Police authorities in the Upper East Region are being heavily criticised by human rights watchers and scores of residents in the Upper East Region following the arrest and detention of a popular critic of the Paramount Chief of Talensi, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang, and the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu.
Zumah Tii-roug was arrested on Friday, April 14, 2023, by the Upper East Regional Police Command after one Thompson Amartey, who is known as a GLICO field worker in the region and purported to be a pastor, levelled what many have described as a baseless allegation of extortion against Tii-roug.
Tii-roug, who is the secretary to an anti-corruption group, National Patriots against Injustice and Corruption Ghana (NAPAIC-Ghana) and has been very loud against the Tongraan and the Upper East Regional Minister in recent times, has been refused bail by the Upper East Regional Police Command. He has been in police cells in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, since Friday up to today Sunday, April 16, 2023.
Scores of residents who have expressed interest in securing bail for him have been told by the police that “an order from above” says he should not be granted bail.
Tii-roug has been a strong admirer and defender of Justice Alexander Graham, a High Court judge who recently convicted two people who were sent to his chambers by the Tongraan to invite the judge on his behalf to his palace for a private discussion on some mining-related court cases which were filed by some parties in Talensi and were being heard by Justice Graham. The judge, who considered the Tongraan’s move as an attempt to influence his decisions on those cases, ordered the immediate arrest of the two people— Richard Sunday Yinbil, secretary to the Tongraan, and Naab Nyarkora Mantii, the Chief of Baare— in the courtroom. The two men were charged with contempt of court on Friday, March 10, 2023. They pleaded guilty and were convicted on their own plea.
The judge also requested that the Tongraan himself be brought before him immediately to face prosecution for being the instigator behind the contemptuous act, but he was spared after lawyers pleaded profusely on his behalf. The two agents sent by the Tongraan were ordered by the court to sign a bond of good behaviour before the Upper East Regional Police Command.
Tii-roug led NAPAIC-Ghana a few hours after the conviction of the two agents of Tongraan at a news conference where he (Tii-roug) praised Justice Graham for promoting the image of the judiciary and entreated the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, to reward Justice Graham for his “heroic” action. When Justice Graham came under a violent attack at his Bolgatanga residence five days after convicting the two agents of the Tongraan and had to leave the region unprepared in the wake of the violent attack after the Chief Justice asked him to move to Accra for his own safety, Tii-roug led another press conference where he condemned the attack on Justice Graham, criticised the Regional Minister for not providing security for the judge and asked that the Tongraan be investigated following the attack on the judge.
Even when the regional minister issued a rejoinder rebutting media reports that Justice Graham was escorted by soldiers and police officers out of the region in the wake of the attack, Tii-roug slammed the regional minister again at another news conference, saying the regional minister was unconcerned about the safety and security of judges and judicial service workers in the region.
On Thursday April 13, 2023, Tii-roug also joined the Development Research and Advocacy Centre (DRAC) in giving evidence before the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in the region against the Upper East Regional Minister who is being investigated by CHRAJ over allegations of fraud, abetment of crime, abuse of office and false representation levelled against him (the regional minister) by some small-scale miners in Talensi.
“The Upper East Region has turned into a place where we cannot be sure of our security anymore. If judges who want to do the right thing are not safe and have to run away from the region because of violent attacks, we the ordinary people feel more insecure and we can’t be sure of justice. What is happening to Tii-roug was highly expected just as many people said they foresaw the attack on Justice Graham.
“The police in this region have been compromised against the people they are supposed to protect. We have heard that big men who are occupying big positions which they don’t deserve and have nothing good to offer society are behind Tii-roug’s arrest and detention just to punish him for being a thorn in their flesh. These corrupt big shots have been desperately looking for any little thing they can use against their critics,” said, Johnson Asoyire, when he joined other residents to visit Tii-roug at the Bolgatanga District Police Station on Sunday.
Another resident, Issifu Rahman, said: “They are targeting those who speak against them. That is their strategy. The region is in a serious mess and this mess has been worsened by a group of corrupt journalists who are supporting these corrupt big men, some corrupt chiefs and these exploitative Chinese mining companies in the region and writing and broadcasting false news against anybody who criticises these corrupt forces and their oppressive paymasters. The regional police command has now turned into a private company and an oppressive centre which some big and rich people are using to oppress the poor and the voiceless.”
We will not bow to intimidation— NAPAIC-Ghana declares
Meanwhile, members of NAPAIC-Ghana have announced plans to drag the Tongraan before the Special Prosecutor and petition state institutions against him in connection with his action that led Justice Graham to convict the two agents in March. Members of the group say “no amount of intimidation and oppression” can deter them from speaking truth to “corrupt powers” in the region.
“They can target us. They can accuse us wrongly. They can arrest us. They can detain us. They prosecute us. They can jail us. They can even kill us in cold blood. We will not be silenced and our numbers shall continue to multiply. We will not bow to intimidation from the same evil forces who chased the good High Court judge, Justice Alexander Graham, out of this region,” said one of the group’s members, Reuben Abesiba.
On Friday and Saturday, a confident Tii-roug told his supporters from behind bars that he had a recording to prove that he never made any attempt to extort anything from the so-called pastor who was spotted and captured chatting with the wife of a rural bank worker inside a forest in Bolgatanga. Tii-roug said he only approached the purported pastor to caution him against meeting married women alone at such isolated locations. He also indicated his intention to sue anyone who spread any lies of extortion about him.
A number of people in the region have listened to the recording, which captures the only conversation Tii-roug and the alleged pastor ever had, and said there is no point in the conversation where Tii-roug asked the supposed pastor for anything.
“Nobody is talking about money. I am not coming to plead with you to do anything; no. I am not coming to ask you to do anything; no,” Tii-roug is heard telling the alleged pastor in excerpts of the recording a copy of which he (Tii-roug) says he intends to furnish his lawyers with.
The police have publicly told Tii-roug’s supporters that they have no intention to grant him bail and have made it clear that they will take him to court on Monday, April 17, 2023. By Sunday evening, Tii-roug will have spent more than 48 hours in police custody contrary to Article 14 Clause 3 of the 1992 Constitution.
Some residents say they have been hinted that “the big shots” have instructed the police to ensure that the court denies Tii-roug bail on Monday with an excuse that the matter is still under investigation so the court may remand him. The image of the police in the region, according to observers, has been on the decline for unprofessional conduct among other reasons since the “incorruptible and no-nonsense” ACP Samuel Tibil Punobyin, who is currently the Director of Economic Crime Unit at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), left the region on transfer in 2020.
Source: Daily Mail GH