07.04.2008 General News

Electoral officer faces lynching at Pru

07.04.2008 LISTEN
By The Chronicle

The Pru District Electoral Officer, Tetteh Ankama Okai was very lucky to escape from the wrath of some unidentified group of persons who threatened to lynch him after vandalizing his official residence at Yeji.

According to The Chronicle, the unfortunate incident happened in the absence of the Electoral Officer on the night of Monday, March 31. He had travelled to the Regional Offices of the Electoral Commission in Sunyani on official assignment.

Reports indicated that there were firing of gunshots and notices were posted on the walls of the building threatening Mr. Okai to leave the town for his own safety.

Mr. Okai, in an interview on a morning show programme on a Sunyani-based local radio station, Sky FM, said that he was amazed to hear about such a terrible incident that might have caused his death, but for divine intervention.

When the host, Alhaji Tanko, asked if he had any idea about what prompted the action at his residence at Yeji, Mr. Okai initially answered no, but later admitted that he had some misunderstanding with one of the political parties in the area.

According to Mr. Okai, somewhere in November last year, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on two occasions sent petitions to the Commission to employ a certain young man as a Central Staff. However, after necessary enquiries on the applicant, it was revealed that he was an NPP activist, The Chronicle said.

Based on the findings, his office sent word back to the NPP that the laws frowned on employing staff who has affiliation to a particular political party. He said a committee was even set up to investigate the matter, but nothing came out of it.

Mr. Okai said a few weeks later, some of the youth of the area came to him threatening that he would surely pay for what he had done for not offering them the jobs.

"I did not take those threats very serious until three days ago when I heard that my house had been vandalized amid gunshots whilst I was away in Sunyani", he said.

The Regional Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Police Command, Chief Inspector Nketia-Yeboah confirmed that the District Commander at Pru had briefed him about the incident, suggesting that those who embarked on that action were only threatening because they knew very well that the man had left the place for Sunyani.

Chief Inspector Nketia-Yeboah said no casualty was recorded and that the District Police Command at Pru was providing protection at the residence and offices of the District Electoral Officer to secure his safety.

He said no arrest had been made so far but investigations were ongoing to identify the culprits and prepare them to face the law. He urged the people of Yeji to cooperate with the police to assist in the investigations.

The Chronicle said Mr. Tetteh Ankama Okai confirmed the story when he was contacted. According to him he has been advised to stay in Sunyani till further notice. Okai called for a thorough investigation into the act of vandalism embarked upon by unidentified group of persons at his official residence at Yeji to help restore everlasting peace for him or any Electoral Officer who may be posted there.

Mr. Okai disclosed that, there have been series of such threats against him since the year 2005, and believes that any Electoral Officer posted to the District that wants to be firm and fair in his task would face similar problems.

He said that all the necessary information and evidence needed from him on the issue have been provided to arm the Police adequately in order to conduct a thorough and effective investigation, to ascertain the cause and to identify the culprits.

"I'm quite amazed to hear that no arrests have so far been made, but you know one can't pressurize the police in their work and I'm confident they will deliver to the expectation of everybody," the Electoral Officer said.

Mr. Okai further said that the regional police command had sent enough personnel to Yeji to beef up security in the area.

According to the Electoral Officer, much work needed to be done in terms of security at the residence because reports indicate that warning notices were posted on the doors of the Deputy District Coordinating Director, who was also not around at the time of the attack and a staff of the District Environmental Health, with whom he shares the same block.

He said the notices posted on their doors instructed the two to vacate the premises if they value their safety; otherwise the attack would be extended to them too. Mr. Okai told The Chronicle on Saturday that it was good that the incident occurred at the time because it would help the security agencies to be more alert particularly as the country approaches an election period.

He again thanked God that no casualty was recorded, saying, "I must admit that I am the luckiest man on earth to be alive in one piece, with my fiance also at school, so the house was relatively empty, except my personal belongings".

The Pru District Electoral Officer noted that if the situation fails to get the necessary security attention, it has the tendency to affect the re-opening of the voters register in May and subsequently the December General Elections.

"We must appreciate the work of the Commission and desist from unnecessary intimidation of its Officers that would affect the democratic dispensation of the country", he pleaded.

He reiterated that, the Regional Directorate of the EC has advised him to stay in Sunyani, and wait on what the National Headquarters would decide, because his life was in danger and returning to Yeji immediately would not help.

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