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Understanding and respecting Ghana’s Constitution

BY: Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa

Proceedings of the Emile Short Commission of Enquiry into the Ayawaso West Wugon by-election violence is what has precipitated this article.

Let me begin by conceding that I am a neophyte in Constitutionalism but feel strongly about the goings-on at the Commission of Enquiry enough to.

let me pick up one of my copies of the 1992 Constitution, read it and try to put things in perspective.

Chapter 8, Article 83 on page 65 of the 1992 Constitution speaks to the National Security Council.

Clauses 1 to 6 detail the composition, meetings,who can be invited to meetings, voting rights of invitees, regulation of meetings and the Cabinet Secretary as Secretary to the National SecurityCouncil.

The President chairs the Council and in his absence the Vice President shall preside.

Article 84 elaborates on the functions of the National Security Council Article 85.No agency, establishment or other organisation concerned with national security shall be established except as provided for under this Constitution.

This is very significant considering the composition of the membership of the Council which includes all the professional and political heads of all agencies and ministries concerned with internal and external security of Ghana and in addition, three persons appointed by the President.

So where from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Squad under the National Security with a Director of Operations, Col. Michael Ofori, and a Tactical Commander DSP Azugu both with ranks much lower than the Chief of Defence Staff and the two other members of the Armed Forces, the Inspector General of Police and the two other members one of whom shall be the Commissioner of Police responsible for Criminal Investigations Department and Head of Prison Service, Directors of External Intelligence, Internal Intelligence and Military Intelligence and the Commissioner of Customs,Excise and Preventive Service all members of the National Security Council.

The IGP's attribution to the Commission that the security breaches and violence was due to the lack of coordination and collaboration between the Ghana Police Service and the National Security Council of which he is a member baffles me.

Earlier, Colonel Michael Opoku had indicated to the Commission of Enquiry that there was a Ministry of National Security and a National Security Council Secretariat.

 So why should the Secretariat have an implementing agency, SWAT squad.

This got me searching to find the antecedents to the Articles on National Security Council which first appeared in the 1969 Constitution.

The discussions with a Member of the 1969 Constituent Assembly made me understand why there was the need for the Council.

 The first republic had in 1964 after several attempts on the life of President Nkrumah led to the formation of the Presidential guard led by the late Colonel Zalerigu with
Ambrose Yankey and others in charge of the President's personal security.

These events clearly alienated the main security forces in charge of internal and external security of the country and demoralised the forces,and contributed in no small way to the February 24, 1966 coup.

 It was for these reason and others that the National Security Council was formulated by the Constituent Assembly to include everybody important in the security considerations of the country.

Why the need then of a SWAT squad with national security operatives deployed by the National Security for a national assignment?

 The testimony of one such operative at the Commission who used to be a mobile phone salesman at circle in Accra, recruited through an advert, doubtful, and trained in Asutuare for three weeks in basic weaponry and communication skills got me really worried.

Article 78 clause 2, allows the President to appoint such number of Ministers of State as may be necessary for the efficient running of the State and therefore the Minister for National Security but it does not permit the establishment of any agency, establishment or other organisationconcerned with national security of which the SWAT squad clearly is one.

The SWAT squad must be within the Police Service and controlled by the Police hierarchy, in which case the deployment would have been by the police and there would have been no lack of coordination or collaboration and probably no need to dress out of turn.

 The President chairs the National Security Council and any lapses thereof lie squarely with the President.

My contention is that the SWAT squad as constituted now under the NationalSecurity Council Secretariat is a constitutional aberration.

 The author is a Pathologist.