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30.07.2002 General News

Drama Ends At Police Hqrs:

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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...Awuni Shipped off to Saltpond

It began with signals that were interpreted as a conscious conspiracy to silence him. Disagreements arose, the ultimate price is high, but the Director of Police Public Relations, Supt. Angwubutoge Awuni, has paid it in the name of professionalism and principles.

Chronicle can reveal that Supt. Awuni, the man who has brought the image of the Ghana Police Service this far, has been booted out of his office by the outgoing Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ernest Owusu Poku.

The last time Chronicle called Supt. Awuni, he said he was on his way to his new station, Saltpond, in the Central Region.

"He is out of town He has gone to dig salt at Saltpond" were some of the lighter responses that greeted calls from Chronicle to the Public Relations Directorate (PRD) as to the whereabouts of the Public Relations boss.

Supt. Awuni's removal from the PRD comes in the wake of a row between him and the Director of Administration, Mr. Kwasi Nkansa, the Staff Officer, Mr. Asiedu Akrofi, and Mr. Avorgah of the Legal Department over the award of a police contract to erect signposts that bear police emergency numbers.

Before his removal, the Staff Officer, Asiedu Akrofi had already assumed the responsibility of writing rejoinders to media houses, a job that is supposed to be done by the Public Relations Directorate.

The Director of Administration, Mr. Kwasi Nkansa, had also written letters to Supt. Awuni, asking him why he asked some regional commanders to comment on certain stories, which had gained publicity in the media.

He said Awuni was under him and must only say what has been vetted by him and his associate, Mr. Asiedu. Mr. Avorgah of the Police Legal Department told Chronicle that Supt. Awuni was not the only Public Relations Director in the Police Service and that the "oldest" Public Relations officer was in Kumasi.

"The oldest Public Relations man is in Kumasi. Ah! Why? One man has problems with everybody," Avorgah interjected.

Due to the infighting and power struggle, Supt. Awuni was crying into the ears of the Inspector General of Police for transfer but deaf ears were turned on the problems until last week when the IGP removed him from the PRD.

Police officers who spoke to Chronicle on condition of anonymity said that the removal of Supt. Awuni from the PRD will begin the culture of silence since officers will be scared to speak to the media for fear of being victimized.

"You see, what is going to happen is that every request for information has to be sent to the PRD who will in turn forward it to the Director of Administration and the Staff Officer. This will result in serious delays and I wonder whether the media will have the patience to wait for this new bureaucracy," the source said.

"Well, my personal opinion is that the previous arrangement was better and more effective. Accurate information could be obtained easily without delay. These guys have a lot of work to do already; I am wondering why they want to make dealings with the public part of their duties. I hope the relationship that has been built with the media over the years will not collapse," he added.

Some of the letters written to Supt. Awuni which were sighted by the Chronicle were written by Mr. Nkansa in October 2001.

He said: "It has come to notice of the administration that you recently sent two letters signed by you to the Deputy Commissioner Central Region and Assistant Commissioner Ashanti Region for comments on some issues that gained prominence in some dailies last week.

"I am directed to draw your attention to the effect that you have no authority to issue such directives to regional commanders without prior approval from Administration. This letter is to draw your attention to this anomaly and to instruct you to desist from the practice forthwith," Mr. Nkansa directed.

According to Supt. Awuni, the warning letter from Mr. Nkansa had to do with a wireless message he sent to the regional commanders regarding a front page story in the Accra Mail headlined "Police Boss on the Spot."

Supt. Awuni's crime was that he had asked the regional commanders to submit their comments on the story so that he would be able to respond to certain issues in the story if they were not true.

Again, in September 2001, Supt. Awuni sent a request to the Central Regional Police Commander, asking for his comments on an Evening News story headlined "Police Fraternizing With Suspects."

In June 2002, the Staff Officer, Mr. Asiedu, delivered the final blow to Supt. Awuni.

"Henceforth all correspondence should be forwarded to the administration through the Staff Officer. The same shall be received and filed at the registry for action. In effect correspondence for action should not be referred/minuted on the Presspo" (Presspo is Awuni's department).

Shortly before his removal from office, Supt. Awuni was becoming rather quiet over requests for information because of fear of victimization by his superiors.

Reacting to queries from the Chronicle before the removal of Supt. Awuni, Mr. Nkansa said that he had not stopped Awuni from giving information to the media, but rather asked him to forward requests for information to the Administration for processing after which they will make it available to the public through the PRD.

Mr. Nkansa earlier told the Chronicle that he meant no harm and that his letters to Awuni to desist from "instructing" regional commanders were as a result of complaints he received from the commanders who were not happy with such requests from Supt. Awuni to comment on certain issues.

"I meant no harm either; I think as the Director of the Police Public Relations Directorate, it is my duty to protect the image of the police service. If I ask a regional commander to comment on an issue that borders on the image of the police service what is wrong with that? Is this an instruction?" The speaker is Supt Awuni.

It will be recalled that Supt. Awuni was departmentally tried for allegedly saying that the judiciary is corrupt. But the Police Administration failed to convict him after the two-day trial.

It was the media that pushed the Police Administration to announce the acquittal of Supt. Awuni, almost three months after his trial.

The stealing charge preferred against Supt. Awuni could not hold and sources say he has come out clean.

Several police sources told Chronicle last Friday that the controversy between Supt. Awuni and the three officers over the award of police contract in which Supt. Awuni complained of unfair treatment on the part of Mr. Nkansa, might be at the root of his removal.

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