In every civilised society, the fair treatment of all the people based on the principle of equal rights and justice is sine qua non (that cannot be done without).
For that reason, the legal system is considered sacred because it is the sole basis on which people who commit crimes are punished, while good and hardworking ones are rewarded or honored. That is why it is said that “a nation that does not honor its citizens is not worth-dying for.”
On the contrary, the law of the jungle operates where law and order have broken down and the legal institutions are not allowed to work. In that situation it is only the strong and witty that succeeds.
Looking at the recent spate of criminal activities, the question on the lips of many Ghanaians is whether the country is drifting slowly into a state of anarchy? Or whether the law is actually an ass?
This thinking is buttressed by all the hullabaloo and media blaze over topical crimes ranging from the so-called “gargantuan” crime to cocaine–turn–sodium carbonate (baking soda) saga that have engulfed the country of late, resulting in colossal financial loss to the state, indictment of high profile personalities and irreparable damages suffered by some people in leadership. All these are due, in part, to serious weaknesses in our law enforcement agencies and other public institutions.
For a country that is well known and highly respected for its strict adherence to the principles of the rule of law, freedom, justice and accountability, we must not allow things to go hay wire, but always stand up to the challenges of the time and clamp down on attitudes and crimes which have led to pervasive corruption and moral decadence in this country.
This piece is intended to be a clarion call on all well-meaning and patriotic Ghanaians to take their lessons carefully, and learn from the past - the bitter memories of fellow Ghanaians who lost their lives for similar crimes - so that in future they do not commit avoidable mistakes of self destruction.
We live in a country that has come a long way in its socio-political history. We have painfully watched or, at least heard about some of our immediate neighbours being engulfed in blood-bath that ended in wanton destruction of lives and property and serious environmental degradation.
We are therefore enjoined to learn to be satisfied with the little we have rather than live in super-abundance but without the least joy and comfort in our hearts.
All that we need as a people, is peace and forbearance - the quality of being patient, sympathetic and tolerant with one another and be law abiding, faithful and loyal to the leadership and the state.
Having said this, it will be proper to throw some light on our main stumbling blocks – some criminal and selfish behaviors from which the “gargantuan” crime had been coined and also the inherent weaknesses in the criminal justice system.
As we all know, the infamous “gargantuan crime” came about as a result of an alleged fraudulent payment of judgment debt to Alfred Agbesi Woyome. Ironically, this alleged criminal act has resulted in the arrest of some well-paid high public officials expected to protect state resources.
Analyzing the alleged ‘Woyomean’ scandal, which if proven to be true could pass for the greatest known scam ever to occur in this country, no one expected the problem to degenerate into partisan politics between the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the main opposition National Patriotic Party (NPP).
The blame-game that has ensued between the country’s two dominant parties does not clear the alleged mess that has caused the nation a whopping GHC58million loss but rather inflamed it.
Obviously, the row over whether it was NDC or NPP that was responsible for the payment of the debt to Woyome is not the crux of the matter.
Once the crime has been committed, whether it was initiated by this administration or the previous one is not the real issue. The two parties should come together and find ways and means of retrieving the money which was allegedly doled out for no work done.
Unfortunately, the whole issue has become a jigsaw puzzle with more emphasis shifting on which party had caused the financial loss rather than how to retrieve the money? If this country were to have a national policy that works in the supreme interest of the nation, how would dicey issues affecting the very wellbeing of the nation and the people be politicized?
Besides the alleged Woyome scam, another mind-boggling crime that hit the airwaves and competed for major newspaper headlines was the bizarre circumstances under which 1,020 grams of cocaine in the custody of an Accra Circuit Court miraculously changed into soda. The seemingly ‘hanky-panky’ manner in which this crime was handled cannot be left without fair comments.
This particular cocaine issue began somewhere in 2008, when Nana Ama Martins was arrested at the Accra Airport for attempting to smuggle the substance out of the country. When the substance was tested at the Police forensic laboratory, it was cocaine.
The accused, then on remand, managed to jump bail and dash away to the United States while her exhibit was kept under 24-hour surveillance at the CID headquarters until she was rearrested somewhere in July, 2011.
In fact, the whole case took a new turn when Nana Ama was re-arrested and her lawyer, contesting the matter in court, asked that the substance be retested after it had been kept overnight under the custody of the court.
That second testing, done by the Ghana Standards Board, proved negative for cocaine but positive for sodium carbonate (baking powder). Nana Ama was set free.
The Police and the Court threw accusing fingers at each other for masterminding the swapping of the exhibit. The Police Service, the Judiciary, BNI and CHRAJ were all tasked to conduct independent investigations and report to the government for action.
Based on the findings and recommendations of the committees that certain individuals must be held responsible for the swap, it came as a big surprise that DSP Tehoda, who was for a long time not in the country, has come to be in the center stage of the cocaine-turn-soda drama.
Nana Ama and the immediate and former heads of the Police Narcotic Unit, who were seen to be directly connected with the exhibit, appear to have escaped the brunt of the law.
Finally, Mrs. Tehoda has been charged with one count of stealing cocaine under Section 20 (1) of Act 29/60 and Section 56(a) of the Narcotic Drugs (Control, Enforcement and Sanctions) Act 1990, PNDCL 236.
In fact, both the Woyome ‘scandal’ and the cocaine–turn-soda saga are posing serious challenges to our criminal justice system.
With our determination to move this country forward, the following suggestions are being made for the authorities to consider.
* As a matter of urgency, this country must have a National Policy that will direct both public and private affairs and help in curbing partisan tendencies and divided loyalty in national development efforts.
* Carefully planned and conscious efforts must be made in waging a relentless war against corruption in all its subtle forms at the workplaces, government circles, private and public sectors and our religious institutions.
* Powerful institutions and agencies must be tasked to monitor, thoroughly scrutinize and check extravagant lifestyles, expensive funerals and weddings as well as the monetization of politics.
Fear must be put into the acquisition of illegal wealth, accepting bribes and living beyond one’s means.
* The criminal justice system needs complete overhauling and fine tuning to refine the legal system based on equal rights and justice.
* The media, also known as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, must be encouraged to publish the truth, expose corrupt practices by public officials and refrain from sensationalism.
As Ghanaians, let’s put this country on a new pedestal of development and bring sanity and decency into our social and political life.
The writer is a social commentator and an expert in social and political institutions of African countries.