In the heady days of the 31st December Revolution, 1982 I was a subaltern in the Ghana Army, working as a Member – Secretary of the PNDC National Investigations Committee.
Late one afternoon, in closed session, our chairman, CK Mawuenyega, now deceased, remarked, with a very serious face:
“Let us give him a room in IGP's hotel for the night……….
Seated on my immediate right in the Committee chamber was now late Professor Kofi Awonor; member of the Committee. I asked him on the quiet…”
“Prof, has the IGP got a hotel? Is it a Star Hotel?” “Effah go way you!!! Don't you know IGP's Hotels dotted all over the country?” he snapped.
“Oh oh oh … He means Police cells!!!” I burst out laughing, distracting attention …
As a practicing court going lawyer, I dare say I have visited clients in literally every IGP hotel in the city of Accra – Nima, Kotobabi, Osu, La, Nungua, Adenta, Kaneshie… you name them.
Some of them look very neat, very spacious; others too look very uncomfortable, like Airport Police Station. In the 80s and 90s, Legon Police Cells were considered the most comfortable of all – suspects sitting under trees, sleeping in Inspector's office at night, yet NEVER a record of escape.
Saturday 8 June 2019.
I was taking it easy in the Asylum Down office when two visitors walked in.
“Captain we have our brother at Spintex Road Police Station – can you defend him in Court?”
After hammering out an agreement and exchange of some Bank of Ghana notes I promised that I will visit the new client at Spintex Road Police Station definitely before night fall.
Other concerns arrested my attention, so much that it was while on the way home, past Kaneshie heading to Kasoa that I remembered : “Driver, make U Turn, we are going to Spintex Road Police Station…”
We made U Turn at the Dansoman junction, hit Abossey Okai, drove over the circle overhead and turned at Ako Adjei Interchange. At 37 we turned right towards Burma Camp, turned left on the “Mahama New road” saw late Major Mahama's statue at the roundabout and moved on.
I have a problem with that statue: how can a soldier be in uniform without his cap or beret? The man was not a civilian but a combat soldier, infantry!!!!
We were now on Spintex Road – but where is the Police Station? At one point after several enquiries, one chap told me” Kotobabi Police Station? Just turn left, on the road…”
“No, driver. There is a problem. I know Kotobabi Police Station very well, it is nowhere near here. We are looking for Spintex Road Police Station!”
Further enquiries revealed that the area's local name was KOTOBABI, so we turned along some terrible potholed street, and came face to face with the Police Station.
It is a custom built police precinct, with regal entrance and a very big hall with inscription: “Baatsona Police Station.” One Police station with three names – Spintex Road, Kotobabi, Baatsonaa …..Captain, are you sure you are at the right place?
I saw a uniformed policewoman on duty, sitting leisurely in the big hall.
“Good evening, Madam, I am a lawyer. Can I visit a client in your cells here?”
She rose up, cross checked the name of my client and motioned me to come to “counter back”, ushered me to one inner corridor, called out my client, then we spoke in between the cell door.
I noticed that there were three cells at the station – one for the ghetto – common criminals, shouting, talking, endlessly, one for females, and the exclusive executive cell, with inmates sleeping comfortably on mats, blankets, pillows, decent, no odour, with live television in the inner corridor!!!
Initially the Police woman stood by me and listened as I talked to the suspect – actually an accused person, then other business took her away and she LOCKED the corridor bars!!!!!
Suddenly I started sweating as my mind went back to my dreadful days in Condemned Block at Nsawam Prisons, back in 1981 under Limann Regime. All the terrible images I have been struggling to forget rushed to the frontal lobes of my brain. My client was speaking but I was not hearing …
“Captain, get grip of yourself. This is not 1981. We are in 2019. You are a lawyer, visiting a client…” thankfully a female voice in the women's cell shouted for the police on duty who came opened the cell door and I took advantage, mumbled something civil to my client and off I left that confined area.
The price of liberty.
Reader, if you are not in confinement, say thank you to Almighty God.
According to history, Julius Caesar's best friend was arrested and charged with treason. The penalty was death sentence and Julius Caeser could not see his friend being executed, and he could also not talk for him to be freed.
Speaking at the forum on what to do with the Accused, Julius Caesar came up with a brilliant argument: “To be very sincere, and very practical, death is in fact not a punishment because we all shall die one day – either in our sleep, or through accident, through sickness, in battle …we shall all die, either today or tomorrow.
“Let us not kill the prisoner. Rather, CONFINE him. keep him alive, but deny him access to all that make LIFE worth living – restrict his movement, give him starvation food, deny him sex, let him talk to no one …… that is WORSE punishment than death………”
The forum voted for Julius Caesars' view, his friend was imprisoned, where loneliness killed him.
As I walked out of the station, I saw a plaque stating that the police station was built in 2015 by Ofosu Ampofo “Then Local Government Minister” – was it from his own money or from the coffers of the District Assemblies' Common Fund?
I was so overcome with emotion that I said nothing as I was driven from Spintex Road across 30 Kilometers to my kasoa Residence.
All you who are breathing the air of freedom with …, let us say “Thank you, Lord.”
From Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey