You are sitting your ‘somewhere’. You get a call.
“Hello”, the voice on the other end says. “This is the Bureau of National Investigations. You are cordially invited to our offices for a special interactive session.”
“Is it a party?” you ask.
“Oh, no,” the BNI man responds. “We just want to have a friendly chat with you and, if you are interested, we’d show you round our office.”
“Ok, when?” you ask.
“Can you make it tomorrow? It will be worth your while,” the BNI man says.
If you are a former government official who has nothing much to do besides attending funerals (like Kwadwo Mpiani), you tell him that you are burying your dead and that you will honour the invitation at your earliest convenience.
If you don’t have any dead bodies to bury, like Frank Agyekum (former information minister) or Sammy Crabbe (Greater Accra Regional chairman of the NPP), you heartily accept the invitation and honour it as soon as you can.
You are smart enough to know that this is an invitation you don’t honour all by yourself. When a secretive agency like the BNI (with a bad reputation for doing the ruling party’s hatchet jobs) invites you, it is only wise that you don’t show up alone. You can go with your wife or concubine – the one you’ve been chewing ‘kyinkyinga’ with in a hotel room in Abidjan – or even your ebusuapanyin. But these people will not be able to stop you from making a fool of yourself and saying things you shouldn’t.
The best person to accompany you to honour an invitation from the BNI is most probably your lawyer. One of the wisest men to ever walk the surface of this earth, PAV Ansah, believes firmly that the framers of our constitution were a bunch of nincompoops. It’s hard to disagree with him but one of the most sensible provisions in the constitution is the one which allows you the privilege to honour invitations from such people as agents of the BNI with your lawyer firmly by your side. It seems, sadly, that the BNI officers either do not know about the existence of the constitution or they’ve just flagrantly refused to work with it.
So the likes of Agyekum, Mpiani and Crabbe decided to do the right thing by going to the BNI with their lawyers. When they arrived, however, BNI agents told them that their lawyers were gate-crashing and therefore refused to allow them (the lawyers) to sit through the interactive session.
This is a gross human rights violation that has been allowed to go on for far too long and the time has come for it to be stopped once and for all. It seems the party in power has no plans of calling the BNI to order – because, it’s doing its bidding. Otherwise, when the controversy arose last week over whether or not Mpiani was interrogated in the presence of his lawyers, whoever is responsible for the BNI (his name is Gbevlo-Lartey, right?) would have called his underlings and instructed them in no uncertain terms to make sure that all those who’d come after Mpiani for similar interactive sessions would be allowed to have their lawyers by their sides. No such thing happened.
As the BNI is prepare to “invite” more officials of the erstwhile Kufuor administration for questioning, every Ghanaian should be worried about how these people are questioned. Most Ghanaians agree that these people have a lot of questions to answer. But these questions must be asked in a non-intimidating atmosphere with no room for those being questioned to incriminate themselves. That’s why they need their lawyers by their sides.
Crabbe’s lawyer says that when he showed up at the BNI, the agents told him that their meeting with his client was a “friendly” occasion and so his presence was not required.
Frank Agyekum, on the other hand, is a bit confused and describes his date with the BNI as “fruitful”.
“It was a very civil meeting and I must say that my visit to BNI today has demystified a lot of things about the BNI to me,” he says. “I have now seen that they are not men in hooded mask who want to grab people and put them into jail.”
I wonder what they gave Frank Agyekum to drink (or smoke) for him to see nothing wrong with the fact that he was questioned in the absence of his lawyer, who by the way, was on radio condemning the BNI for disallowing him from being part of the interrogation. This was about the same time, Mr. Crabbe’s lawyer was also threatening to sue the BNI. He should go right ahead!
It’s high time someone called the BNI to order. A law suit will be a good start. But even before that wouldn’t it be great to have someone call the BNI’s bluff? Seriously, if the BNI will not respect the law, their so-called invitations should not be honoured.
If you get a call from one of their agents, insist that you will come with your lawyer and you would like him to be there when you are being interrogated. If they say “no” just tell him to go to hell.
If you honour the invitation with your lawyer and they refuse to let him in for the interrogation, just don’t talk to them. Don’t utter a word. You could make a fool of yourself by saying things you might regret tomorrow; things they can use to prosecute and jail you.
It’s quite surprising that Mpiani (in all his haughtiness) allowed himself to go through all of that grilling without demanding (as he’s rightly entitled) that his lawyers should be present. Maybe he was scared that they would use “water-boarding” or “extraordinary rendition” (interrogation methods approved by George Bush) to ‘encourage’ him to talk.
Let’s just hope that they don’t use those methods here so that, if you refuse to co-operate when the BNI invites you, they will be compelled to get an arrest warrant. The good thing about an arrest (which, in some ways, might not be a very pleasant experience) is that the BNI will be required to spell out exactly why they are arresting you and they will also be under a constitutional obligation to allow your lawyer to be present for the interactive session – from the beginning to the end. With an arrest, they would heckle and rough you up a little bit.
But then you’d have helped to make a very good point – forcing the BNI to do what is lawful. You are better off getting arrested than honouring an invitation from the BNI. The best thing to do with an invitation from them, therefore, is to dishonour it. Don’t even RSVP. After all, it’s not exactly a party they are inviting you to.