The National Security Coordinator, has strongly defended the demolishing of a tollbooth being erected at the Okponglo entrance of the University of Ghana (UG) campus saying, it had become a nuisance “causing a complete disaffection to the public” especially, those plying the main Accra-Legon-Madina-Adenta-Aburi Road.
The nation’s premier university, had controversially stationed officers at the various entry and exit points of the Institution, collecting fees from both private and commercial motorists, who ply its re-constructed roads, saying it had taken a loan from a yet to be named bank.
Lt. Col Larry Gbevlo-Lartey (Rtd), explained that the exercise was carried out mainly because of the wrongfulness of the tollbooths’ location, describing it as “unacceptable and a complete nuisance” to members of the public who ply the highway road and its surrounding areas.
The demolition of the tollbooth under construction by National Security officials, has seen legal practitioner, Egbert Faibille, changing his earlier position to fight authorities of the university to stop, to now threatening to sue the National Security Capo, claiming the demolishing was unlawful and must be condemned.
Shockingly, Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby, ex-Chief Executive of the debt-ridden Ghana@50 Secretariat, also called on President John Mahama to sack the National Security Coordinator for demolishing the tollbooths. He politicized the exercise, drawing ex-President Jerry John Rawlings into the event.
According to Lt. Col. Gbevlo-Lartey, his outfit was forced to demolish the structures following several warnings and personal visits to the site to witness the inconvenience members of the public driving in front of the university were going through.
However, the school’s authorities, failed to do something about the situation and continued to frustrate motorists, some of who spend hours in traffic, at a place which would have taken less than five minutes to traverse.
“I went there personally on Sunday and asked the senior guy there in the Legon-military-looking security uniform. They have four stripes up and left a note on my complementary card for his boss, who he said was ACP Amadu (Rtd) I think.”
“And on that note, I said that particular position was wrong in whatever deployment he was doing it, because it was causing a lot of nuisance and, therefore, they will have to relocate, I left my mobile phone [number] and asked them to call me, I didn’t receive any call from him and the situation continued”.
“Now yesterday (Monday), I went there personally and told the guy that they have to move further inside, if they are going to deploy so many check points in there to ensure they achieve their aim, that is their business, but they cannot come that forward and completely disrupt traffic on the road”, he said.
Lt. Col. Gbevlo-Lartey, argued that the decision had nothing to do with the pending tussle between some two students of the University and the authorities in court; neither did it have anything to do with the monies being collected as a result of the usage of the road, but a proactive measure to address a public nuisance.
He has also served notice that operatives of the National Security, will pull down any such structure the University erects if it will inconvenience members of the public.
“The next time they put another block there, we will go and remove it; that structure cannot be there, he said.
Asked if he contacted the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryittey, before the exercise since the structure was on the University’s land, Lt. Col. Gbevlo-Lartey on Joy FM rebutted that there was no need for him to have discussed the matter with him, since he wasn’t directly responsible for the security, but an official he noted he had earlier met and discussed with, but refused to cooperate with him.
“You know that that structure is in Ghana. I don’t have to speak to the Vice Chancellor about this exercise; I won’t go and bother the vice chancellor about this…we are dealing completely with the head of security, and this is the human phase; it will be done right at the inception…you speak to people in the language they understand,
Acknowledging the many public condemnations that often follow lawful demolish on state lands, National Security Capo said that it was most appropriate that the structures were collapsed at their early stage to stop further development of the tollbooth.
“There are two parts of these; the first thing is that they shouldn’t be there in the first place, because it is causing a complete nuisance to everybody. And the second thing is that their intent to construct the tollbooths there must be stopped now before they complete it and start asking whether we were sleeping when they were building it”, he noted.
“This is the human phase; it will be done right at the inception…you speak to people in the language they understand…”
The National Security Coordinator, made the comment when he granted an interview to Joy FM, after early morning information had emerged that operatives of the National Security, had stormed the university at the wee hours of Tuesday to demolish the uncompleted tollbooth.
Early this month, the University began collecting toll from motorists to service a loan the University claims it contracted from a bank to re-construct that section of the road.
The decision to institute a tolling system on its roads has angered many lawyers, arguing about the appropriateness of the decision
All appeals by Government, including one from the Chief of Staff, Prosper Douglas Bani to the university to stop collecting the tolls, have been ignored with the authorities insisting that they will only stop collecting the tolls after servicing a loan of US$2.3 million it took to construct the roads.
The Student Representative Council (SRC), kicked against the move and subsequently petitioned Parliament to investigate the matter.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Roads, after investigating the matter declared that the school authorities had the right to charge the tolls after meeting with the Vice Chancellor and the Road Minister.
The Vice-Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, Theophilus Tetteh Chaie, said the University acted within the law in its imposition of tolls for the use of its roads, because there was a provision in the University act which permits them to do it.
Confirming the incident on the Citi Breakfast Show, the head of security at the University, ACP Adamu Salifu, stated that when he arrived at the scene around “1:30am, the demolition had already been done and those who did it were gone.”
The national security personnel were said to have been accompanied by armed policemen “and with their bulldozers, they pulled it down…I was told it took them about 5 to 10 minutes and they were gone.”
He, however, indicated that the tolls are still being charged despite the removal of the structure.
Meanwhile, the Director of Public Affairs at the university, Mrs. Stella Amoah, has described the action as “unilateral”, saying “management is disappointed by the lack of courtesy”.
According to her, the university did not see the demolition coming, because its management was not notified by the National Security outfit.
Mrs. Amoah said that the university’s governing council, would hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to deliberate on the next course of action.
According to Egbert Faibille, National Security has no right to enter into the property of a semi-autonomous institution, albeit a public one, and pull down structures without a court order.
“Pursuant to what law [did National Security break down the tollbooth]”? He asked, claiming the demolition exercise would affect his case for the two students, who have dragged the UG to Court.
“What aspect of National Security operations say that when there is traffic on an ordinary course of road it has national security implications and National Security can just go in and pull structures down”? He demanded.
He argued that to the extent that the construction of the tollbooth was connected to the collection of the tolls which is the subject of a court case, pulling down the tollbooth affects his clients’ case.
The conduct of National Security and the Coordinator, must consequently be brought to court for a pronouncement on its legality or otherwise, he submitted.
The UG, on its part condemned the demolition of its toll booth around Okponglo by the National Security Tuesday, but failed to address the traffic jams which had created “disaffection to the public”, the National Security boss had spoken about.