By Maxwell Obiri-Yeboah
The Ningo-Prampram Member of Parliament (MP), Samuel Nartey George, came in about fifteen minutes later than the normal time of starting, 10:00a.m., as the commission begins. This time, he appeared before the commission wearing white African wear, a pair of trousers, and having a bottle in his right hand. He also held some brown files, which we later get to know were evidence he is likely to tender to the court, in his hand.
This time, it wasn’t the usual way we often begun at the commission, but rather, the Chairman to the commission begun to ask him questions immediately he settled down. He first apologised to the commission for being late.
Question: The videos in your custody, are they all the same as what have been shown to the commission?
Answer: Some of them have already been shown, My Lord.
Question: Now, have they been edited?
Answer: My Lord, none has been edited by me. Those that came from the media houses based, on my recollection of evidence of events of the day, it appears the sequence of events may have been switched, but that is a true reflection of what happened.
Justice Short: Alright. Let’s go ahead and see the video.
[Sam George then asks as he hands over an item believed to be a pen drive to a gentleman to project on the screens.]
Sam George asks: My Lord, respectfully, will I be allowed to give an explanation of the video as it’s shown?
Justice Short: You will.
Sam George: Thank you very much my Lord.
He continued his explanation as the video was being shown. The first video is where he narrates hiding with a reporter in a room after he had been assaulted. From the room, the camera caught the chaotic situation happening outside the polling station. The other video was when he entered the premises of the National Democratic Candidate (NDC) parliamentary candidate.
He (Sam George) narrates coming to the scene alone, contrary to other witnesses who appeared before the commission and testified he was with company. The other videos and pictures that captured the tensed moments, where there were gunshots and people took to their heels, came in, as well as others that showed a wounded man on the ground, where he thought the gentleman was dead, hence, he took to social media and raised an alarm online.
(Lawyers for the witness now enters the room, apologise and introduce themselves before Counsel Eric Osei-Mensah started questioning Sam George.)
Question: Now the video shot from Mr. Brempong’s house, do you know who shot it?
Answer: My Lord, I took it from social media. I do not know who shot it.
Question: But then, in that video, you see a number of people converged at a point. Where exactly is that?
Answer: This is almost the entrance of Mr. Brempong’s house.
Question: Are you able to tell the commission what exactly happened?
Answer: My Lord, as I have already narrated, when I got there, I noticed different bits of scuffles between some people in the crowd and members of the National Security who were wearing NSC T-shirts.
Question: Was this before the shooting?
Answer: Way before the shooting. At this point in time, there was no shooting.
Question: Where were you when the shooting started?
Answer: My Lord, at this point, let me just state that I grew up in Nigeria and I’ve seen political violence, and it informed my decision to immediately de-escalate, given the issue of political violence. That is how come I quickly reached out to the leader of the team in the first video to de-escalate. As soon as I got there, I saw tensions that were flaring. I saw the potential for violence and immediately tried to establish who was seen to be in control, and reach out to that person for us to have a de-escalation. That was the point I reached out to Double again, tried to de-escalate the men for him and his men to retreat. We reached that agreement. It was sometime, few minutes past eight O’clock in the morning.
Question: If I heard you right, in simple terms, you didn’t see the first shooting. You only heard the sound of it, because your back was to the scene. Am I right?
Answer: Yes my Lord. I heard the shooting from behind.
Question: Now, in the video, we see a number of gentlemen converged in front of the house. Are you able to tell the commission who these men are?
Answer: Unfortunately, my Lord I do not know who they are.
Question: Also I take you to the gentleman in a white vest who was lying, according to you, motionless, even though I saw him moving his head in the video. As at that time, have you ascertained where he lived?
Answer: No, My Lord. My Lord, if you recall, I told the commission I made the post while I was hiding in the building and hearing some of the men call out my name and carrying out a search in the building for me. At that time, I have heard several shots also being fired down there. My Lord, I was in no position to ascertain further information, apart from what I have witnessed a few minutes prior to the assault on me.
Question: Very well. Now I take you to the video in which you were assaulted. It starts with you coming through, saying this is so wrong, this is so wrong, you kill a man in his own house?As at that time, have you ascertained where the man lived?
