defence, Dominc Nitiwul, explained that “they were there as part of ‘Operation Halt 2’ activity and they have been there since last year ,”.
In 2017, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, had challenged the leadership of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to come clean on the activities of some soldiers who have been providing security at illegal mining sites.
The minister threw the challenge when he found two soldiers providing security at a mining site at Tontokrom during the final lap of a four-day visit to the region. When he asked the soldiers, who were in full military uniforms and were holding MG16 rifles, how they got to the site, they mentioned the name of a senior military officer as the one who had assigned them to the area.