Nov 22


The Daily Guide November 22 2014

It Is odd that President Mahama found it wise to defend the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) on the Bureau’s “invitation” to a couple of journalists over the reports that a woman had been arrested in London for taking some cocaine to the United Kingdom.

[Incidentally, why didn’t the Daily Graphic originally publish the fact that its Editor had been quizzed by the BNI over the issue but buried it in the report of the President’s comments on the matter? This sort of flagrant suppression of news, which the Ghana media is fond of carrying out, is extremely dangerous, for if the Editor himself can be quizzed without his own paper reporting it, then what if other, more junior members of staff, are picked up? Or ordinary members of the public? When news of such arrests (call them, if you like, “invitations by the Police”) is suppressed, the organs of the state that carry out such arrests can continue to carry them out with impunity. For they know that the cowardly Editors of the media (especially the state-owned newspapers) will not publish anything about the arrests, and when no-one knows about them, then, of course, no-one can protest, or bring the arresting authorities to book!)

To continue:it is not at all prudent for a President to get publicly involved in matters that concern security/intelligence agencies.

Their stock-in-trade includes deception, and so clever Governments keep them at an arm’s length, in case the agencies embark on an “exercise” whose results could redound with embarrassment on their Government.

That is why the more efficient security agencies always incorporate what is called
“plausible deniability” into the planning of their operations. Thereby, even if things go awry, their Governments can feign ignorance of the operation(s).

Now, Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations is associated, in many people’s minds, with the unenviable political history of this country.

All manner of tyrannical and corrupt politicians/military rulers used the BNI, in the past, to achieve their political objectives, without scrupling to tar the BNI with the brush of utter shame.

It used torture, intimidation and lies to destroy the lives of many people whose sole offence was that they did not agree with the policies of the rulers of the time.

So who did President Mahama think he was kidding when he told the conference to mark the 20th anniversary of Radio Eye, at the International Conference Centre (Daily Graphic 20 November 2014) that the BNI was right when it “asked (not ordered)” two journalists “to come to the BNI and assist with investigations”? The President claimed that “This isn’t our fathers’ BNI, your father’s BNI.
This is the BNI of today”!

I am sorry, Mr President, but reputations are earned, not bestowed by presidential

If people associate the BNI with heavy-handedness, it is because of its own ham-fisted actions. Remember the Legon road-blocking incident, huh?

The way to deal with false reports in the media, Mr President, is not to set the BNI on the purveyors of those reports. Kindly ask your Press Officers – who should be on such good terms with media practitioners that the latter would feel gratified to receive calls from the presidency – to tell whoever had carried the false report why it was not accurate. The Press Officers should then provide an accurate account for publication and correction.

I ask though: Would your Press Officers be given the true facts regarding a case like this cocaine matter? Stories were being spun all over the place by interested parties. They would lie to even their own President, in order to cover their backsides.

What has emerged as undeniable is that (1) the woman did manage to leave the Kotoka International Airport with the drugs and (2) that she had more than one passport.

NACOB apparently suggested that it knew about the shipment beforehand and had facilitated its interception in London by the British customs authorities.

This was a blatant lie and it stung the normally taciturn British High Commission in Accra to issue
an official statement, pointing out that the “UK authorities had no prior knowledge of the intentions of [the smuggler] Nayele Ametefeh,” before she flew from Accra to London on 9/10 November.”

The High Commission further clarified that although the UK had been collaborating with Ghana’s NACOB since 2006, the nature of the partnership required that potential drug traffickers were prevented
from boarding flights to the UK in order to traffic drugs. “[The] UK authorities work closely with NACOB to ensure that, wherever possible, any potential drug trafficker to the UK from Ghana is arrested here in Ghana and not permitted to board a flight in order to traffic drugs”, the British statement added.

Now, is that not extremely embarrassing to the Ghana Government, whose agency NACOB is? Will the President punish NACOB for acting in such a way that it forced the hand of the British High Commission in Accra to issue a statement contradicting what a Ghana Government agency had said on such a sensitive issue as drug trafficking? What does that say about how our Government and its agencies operate?

Now, do you realise, Mr President, that the British High Commission in Accra might not have commented on the issue at all, had the BNI “invitation” to the two journalists not turned the matter from a routine criminal investigation into one that potentially touched on the freedom of the Press, and which therefore obliged the British to clarify the facts as they knew them?

Indeed, the presidential pronouncements on the matter will ensure that the story will run and run. “Plausible deniability” has been lost, as regards this story. For if one lie has been told by an agency of the Ghana Government, why can’t other lies be told? Especially, by the BNI, which few people trust anyway?

The BNI is like the proverbial Kwaku Ananse, of whom it is said that “If he says look up and you don’t look downwards, you are already dead!” So if it says that it has “invited” a citizen to come to it to “voluntarily” answer questions, what it is not saying is that if the citizen refuses, the BNI, as a fully-fledged investigative arm of the Government, is empowered to use armed force
(probably through the ordinary police) to ensure that the invitation is accepted by force! It may in fact deprive a citizen of his/her liberty for up to 24 hours, following which it can ask a court for a period of further detention.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not defending sloppy newsmen – and alas, we do have some! – against the BNI. I am an advocate of the careful, accurate and responsible use of Press Freedom. I urge my fellow journalists to work so assiduously that their reports will, as far as possible, always be accurate and fair.

But that does not mean that if they occasionally fail – and failure is always around the corner, in the sensitive job of news-gathering – the BNI should descend on them with a ton of bricks.

Especially when everyone knows that the BNI’s only real beef is that the media have dared to expose matters that should make the BNI’s political masters hang their heads in shame. The foreign embassies on our soil can easily see through that, as can members of the public.


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