NPP CONDEMNS POLICE ATTACK ON LAW STUDENT PROTESTERS Featured

By NANA YAW DWAMENA October 08, 2019 2021 248 comments

The New Patriotic Party yesterday condemned “the policing measures and consequent incidents” which occurred during a protest against recent mass failures in the Law School examinations. Law students have been demanding reforms to legal education in Ghana.

 

Reports speak of apparent excessive use of force by personnel of the Ghana Police Service against the demonstrators, who were non-violent.

“While we accept the position of the police that the demonstrators may have strayed outside the law, and were disrupting the normal usage of the public thoroughfare that passes in front of Jubilee House, we are, however, not convinced that the police had to resort to such use of force and crowd [control] techniques to manage a crowd, mainly of students,” a statement from the governing party said.

Laws for the law

The statement, signed by the NPP’s general secretary, John Boadu, urged the police to realise that, like all other Ghanaians, “They are also subject to law and ought to give confidence to the populace at all times that in applying the law they do so fairly to all manner of persons.

“In the light of this sad development, the NPP is calling on the police hierarchy to look into the matter and bring persons who are found to have acted unprofessionally to justice to forestall future occurrence[s] of this regrettable incident.
“Finally, the party calls on the relevant authorities and state actors to grant a hearing to these students, who, together with many others, have consistently demanded for an immediate reform to legal education in the country, to reflect the realities of the 21st century,” Mr Boadu said.

The NPP accordingly empathised “deeply with the innocent students who may have suffered any trauma and pray for their speedy recovery”.

Students block roads

Meanwhile, the Accra Regional Police Command issued a statement accusing the students of blocking some roads for close to two hours yesterday.

The students besieged the entrance to the Ghana Law School, the police said, and “sat down in the middle of the road”, thus preventing free flow of traffic.

According to the police, the demonstrators continued to the Attorney General’s Department, where they prevented a Deputy Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, from leaving the premises.

“Later the group reassembled close to the new court complex in Accra and picketed there for some time and went ahead to an office close to the Ghana Institute of Journalism, where they presented a copy of their petition to the Bar Association.
“They then headed towards Jubilee House and on reaching King Tackie Tawiah Overpass, they sat in the middle of the road and pelted the police with stones and offensive weapons. In the process, police sprayed cold water and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” the statement said.

The police warned that although citizens have a right to demonstrate, they must do so in accordance with the law.

Arrests

The statement said 13 of the students who were arrested as they tried to make their way into the grounds of Jubilee House without a permit have been released.

The demonstrating students met with resistance from officers who insisted that they would not be allowed access to the Office of the President without permission.

Information reaching the Daily Statesman suggests that the Chief of Staff had however given instructions for one of her deputies to receive the students’ petition on behalf of President Akufo-Addo.

The students’ demonstration, to promote their campaign seeking reforms to legal education in Ghana, began peacefully at the main campus of the Ghana School of Law.
The protest was dubbed #OpenUpLegalEducation.

Restricted access

Some of the students who spoke to reporters said the demonstration was to drum home the difficulty they face in gaining admission to the Ghana School of Law, even when a candidate has an LLB certificate.

A spokesman for the group, Nii Senpe Adokwei Cudjoe, said the protest action was intended to emphasise the demands the students are making of the legal professional institutions.

“We are on a demonstration to press home our demands, which over the years have fallen on deaf ears. Our call for total reforms is based on the fact that we believe law students who have an LLB certificate should be allowed to have access to the professional law course.
“We are very concerned about the failure rate. We believe the failure is not genuine. At the School of Law, too, we are concerned about the growing failure rate,” he said.

The aggrieved students argue that repeated mass failures in the entrance examination are merely the latest attempt to limit the number of professional lawyers in Ghana.

Some of the inscriptions on the placards the students held up at the demonstrations read “Law School is not for a particular family”, “CJ, you are not God”, “CJ office, GLC is transient”, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” and “Open Legal Education now, we cannot wait any longer”.

CJ stands firm

The Chief Justice, Miss Sophia Akuffo, has insisted that the GLC (General Legal Council) will not relent in its commitment to ensure the production of quality lawyers by observing the highest standards.

“The position of the GLC remains that admission to the Ghana School of Law (GSL) for professional legal education requires that successful candidates obtain a minimum mark of 50 per cent in an entrance examination administered by the Independent Examination Committee,” the Chief Justice said recently during the induction of 305 fresh lawyers into the Bar in Accra.

The Council has attracted criticism following mass failures of prospective law students who sat the 2019 examinations to pursue the professional training course at the Ghana School of Law.

In this year’s entrance examinations, only 128 out of 1,820 students passed and were enrolled as professional law students ‒ 7 per cent of the total number.

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