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Why the BNI is impudent and lawless

civil liberty

Photo ReportingWhy the BNI is impudent and lawless

By I. K. Gyasi

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton

Of all the security establishments of the State, the most impudent, lawless, and the one proving to be the most dreaded, is the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).

Officers and men (including women, of course) of the Ghana Armed Forces and the Ghana Police Service are easily identified by the prescribed uniform they wear.

It is true that personnel of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Police Service do not wear uniforms, but go about their duties dressed in mufti, that is, ordinary civilian clothes. That is to ensure that they carry out their basic duty of investigating crimes without exposing their identity.

However, the CID does not have a separate building unmarked by any notice. In other words, men and women of the CID operate in the same building as the regular police.

The BNI is different. Though the staff also wear ordinary civilian clothes like those of the Police CID, BNI officers are not identified by any notice board.

In Kumasi, for example, how many people know where the BNI building is? There is nothing office-like about the building .Their vehicles bear ordinary “civilian” number plates.

I am not criticising the “false” appearance of the BNI. They are also into investigating, mainly, security threats against the country, and, consequently, need anonymity to work as under-cover agents.

Apart from their anonymity, those in the BNI are permitted to carry arms. It is too bad that they have sometimes blown their cover and displayed guns foolishly and unnecessarily.

Before the constitutional era, the BNI had been brutally used against citizens. Torture and death had sometimes followed murderous forms of interrogation.

One would have thought that with the coming of the 1992 Constitution, the BNI would work within the law. The unprovoked and totally needless assault on Miss Gifty Lawson, a photo-journalist of the DAILY GUIDE, shows that, indeed, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The question to ask is: why does the BNI still behave as if we still live in an era in this country, when human life meant nothing to those who had illegally imposed themselves on us, and were behaving as if they were not human?

The answer is simple. The BNI can get away with murder, because when they commit an illegally or excesses, they can always have sympathy from those of the political divide, mainly the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Let me cite my two classic examples.

Back in 1999, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, then a Member of Parliament, was arrested by the Police, NOT by the BNI. When Nana Akufo Addo wondered whether a sitting Member of Parliament could be arrested, the then Majority NDC saw nothing wrong with the arrest.

The then Minister for the Interior, Nii Okaija Adamafio, “accused Nana Akufo Addo of trying to hide behind the Republican Constitution again.” (See PALAVER, Friday, November 8, 1999).

The PALAVER‘s own deduction from Nii Adamafio’s reference to Article 117 of the 1992 Constitution was as follows, “From the above, therefore, if an MP is picked up for questioning on Wednesday or Monday, days that Parliament does not sit, the issue of immunity does not arise.”

When the NPP was in power, honourable E.T Mensah was arrested by the BNI over the Ohene Gyan Sports Stadium tragedy, in which over one hundred persons lost their lives.

The then Minority in Parliament raised hell, condemning the arrest as infringing on the rights of Mr. Mensah as an MP. They staged a protest boycott of Parliament, and expected the Majority side to join them.

Unfortunately, the NPP Majority did not ‘forgive’ the NDC; they decided not to join the boycott. In any case, Mr. Mensah was arrested on Saturday, a day Parliament does not normally sit!!!

On Tuesday, June 2, 2009, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, the immediate past Chief of Staff under the Kufuor-led NPP Government, was at the office of the infamous BNI in Accra. He was accompanied by three lawyers, namely, Mr. Yoni Kulendi, Mr. Egbert Faibille, and Ms Hamida Nuhu.

In an interview with PEACE FM, Mr. Kulendi said that he and his colleague lawyers were not allowed to be with their client. Secondly, according to Mr. Kulendi, Mr. Mpiani was interrogated for almost twelve hours. He also painted a gloomy picture of the future of this country, should the law be arbitrarily applied.

Mr. E.T. Mensah reacted to the statement by Mr. Kuendi, and far from sympathising with Mr. Mpiani, Mr. Mensah said that Mr. Mpiani received more humane treatment than he (Mr. Mensah) had.

Mr. Mensah stated that he was interrogated from about 8:00 a.m. to about 5:00 p.m. Not only that, but he was asked to strip to his pants. When he refused, a soldier cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him.

He added that his lawyer was not allowed to sit with him during the interrogation, and his phones were taken away from him. Moreover, insisted of being allowed to go home, he was detained and made to sleep on an old, dirty mattress in a mosquito-infested room.

His home was searched, first by 50 soldiers, and later, by 70 soldiers, all armed. On that Saturday, Mr. Mensah was preparing to attend a funeral. Naturally, he could not.

There are two points here. In the first place, the BNI has not only resorted to torture (physical or psychological), but has also blatantly ignored the provisions of the 1992 Constitution.

In a constitutional era, some persons have been illegally prevented from travelling by the BNI, their passports seized. A pregnant woman is reported to have died at the hands of the BNI, in a matter that should have been investigated by the police instead.

A judge and her court were besieged by gun-wielding BNI agents, because the names of bailed drug-related suspects had been mentioned in a British court, and that, therefore, there was the probability of extradition. Even a very senior police officer, a woman, was arrested beyond 48 hours without being taken to court. Immediately she was granted bail, she was re-arrested and detained again.

It was when her lawyer was going again to apply for bail that she was hurriedly taken to a circuit court and charged.

Secondly, as stated earlier, the BNI has, with utter impunity, got away with serious breaches of the law, because politicians cannot present a common front, and also because authority is not prepared to curb the power placed in the hands of this outfit called the BNI.

We, ordinary citizens, can only hope and pray that we will not fall into the clutches of this monster.

Source: http://thechronicle.com.



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