Answer: My Lord, I have stated clearly to you that that sequence was barely five minutes after the assault on the man. I stumbled upon him in that house. I assumed, at a point in time, that was his house. Same way I assumed, based on the assault that I have seen carried out on him and his motionless body, that he was deceased. I had no way; I mean, there was no reasonable way for me to have carried out further verification in the space of time and the sequence of events. It would not be reasonable for me to have been able to. It would be unreal, unless I want to create something.
Question: When you first stumbled upon him in the house, where was Maame Efua?
Answer: She was in the building. I didn’t see her there. I met the man in the house, when I was walking with Double. It’s an uncompleted building, and we actually jumped a wall from the school before we proceeded to Mr. Brempong’s house. So meeting him there, I assumed he owned that house. Actually, I saw the men telling him to go inside, go inside, and then he engaged the men, that was when he was hit and he fell. As I exited the building, I saw Maame Efua running in, and she was shouting, Ei, you have killed me, you have killed me in Twi.
Question: Did you subsequently find out that that is not the man’s house?
Answer: This morning I told the commission, when I was showing the video, that I found out that the man is still alive, thanks be to God. I also found his name. That he is called Havi. I’ve also found out that he is a cousin to Maame Efua Sakyi Aidoo and that he is not resident in that building.
Question: There’s this video where this gentleman in white sleeves and trousers. Now the Chairman asked you whether you knew any of them, and you said you don’t, right?
Answer: Yes my Lord.
Question: Very well. So then you wouldn’t be able to tell if, for instance, we tell you that we have had evidence before the commission that this gentleman passes himself as the leader of the Hawks.
Answer: My Lord, I’m in no position to ascertain.
(With this answer, Counsel passed Sam George to the commissioners, where Justice Short took the microphone to interrogate him.)
Question: Honourable Sam George, there is a gentleman who you said you assumed was dead. Where exactly was the place where was he?
Answer: My Lord he was in the uncompleted building that acted as a thoroughfare between Mr. Brempong’s house and the school park where the polling station was.
Question: Now, in your testimony yesterday, you said some armed men were seen, and also in another time in your testimony, you said they assaulted some men. Can you clarify whether they were rescuing or assaulting her?
Answer: My Lord, what I saw when I got down was the men saying that they wanted a phone. Maame Efua had put the phone in her car. Two of the men, at the time I got there, had entered into her car and were trying to retrieve the phone. One was restraining her, and there was that pushing and shoving of her. That is what I saw. And that’s why I called it an assault. And when I asked them before approaching DSP Azugu, they said she has taken a picture, so they are arresting her, and that is what was said to me by one of them who was carrying out that operation.
Question: I want you to have a look at these pictures. (Counsel then passes some pictures to Sam George.) Do you recognise the person who is described as the alleged leader of The Hawks?
Answer: My Lord, I know this image on social media. I have seen pictures of him, but I do not know him in person, such that I could tell him this is his name or this is who he is. I have seen his image. Some of these images are well circulated on social media.
Question: Errrrrmmm, you have seen his image as who?
Answer: I have seen him in pictures, but I do not know who he is. The way someone would show me, respectfully My Lord, your picture and say, oh, this is Justice Emile Short. I am in no position to say this is who he is. But I do know the face.
Question: Was he at the scene of the incident?
Answer: My Lord I do not remember encountering him at the incident. As I stated before the commission, my engagement was mostly with the men wearing the NSC shirts at the entrance with the election officers, and then at Mr. Brempong’s house, mostly with Double and some of the members of the crowd. I don’t remember engaging with this gentleman at any point.
Question: Do you know any members of the Hawks?
Answer: My Lord, certainly, there have been several pictures of men wearing T-shirts of the Hawks on them. So yes, I have seen pictures of people wearing that I can vouch.
Question: Did you see any of them near Mr. Brempong’s house on the 31st of January, that day?
Answer: My Lord, I don’t remember seeing them anywhere.
Question: What about, did you see any member of the Azorka Boys?
Answer: My Lord, like the Hawks, who are seen in T-shirts, I have not seen them anywhere with anyone wearing anything identifying them as Azorka Boys. It will be impossible for me to state here as a fact.
Question: At some point in your testimony, you said one of the men you called Double is seen in the crowd with you, right?
