Friday, February 11, 2011

President Mills Lamentations

A friend posted the link on my Facebook wall and asked that I watch and tell him what I think.

Mostly I give Facebook requests wide berth, on this occasion I obliged my friend and watch the video and was left almost devastated.

The video showed a visibly angry Executive President Mills (for want of better word) condemning corruption at Tema port by officials of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Services (CEPS). You can see the video here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed57WhR5ouQ&feature=player_embedded

The video was the latest expose from the staple of famed investigative journalist, Anas Ameyaw Anas.

I have never seen President Mills in such a nasty funk. Actually, I cannot remember seeing any President in such an agitated state.

I felt both sadness and anger that the Chief Executive of our blessed republic was reduced to such a (let me use the word) pathetic state. It was as undignifying as it was unpresidential.

President Mills and Corporate Ghana were badly let down by those whom we pay to do a job and people we expect to do the correct things. The YouTube video revealed more than anything that we have serious systemic failure in every facet of our institutions.

We are talking about the Executive President with awesome powers granted by our constitution reduced to exhorting mere CEPS officers. Gosh!

President Mils was badly let down and he was badly misadvised to give such performance. And it shows how badly things are run in our blessed republic that a week after the president’s hectoring, no high officials in his entourage has been sacked!

It is difficult to imagine President JJ Rawlings given such badly-scripted performance. And no matter what we think of him, even President Kuffuor would have acted better.

The high office of the presidency certainly deserves much more dignity than what president Mills did in Tema.

What happened to all the agencies that are charged with fighting corruption in our lands? From our very meager resources, we are paying people to ensure that there is minimal leakage from the collection of revenues that are due the state. I can think of the Ghana Police Force, The Bureau of National Investigation, The Serious Fraud Office, State Security and the newly-created Economic and Serious Crime Unit.

These agencies are supposed to be engaged in the fight against corruption. That our president had to leave all his ponderous duties to go to reprimand erring CEPS officials shows that these agencies have all failed. Yet no one has been fired. Not a single head of these agencies have deemed it fit to fall on the proverbial sword for letting us so badly down.

What about the Ministers whom the president appointed to assist him? If they are not sleeping on the job, the Executive President of our republic would not need to come and made such spectacle of himself at Tema.

The President’s lamentation also revealed another aspect of our flawed character – our ability to play the ostrich and pretend not to know what is going on.

Suddenly our airwaves are full of jabbering about the president’s anger. It was as though it was corruption is a new word to us. Visitors to our shore will think that we have a collective epiphany that suddenly reveals a hidden, dark secret.

We might one day still perish from our hypocrisy and our penchant to refuse to face reality and accept the realities that face us squarely in the face. Whom do we think that we are fooling by pretending that president Mills reveal to us something that we did not know about?

Don’t we all live in Ghana and don’t we all see the corruption that is firmly embedded in every fabric of our personal as well as national life? Where in our daily life are we not confronted by nauseating corruption in high and low places? On which of our highways do we not see uniformed police officers openly soliciting and accepting bribes? On which occasion do we not see journalists begging for ‘soli?’ Which office do we go without the official asking for ‘something?’ When was the last time a security guard open a gate for you without asking for ‘dash?’

Have we not all thrown up our hands in despair and accept corruption as just another necessary part of life? Yet, we pretend that our president is telling us something new!

And then we have the robed thieves, who masquerade as men of god, also coming out with their own frothing nonsense and hypocritical condemnation of corruption, and the general moral decadence in our society.

Pray, which institution is more corrupt than all these organized religions that only exist to separate ignorant people from their cash? How could a priest, in a good conscience, come out to say that he condemns corruption when he heads an institution that lives a parasitic life on extorting bribes from their congregation?

My Encarta defines bribe as “persuade somebody with enticement: to give somebody money or some other incentive to do something, especially something illegal or dishonest.

The so-called tithes that the churches collect are nothing but bribery pure and simple. It is even worse that the other forms of bribery. Whereas the CEPS official can deliver on his promise to facilitate something after collecting a bribe, the priest ask you to wait until hereafter before fulfilling his side of the bargain.

The churches have truly become nothing but the den of thieves, something that Jesus warned against. How many days pass in a week before there is story of one pastor is involved in one scandal or the other?

Again, we operate a comprehensively corrupt judicial system and we pretend to be surprised when corruption cases surface. Whosoever has had any dealing with any branch of our judicial system will know that it is but one terrible joke. Decent people ought to be affronted that we even deign to think that it can ever act as a corrective force.

We operate a court system that seeks not to establish the truth and is transparently not fair and impartial? How many cases are languishing in our courts because the lawyers and the bribed judges are in cahoots to postpone it indefinitely?

A child born yesterday knows that all that is required to get acquitted is to have enough cash to hire the glibbest of lawyers who can lie his way through and through. How many instances have we blind-sided by truly bizarre judgments?

Maybe the five cases cited hereunder will disabuse the minds of those that still believe that the judicial system we operate is not a huge joke.

CASE 1: COURT JAILS CAR THIEF 25 YEARS
“A 25-year old car thief was on Monday sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by a Kumasi Circuit Court presided over by Mr Justice Emmanuel Amoh-Yartey. Frimpong Boadu pleaded guilty to stealing a pick-up. Police Chief Inspector Archibald Kwesi Fandoh told the court that the complainant, Kojo Appiah, works with Adomkop Limited, a construction company located at Ash-Town in Kumasi while the convict also resides at Patasi, in the Metropolis.

At about 0900 hours on Thursday, January 27, Appiah parked the car in front of the company and spent 30 minutes in the premises. The prosecution said when he came out he saw Boadu driving the car away and shouted for help.

