Photo: The demolished toll booth
These are the strangest times in Ghana. It appears the dwarves are not only fiddling with cash in the banks but with the brains of top government officials too. That would explain recent actions of the national security team. Instead of chasing the Chinese and other illegal miners polluting rivers and destroying forests across the country, personnel from National Security would demolish toll booths at Legon without any legal authority whatsoever.
The University insists it must charge tolls to pay for the renovation of its roads. Many are outraged by the introduction of tolls but the school says private users must pay for the loan secured to fund the project. Critics say the tolls are illegal because private institutions cannot collect taxes without parliamentary approval.
Some have gone as far as the Supreme Court to challenge the policy. But before the court could sit on the case, National Security personnel swept in and demolished the structures. It turns out the demolition was a pointless exercise because the tolls are still being collected.
According to the National Security Coordinator, Larry Gbevlo-Lartey the booths were causing traffic and being a nuisance to the public.
“We sent word to the Head of Security in Legon to tell him that that was unacceptable and that they would have to do some readjustment so that that nuisance is removed,” Gbevlo-Lartey told the Citi Breakfast Show.
Mind you, Gbevlo-Lartey is the national security chief. He can meet whoever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants. His excuse for not meeting the head of security at Legon, hence the dawn demolition, is unbelievably silly. So is his reason for not contacting the Vice Chancellor. Instead of apologising, Gbevlo-Lartey tries in vain to justify his crude methods.
I have no problem with the demolition of the toll booths. In fact the whole tolling policy annoys me as much as it does the National Security boss. My beef is with the way and manner the demolition was conducted.
All the colonel and his men should have done was to alert the management of the university and the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Police Service to work on a solution. But our national security outfit only likes to employ the tactics of thuggery and intimidation. They are known for their Rambo-style arrests, detaining people and denying them access to family and lawyers. They once arrested a filmmaker for making a film with a title they believed was mocking a president.
To top it, the office is headed by a man who believes his duty is to make the government look good. There is no way he would have called striking workers undisciplined. “If you can’t sacrifice like what some of us have done then get out,” he said. “If the kitchen is too hot for you, get out.”
For me, the fact that all this is happening under a government with roots in a military junta, a regime under which people were frequently detained, properties seized for no reason and people went missing under suspicious circumstances makes the Legon demolition terrifying. What would they do next? Detain the Vice Chancellor when they decide the charges are illegal?
I don’t blame Gbevlo-Lartey for being confused about this role as national security coordinator. I suspect the person who appointed him did not give him any terms of reference. Wikipedia has a wonderful definition for national security, I suggest he and his team read up and redefine their methods and areas of focus.
In the meantime, here is a list of issues I believe are threats to our security: unemployment, corruption, porous borders, the rise in armed robbery cases and cybercrime. Also, the Chinese are stealing all our trade secrets and ideas. That’s a national security issue too. We would be grateful if Gbevlo-Lartey could fix these and leave the traffic and ‘daily-nuisance’ issues to the police and the mayors.