Answer: Yes my Lord.I took cover against a wall. If I use this room, it would be in that corner, and the men were at the other side.
Question: How many shots were fired?
Answer: My Lord, it would be impossible for me to give a certain number, but if my memory serves me right, it was about 45 to 60 seconds of shooting, and if my memory serves me right, it was more over 30 shots.
Question: The men who assaulted you, were you able to identify them?
Answer: My Lord, I will be able to identify the first one. But with the second man, I am not sure.
(Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu then took the microphone from the Chairman of the commission after he was done.)
Question: Did you show in your statement that some of the men were injured on the day of the incident, and you also had some of the shell cases with you?
(Sam George is now given his statement where he goes through to see if that is captured.)
Answer: My Lord, in my statement? That is not in it.
Question: You didn’t think it was important for you capture this part?
Answer: My Lord, if you read my statement, from the point, which is the last three lines of my statement, where I narrated what transpired after I exited the building, I didn’t give a lot of details in there. I just stated that from the building I went to Mr. Brempong’s house, from there I proceeded after the fight broke out.
Question: I’m sure you are aware that with those shell casings you picked them in the investigations, it would have been necessary to attach them to the content you wrote?
Answer: Yes my Lord.
Question: And did you at any point consider it prudent to hand over it to the police?
Answer: My Lord, the issue of these shell casings was even mentioned on the day of the press conference that was called by my National Chairman and the national executives. So the fact that I have shell casings from the scene was already public knowledge, my Lord.
Question: Did you consider it prudent that if someone had given you shell casings you would tender it to the necessary authorities for investigation?
Answer: My Lord, yesterday, I stated before this commission how my trust in the Ghana Police Service has been shaken, as they were standing aloof when I was being assaulted. Even though they were armed police men who could have intervened. They didn’t. I have exhibited my trust in this commission, and bringing such critical evidence before this commission.
Question: So mistrust in the police sprung from the fact that they didn’t protect you?
Answer: My Lord, I have even sent my statement to the East Legon police, and they refused to take my statement.
Question: You said you were assaulted?
Answer: My lord, two people hit me that day.
Question: Can you tell us the nature of the injury you suffered?
Answer: My Lord, I had a swelling lacerations on my left hand, I had a swelling on my neck and just a little above my shoulder also, I had a swelling there.
Question: Do you have a medical receipt that shows that you were in this condition, and that you have been treated?
Answer: My Lord, I can get that from a private medical practitioner who I went to. It is stated in my police statement that I went to see a private medical practitioner to take care of me.
Question: When you found out that you were coming to the commission, you didn’t consider to bring that to the commission?
Answer: My Lord, I didn’t consider in a second, I guess with all the things the commission would require of me. I will respectfully get in touch with the private medical practitioner, now that the commission enquires of it.
Question: Were you given a medical form?
Answer: I was given a medical form and it’s still in my custody, my Lord.
Question: Mr. George, on your arrival to the place, you saw a large crowd and didn’t know why they were there and who they are, and then you intervened?
Answer: They said the security officers have taken their key.
Question: Did they say what key it was?
Answer: They just said a key.
Question: Oh so you didn’t know what key and wanted to help them get it back?
Answer: My Lord I was trying to intervene and de-escalate.
Question: And the crowd seemed agitated?
Answer: Yes my Lord, there was resistance. The place was quiet tensed.
Question: A number of people were fighting. Is this the usual behaviour of a crowd in this country when they see men in uniform? It seems a strange crowd to me, because they were actually fighting these armed men.
Answer: I am not an expert in crowd management.
Question: But you sought to control the crowd?
Answer: Madam, like a stated this morning, I know what electoral violence can do. So I tried to intervene. And because they identified me as a Member of Parliament, I had to help.
(Prof. Mensa-Bonsu then takes him back to the chronology of events where the shooting takes place, how he got to the scene, what he did, and his interaction with this man he calls Double. Mr. Kwarteng finally comes in with a few submissions, and then the session comes to an end.)
Mr. Kwarteng Acheampong spoke for a few minutes and advised Sam George, saying that where he went, and what he got himself engaged in, was very dangerous, and he should be very careful next time.
On this note, the Counsel ended his questioning and brought the meeting to a close, where Justice Short announced that the commission would resume sitting on today.