The issue of political interference and the Independence of the Ghana Police Service has been a long-standing issue. The issue has been rekindled once again with the presentation by ACP Dr. Benjamin Agordzor at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) on Political Vigilantism.
As much as I agree that the provisions in the constitution act as a fetter on our Independence, the points raised by the respected senior colleague and the proposal for the amendment of the constitution, I disagree with the view that, because the constitutional provisions, our hands are so tied to the extent that, we cannot do anything to claim our independence. Does that mean that, until the amendment is done we should stand aloof and watch the politicians, who have taken advantage of these provisions and have no political will to initiate the process of amending the provisions, take us for a ride?
I believe that, as Police Officers, we should take part of the blame. We have contributed largely to the behavior of the politicians. Some of us are not professional at all, have aligned ourselves with these political parties and walk the political corridors seeking favors. We virtually beg them to appoint us as IGP, use our hometown chiefs and same politicians to lobby the powers that be to appoint us as IGP and other high positions within the Service. Why would they not think that they are doing us a favor and therefore expect that the favor would be reciprocated when the time comes?
Why should an IGP be afraid to be removed if the reason for his removal is that, he has done the right thing? I believe it would rather be a feather in his/her cap for standing up against political influence. One should not be afraid of leaving the service, if he/she has served and risen through the ranks no matter his/her entry point to become a Commissioner of Police and subsequently the IGP and be removed because he/she stood for the right thing and against Political influence. He/she would have paid his/her dues to mother Ghana as well as the Ghana Police Service.
As police officers, Section 1(2) of the Police Service Act, 1970 (Act 350) is clear on what orders we should obey, it says that:
“A police officer shall perform the functions that are by law conferred on a police officer and shall obey the lawful orders and directions in respect of the execution of the office which may be received from superiors in the Service.”
The operating word here is Lawful Orders. Unless of course an IGP is not covered by this provision, what prevents him/her from disobeying instructions which are unlawful and impact negatively on his/her duties? Mind you, Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution talks about equality before the law and against discrimination in all forms. It provides that:
(1) All persons shall be equal before the law.
(2) A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.
(3) For the purposes of this article, “discriminate” means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, gender, occupation, religion or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or are granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description.
So, our failure to apply the law equally and not being able to bring persons who flout the law to book because of their political leanings is clearly a violation of the constitution.
Yes, the IGP is appointed by the President but this is a constitutional duty imposed on the president, the president has no option than to appoint the IGP, it does not mean that the person so appointed should serve the interest of the appointing authority. The President cannot say that, his powers to appoint overrides other provisions of the constitution which expect us to act fairly and without fear or favour and can just remove an IGP just because he/she was professional in his/her duties.
The Police Service is also named under Article 190 of Constitution, 1992, as one of the Public Services of Ghana and Article 191 provides for the protection of public Officers in the performance of their duties. It says that:
191. Protection of public officers
A member of the public services shall not be
(a) victimized or discriminated against for having discharged his duties faithfully in accordance with this Constitution; or
(b) dismissed or removed from office or reduced in rank or otherwise punished without just cause.
What will be the just cause for removing an IGP for performing his/her duties in accordance with the constitution? The thing is, we have not flexed our muscles for a President to take such an action so that we can challenge the decision in court. I believe that is the way we should go. We should be able to go court as an institution on some these matters. The Police Legal Directorate is registered as a chamber and can take up some of these issues.
Can’t we also go to the Supreme Court for interpretation of Article 202? Does the fact that the IGP is appointed by the President and subject to the direction of Police Council mean he should be subject to political influence and receive orders which will jeopardize the traditional role of the police in maintaining law and order?
The question I ask myself is why are we the Police Service not using some of these provisions to fight political influence until we as a country are able to develop the political will to Amend Article 202? The answer is not far-fetched – selfish interest. We are not united at all in this fight. If we don’t stop the backbiting, the eye service – trying to catch the eye of the politicians because we want to occupy certain positions, then we should forget, we will continue to be chess in the hands of the politicians as stated by the respected senior colleague.
Some of us go as far as lying to these same politicians about political leanings of other officers because we want to occupy their positions or want them removed from certain positions and this we cannot blame the politicians for but ourselves. There is strength in unity. Even the Almighty God Himself was scared about the unity of the people that he came down to confuse their language in order to prevent them from building a Tower.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do, 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Gen 11: 6
This is what the politicians are doing to us, they are playing us against each other and we also falling for it. It is time for us to stand up and say this nonsense must stop. Can you imagine if all of us speak with one language and support whoever is appointed with other Senior Police officers refusing to accept appointment as IGP because an IGP was wrongly removed?
That we are ready to do everything to resist political influence including the option to embark on a strike action as an institution just to ensure we gain our independence. Which government can survive the Police going on strike even for one hour? We cannot claim independence if we remain our own enemies and play into the hands of the politicians, because politicians in the part of our world as we have come to know them will take advantage of every situation provided it will be in their interest.
Alex Odonkor (Supt.)
Legal and Prosecutions