He said a motor rider gave Boadu a hot chase and caught up with him at Alar Bar, where he had crashed the stolen pick-up into another car. Some passers-by helped to arrest and hand Boadu over to the police. Police Chief Inspector Fandoh said during investigations it came out that the convict managed to start the engine with the ignition key of a KIA vehicle.” SOURCE: GNA


CASE 2: COURT RELAXES BAIL CONDITION FOR CEPS OFFICERS ACCUSED IN COCOA SMUGGLING SAGA
Ten CEPS officials who are standing trial for allegedly aiding the smuggling of cocoa beans from the Western Region to neighbouring Cote D’Ivoire, on Friday had their bail condition of reporting on every Friday to the CID headquarters in Accra, changed.

Each of them will on every Friday report to any Police station closer to them.

This was after counsel for the 10 CEPS officials, lawyers Appiah- Kubi and Raymond Bagnabu, among others pleaded with the presiding Judge, Patience Mills-Tetteh to relax the condition of their clients reporting to the CID head office in Accra since the main investigations had been completed. In addition, all the suspects live in the Western Region and therefore coming to Accra involves a lot of time and risk.

They also argued that the suspects would not jump bail should they be made to report to any nearest police station.

Mrs. Mills Tetteh in her admission to the request indicated that, she believes ‘every police station is a police station’ and they must therefore co-ordinate with the headquarters.

The bail sum of GH¢50,000 with one surety each to be justified, given to all the suspects at the previous sitting is however, still in force. Meanwhile Prosecutor Abraham Annor told the court that all the necessary investigations had been conducted and the docket was being forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice.

This did not go down well with the Judge who therefore urged the prosecutor to make sure that the docket reaches the A.G’s Department on time so that the case could be heard and subsequently dealt with as early as possible.

The case has been adjourned to June 14, 2010. Source: Yaa Asantewaa/Asempa News

CASE 3: COURT DISCHARGES 'ANAS COCOA SMUGGLERS'
The 14 security officials who were at the centre of the alleged cocoa smuggling from the Western Region of the country to Cote d'Ivoire, have for the second time, been discharged for 'want of prosecution'.

The 14 men who are from the Customs, Excise Preventive Service, the Ghana Police Service, and the Immigration Service were arrested for prosecution in April, last year, following undercover investigations by an ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, last year.

But on June 28, 2010, they were freed by an Accra Circuit Court presided over by Mrs. Patience Mills Tetteh for want of prosecution. This was after the prosecution failed to turn up in court, after three consecutive adjournments at their instance.

They were, however, re-arrested later by the police, and on July 13, 2010, arraigned on fresh charges of conspiracy to commit crime and attempted smuggling at another Circuit Court presided over by Mrs. Adjoa Coleman. However, five months into their arraignment, nothing has been done as the case had suffered several adjournments until the judge began her annual leave from August to October 2010.

When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday, the prosecution led by Principal State Attorney, Rexford Owiredu, failed to show up in court without any excuse or notice, neither was he represented. In November, the prosecution told the court that it intended to call its first witness in the person of Anas and, therefore, prayed the court to grant them an in-camera hearing for security reasons.

The court in view of the submission directed the prosecution to file a motion to that effect but as at Tuesday when the accused persons were discharged, the prosecution had not filed that motion. This prompted counsel for the accused led by Raymond Bagnabu, to pray the court to discharge his clients as a result of what he termed the inability and lack of desire by the prosecution to start the case.

The defence team also argued that adjourning the matter would only glorify the impunity and disrespect shown by the prosecution. The court then upheld the argument and accordingly discharged the accused persons but said the prosecution could bring them back whenever it was ready to prosecute case.

…Until their discharge on Tuesday, each of them was on GH¢20,000 with two sureties. SOURCE: http://news.myjoyonline.com/news/201102/60563.asp

CASE 4: MILLS CHARGES JUDICIARY TO HELP ‘CRUSH ENEMIES OF THE NATION’
President John Evans Atta Mills has paid a surprise visit to the Tema Harbour, in apparent response to the latest investigative documentary by journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

The documentary details widespread corruption at the Tema Harbour, frustrating a lot of importers.

Interacting with officials, President Mills condemned the corruption and urged them to work professionally to generate revenue for the state.

The president was outraged that the revelations were not reported to him by the security agencies operating in the port. “You have security agencies which are operating here, I wish that the revelations from Anas had come to me through the security agencies which are here. No. that has not been the case,” he regretted.

Speaking to findings of the journalist that millions of Ghana Cedis have been lost to the nation owing to the evasion of import duties, as a result of the abuse of tax exemption regulations.

President Mills said, “If anybody comes with the president’s name, the first thing you should do is to arrest that person.”

He also spoke of his disappointment that a High Court in Accra has discharged a group of customs officials who were implicated in a similar documentary by Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

“I want to use this occasion also – with the greatest of respect – to appeal to our judiciary… please, help each one of us to account for our stewardship. What happened with the Elubo video causes me so much distress, what happened? What happened? Is it a good example?” he asked.

President Mills suggested that all CEPS officials should be required to fill asset declaration forms once they are recruited into the service. He said from time to time, new forms should be filled so that property acquisition of CEPS officials can be tracked.

Joy News’ Seth Kwame Boateng who was with the president during the visit to the port, said he had never seen the president so angry. SOURCE: Joy News/Ghana

By dint of great irony, just a few days before our president went to Tema to lament, a court in this land set free 14 CEPS officials who were cut on camera taking bribes. It was also a case well-documented by the same journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. Yet, the accused were set free, not because they were innocent but because those that are being paid to prosecute the case refused to show up in court.

And since will live in a republic governed by law, the accused cannot be kept in detention indefinitely. They were set free. No single official has been call to account for this huge bungling.

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