By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

It is almost quite certain that like most of the country’s civil and non-politician public servants, our State Attorneys and Prosecutors are poorly paid. They may also not be equipped with the sort of plum fringe benefits that are available to the members of the bench, especially those positioned at or near the apex of the judicial system. Even more signficant is the fact that their work of prosecuting criminal suspects and getting most of these anti-social elements convicted and put behind bars for the long haul is very dangerous.

Now, I don’t know the exact details of the kind of state protection the Vice-President of the Association of State Attorneys (ASA), Ms. Annete Barnes, is referring to. But it is quite clear that one such measure of protection has to do with the need of these state attorneys being provided with body guards and residential security detail or sentries. I know some judges have access to body guards and residential security detail. Extending the same privileges to state prosecutors and attorneys may well put considerable strain on the public purse. But it is worth it because law-abiding members of society have a contractual right to be protected from the most violent and criminal of our social elements or citizenry.

I would suggest, if this is not already integral to their conditions of service, that all state attorneys and prosecutors be afforded the right to bear or carry weapons and be authorized to use these weapons if they believe that their lives and safety are heavily threatened. This means that they need to be trained to shoot in self-defense as well as in the most appropriate and professional methods of handling these weapons, as well as carrying these weapons on their persons. This would necessitate at least three to six months of weapons training, as well as the various methods and/or arts of self-defense. I am also certain that the Ghanaian judicial system is equipped with a division of sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies. If it is not, then the government may do society better by introducing a sheriff’s division into the judicial system.

The major operatives of the Ghanaian judiciary could learn from such advanced democracies as the United States, Canada, France and Britain. It is imperative that those who protect the public against hardened criminals and other anti-social elements are provided with the utmost level of personal and, in some instances, familial security. But it also needs to be underscored the fact that short of divine intervention, no human can be afforded impregnable security protection; and this, of course, includes the President of our august Republic.

When all is said and done, the security situation may, after all, not be as dire or dangerous as Ms. Barnes, the vice-president of the ASA would have the Ghanaian public believe. We know this because almost every one of the instances she cites in which state attorneys and/or prosecutors have been executed by criminal convicts, suspects and their associates occurred outside Ghana. They are significant to enumerate and/or appropriate as statistically relevant cases in point. But the fact still remains that they are not relevant to the real situation on the ground in Ghana. For instance, the killing of an Egyptian prosecutor in Cairo, Alexandria or Aswan by a car bomb ought to be of great concern to that slain prosecutor’s counterpart in Ghana, but the fact still starkly stands that both the judicial and societal dynamics of Egypt and Ghana are not the same. They are very different.

This means that such instances of violence against state prosecutors cannot be facilely cited to demonstrate that Ghanaian state prosecutors are an endangered species. The comparison verges on the downright ludicrous, and may actually shore up the government’s argument that these state attorneys and prosecutors have no tangible grievances to back up their strike action. It may actually weaken the validity of the grievances upon which their strike is predicated.

Personally, I believe that these state attorneys and prosecutors need to call of their strike and then sit up and formulate a more coherent and constructive set of grievances, before deciding to embark on another such work stoppage. That their industrial action appears not to be biting or having the desired effect, may very likely be due to the fact that the overwhelming bulk of state prosecutors in Ghana tend to be police officers and not lawyers.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]

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