The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has condemned the National Security for demolishing a security post being constructed at the University of Ghana, describing it as an ‘act of lawlessness’.
‘The GBA condemns unreservedly this act of lawlessness and abuse of power as a threat to the rule of law, democratic governance and the peace of our nation.’
For the second time within three months, the National Security demolished a security post erected at the Okponglo entrance of the university citing human security concerns.
The sacked National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey started the demolition in February when under the cover of darkness, he ordered operatives to pull down the structure which was to serve as a toll booth and a security post for the university, sparking intense public debate.
Mr. Gbevlo-Lartey had justified his actions by insisting that the toll booth was going to cause unnecessary and unwanted traffic at the Okponglo traffic intersection on the Tetteh Quarshie-Madina Highway.
As a result, the university community, particularly the dons, were incensed by the former Commanding Officer of the 64 Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces’ action and waged vehement campaign for his removal, a move which appeared to have been heeded by the President.
Just as the dust was settling, the National Security which is now under the command of former Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) Director Yaw Donkor, swooped again on Monday night and demolished the near completed structure, worsening the already strained relationship between the two institutions.
The GBA was not enthused about the actions of the National Security and issued a statement rather belatedly, jointly signed by its National President Nene Amegatcher and National Secretary Justin Amenuvor to condemn the actions.
‘The Ghana Bar is aware of the fact that there has been a raging dispute between the University of Ghana authorities and the Office of National Security Coordinator as to whether or not an observation post or gate should be put up at the Okponglo entrance to the university,’ the statement said.
‘National security officials are of the view that the siting of the post on the road leading to the university at the Okponglo entrance would create a public nuisance, as this would create a serious hindrance to the flow of traffic on the Legon/Madina highway. The university authorities, on the other hand, are of the view that it was important and legitimate for the university to put up an observation post at the entrance to the university, as the university is not in that sense a thorough public way, but private property, even though it provides an essential public service.’
‘What is most disturbing for the GBA is that, more than twenty years into our democratic and constitutional dispensation, where the rule of law is expected to hold sway, an important state institution, as our national security institution, can blatantly ignore due process of the law, and proceed in ‘Rambo’ style’ to destroy the security/observation post the University of Ghana authorities were constructing.
‘Even more worrying is the fact that the National Security under the cover of darkness surreptitiously embarked on this demolition exercise. This ‘night act’ sends wrong signals to criminals to emulate such unwarranted suspicious times to perpetuate crime.’
The statement queried: ‘Does that also not smack of illegalities because should the law give such power to the National Security, what stops it from undertaking this activity in broad daylight?’
Creature of law
The GBA said that since the Office of the National Security Coordinator was ‘a creature of law’ they ‘must act in accordance with law.’
‘If the Office of the National Security Coordinator feels as strongly about the structure that the university authorities were putting up, what it should have done was to have gone to court and make a case before an impartial judicial tribunal for an injunction to restrain the university from putting up the observation post.
‘An equally worrying dimension of this incident is the question of national security. Is it the case that the traffic congestion that the observation post might possibly have caused is a national security issue justifying the intervention of the Office of National Security Coordinator?’ the GBA asked.
Arrogation of power
‘It cannot be the case, in a law governed democratic republic, that the office of the National Security Coordinator can simply arrogate to itself an unlimited discretion to determine what constitutes a national security threat, even where it is obvious that no national security question is in issue.’
The GBA said there are clear guidelines, consistent with the law which should be established by the National Security Council to invoke national security as a basis of intervention in ordinary civil public life adding, ‘In the view of the GBA, whatever traffic congestion the construction of an observation post may create is a simply motor traffic issue which can well be handled by the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service or the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.’
They called on the university to adopt ‘the culture of due process’ and use all lawful means to protect its property.
By William Yaw Owusu
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