Midland assault video: no scapegoating, please!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah- Afari

Of all the reported acts of kindness and solidarity so far shown Patience Osafo, the customer viciously beaten by a policeman at a branch of the Midland financial institution, what has touched me most is an account of a donation of two tins of baby milk powder.

During Ms Osafo’s ordeal she had been holding a baby, the infant whose need for baby milk powder, was a principal reason why she had been so mercilessly beaten.

She had insisted on being allowed to withdraw some money from her account that day because she couldn’t go home again empty-handed. There would be no milk for the baby.     
 
As described to me by an eyewitness who had been waiting at the reception of Peace FM, on another mission last Monday, July 23, the ‘widow’s mite’ donation came from a middle-aged woman who from her appearance was herself poor. Yet, she had made her way to the radio station with two tins of NAN infant formula, the brand mentioned by Ms Osafo when telling her story.

Initially, the woman had refused to wait for her details to be recorded, not seeking any thanks or recognition. She was finally persuaded to give her name and details. Evidently, as far as she was concerned, two tins of baby food (priced at about GH¢33 each), was no big deal, but that was all she could afford.
That widow’s mite donation moved me to tears.

I said to myself, so then all is not yet lost, Ghanaians still feel the pain of fellow Ghanaians.  But then my first question was: so then why did the staff of the Midland Savings and Loans branch at Shiashie, East Legon, in Accra, not save Ms Osafo, their customer, holding an infant, from the policeman? Fear of his guns?
Initial reports had said the victim was a nursing mother. It later emerged that the baby that Ms Osafo had been holding was actually her grandchild, born out of the rape of her ailing, 16-year-old daughter.

My second question: why did the manager himself, or herself, or the senior person who had instructed the ‘robotic policeman’ to drive the woman out not come out to restrain him from his savagery?

The story of 36-year-old Ms Osafo’s nightmare is now well known, from Accra to Zebilla.  Her own, vivid account of her ordeal in a UTV interview, was captured   by other media.

Ms Osafo’s life, as she told UTV, has been story of a harrowing existence, battling extreme deprivation and distress.
 
Her efforts to withdraw some of her savings, accumulated through susu deposits from hawking sweets, began on Friday, July 13, 2018. But for four days, they kept giving her the runaround, ‘go come, go come’, the excuse that the branch was experiencing “network challenges”.

So on Thursday, July 19, when she arrived there at about 7:30am, she had vowed not to leave until she had cashed some money because she was flat broke and had nothing at home to feed her family, not even money to buy baby milk for her infant grandchild.
 
At about 4:30pm the police officer was asked to drive her away, resulting in a scuffle and the unspeakable assault.

In the video, the policeman later identified by the Ghana Police Service as Lance Corporal Godzi Frederick Amanor of the Accra Regional Police Operational Unit, is seen pummelling Ms Osafo, with hefty blows to her head and face, although she was holding the wailing baby. She said he also hit her with the butt of his gun.

He then grabbed her umbrella and continued his assault, hitting her with the umbrella, kicking her. He is then seen dragging her on the floor to the doorway.

In the midst of the beating, a man is seen pulling the baby out of Ms Osafo’s hold and after rescuing the baby, he is also seen trying to restrain Amanor.
 
Ironically, after the unprovoked beating, she was finally paid all her savings of GH¢270.

Understandably, when the video went viral, it generated such public outrage as has rarely been experienced or seen in Ghana. Inspector-General of Police, Mr David Asante-Apeatu, immediately ordered the Lance Corporal’s arrest and he has since been interdicted.

President Nana Akufo-Addo was moved to comment that “policemen are meant to protect citizens and not assault them.”   

The Midland management has issued a public apology to Ms Osafo, while waiting to make personal contact with her. Amanor’s family, too has reportedly issued a statement apologising to Ms Osafo.

But to me a central question was: who videotaped the assault and posted it online? Obviously an insider, was my guess and this was confirmed by a copied online posting, supposedly by the unnamed Midland owner or Chief Executive Officer, to his friends. In it, he stated, among other things: “I personally took the police officer to the CID and handed him over to the police.”

The he added another revelation: “Our Customer Service Officer, whose duty is to assist the customer, was rather the one who recorded the incident and uploaded it on social media. I say this not to defend the company but to warn my colleagues, who equally have companies that sometimes our problems may come from internal.”

From the above, it seems that the owner is looking for a scapegoat for the branch’s inability to handle the matter appropriately. However, in my view, having given the policeman an instruction to drive the customer out, whoever gave the order should have intervened to save Ms Osafo.

By his comment that “sometimes our problems may come from internal” it appears that the CEO blames the Customer Service Officer for posting the assault on a social media platform. Maybe left to him alone, the image of his bank was more important than the assault being shown to the world.

Anyway, wonderful demonstrations of solidarity with Ms Osafo continue. Donations of cash, food for the baby and the whole Osafo family, as well as clothing, have been steadily pouring in.  

Another consolation is that the Police Administration has reportedly launched a platform where people with video evidence of police unprofessional conduct can send them for investigation. It is welcome news and no doubt more publicity will soon be given this laudable initiative.

And the Midland management should not make the branch Customer Service Officer a scapegoat. That courageous person has served Ghana, and even Midland, very well.

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