National Security to discover hidden weapons -Col Opoku
By Bernice Bessey .
The Director of Operations at the National Security Secretariat, Colonel Michael Opoku, has assured the Justice Emile Short Commission that at the appropriate time, he and his men will retrieve weapons that were moved to a location at La Bawaleshie prior to the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election.
He disclosed that the information was gathered from an insider of the group, believed to be the Hawks, and at the appropriate time those weapons would be retrieved.
The following is the continuation of last Wednesday’s proceedings:
Lawyer (L): If I got you right, what you are telling the commission is that, on the day, not only your men were found in black tops and khaki trousers?
Colonel (C): yes my lord.
L: And you can identify your men?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: Some were in there with khaki trousers and black tops?
C: Yes, my lord. You requested for the names and we are providing names of the 35.
L: How soon are you getting us the list?
C: You requested it from the DSP, and I’m sure it will be delivered (L: very well). I called him and he said he will bring it today or tomorrow.
L: Now, in the video, we saw some men also in a mask (C: Yes, my lord). Are they also your men? (C: The masked men? Yes, my lord) and they included the police operatives and the civilian operatives. Am I right?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: Now, these men, according to you, had the first duty of building confidence, am I right? (C: confidence patrols).
C: Confidence patrols. Yes, my lord.
L: Sir, (C: yes, my lord) assist us (C: yes, my lord). What do confidence patrols mean?
C: My lord, the essence of that patrol was to let the people who have been in the constituency know that the security forces were ready to ensure that no vigilante group will disturb the election on that day. So we were rather giving confidence to the populace to ensure that we can come out and do what we are supposed to do.
L: Confidence patrol! Are you sure that would give the needed assurance to the electorates?
C: Yes, my lord. I think the mask, as my DSP said, was as a result of mosquito bites, it wasn’t the mosquito bite. It was a joke that he made. But we normally mask to ensure that our operatives are not seen; operatives live within the community. You will see a policeman even masked, which means that policeman is living within the community… normally, those who live within or who are likely to be seen and their cover will be blown are masked.
And in this situation, those who were masked, this is the essence. We didn’t want their cover to be blown. We checked further after this, I have seen a lot of pictures in town, some want my men and others they mistook them to be my men, but they are with the national police force.
Some in some houses, others were at some funerals, and they were trying to put out their face before the populace. So you can imagine if we had not masked their face, now what would have happened to the people who went on that confidence patrols.
And, I will give you an audio, which will not be played here, where some were saying that they were going to go after these our masked men. I don’t know how they are going to remove the mask and follow them. And, if the worst should happen, they are likely to kidnap their family to ensure that these people come forward. I will provide the audio for you.
L: Where is the audio?
C: It is in the car (L: very well.) after this, I will provide it.
L: Colonel! You said the mosquito comment made by DSP Azugu is meant to be a joke. Am I right?
C: My lord, we normally use it for two reasons – one was the fact that when they go to certain places, there would be mosquitoes, we normally carry them along and they use it to cover their faces, and the second reason he gave was the fact that they don’t want to be seen that they live in the community.
But, I think the people have taken the mosquito one as the one of importance more than the one of keeping their identity away from the populace. That is why I said that one was meant to be a joke, because that early morning there wasn’t mosquitoes there. We were working deep into the night, maybe, that is why he wanted to talk like that.
L: Colonel! (C: Yes, my lord). At what point was the decision taken that the security operatives should wear masks?
C: My lord is was before the setoff, and it has been our normal practice that some who wouldn’t like to be seen as working for National Security are always in masks. Even when they come and they assemble, they always wear the masks to cover their faces. I was saying that as at yesterday night, we were able to arrest somebody with a pistol…the person has been taken to the Nima Police Station… This morning, we have gone further to search if we can get more pistols. This same masked people, do it and do it well for our state.
L: Colonel, is it right to assume that you followed proceedings when DSP Azugu was here?
C: My lord, partially, because I had a meeting at EOCO, so I listened to it a little and then left with my…
L: In the video that you watched did you see DSP Azugu?
C: Yes, my lord, I saw him.
L: Would you be surprised if I should tell that DSP Azugu painted the picture as if he did not know these men were going to be in masks, would you be surprised?
C: My lord, that part I did not listen to him, but I am sure… because he was here for almost four hours and his thinking capacity was giving him some problems. At times he makes jokes out of all these things.
L: So are you saying that he was supposed to know?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: There are lots of pictures going round, some of them purported to be some of your men, who after the operation were taking pictures with some members of society.
C: I must be frank with you, all those pictures, were pictures on Facebook, between 2017 and 2018. There was one you will see a lost of SWAT people who were in brown a house, that is Kumasi, Counter Terrorist Unit for the Ghana Police. There is one you will see five people, among the five, they are holding two AKs, at the extreme end are Koforidua CTU members. Those who were holding the weapons, I think the second and the fourth, depending on where you count it from, are members of my team. And those at the extreme, which I think one of them has an eye ring, is a national police officer, he is not a member of my team.
The weapons they were holding were for those officers; they are not weapons of National Security, and they are not weapons of the operatives. They took it and posted it on Facebook. There was one I saw, where somebody was sitting in a car, singing and enjoying, if your IT can go and check that video on the internet, that video has been on the internet since 2018. It is never true that any of our operatives and [a] SWAT member went out and they were jubilating. I warned them that if they take pictures. I warned them not to do anything to show their identity.
L: Colonel, 31st of January 2019, was an election day. (C: My lord, it was a by-election day). The SWAT team, were supposed to be … but they went with full gear in a mask, am I right?
C: My lord, not all of them.
L: But in a full gear
C: My lord, can you define the full gear, because I have been hearing you saying well-armed and all these?
L: Very well. Thus, from the first part of our proceedings, you have already admitted that there are two different sets of dresses – one group is wearing black top with brown trousers and a desert brown boot (C: yes, my lord) with the mask on (C: Yes, My lord) then there is another group wearing brown trousers, brown vest and black top, some say sweater and some of them carrying…what the security say weapons…something that look like… These are the people am referring to… Is it a sight we normally see in our communities?
C: My lord, as I have stated earlier, this is not the first time the operatives have blended into this uniform with the SWAT. Blending it keeps their identity off, and when they finish operation, they are supposed to melt into society. Anybody who saw them assumed that they were policemen, and that was what they were supposed to do, because many of the policemen were in that dress.
Operatives can join the military for operations, and when they join, they are likely to blend them into the military, and when they finish they take everything from them, and they melt into society. That is how the work is, and what you saw there is nothing strange at all… People saw them driving and nobody run away from them. Nobody run away. They went to Afram Plains to do anti-armed robbery in those things and nobody run away from them.
L: In the Afram Plains (C: Yes my lord) what uniform were they wearing with the SWAT team?
C: Black top and some had the brown, because the Koforidua CTU were also around… And every report about arrest and arms that were retrieved were done in the name of Ghana Police but not National Police. I mean, we did lot of arrests and we did a lot of arms discovery.
L: The Afram Plains (C: Yes, my lord), the operatives were operatives and police in masks?
C: Yes, some were in masks. Most of the assignments there were done in the night. So the mosquito explanation was very valid at the Afram Plains. You know the number of mosquitoes in the Afram Plains area.
L: None of the operations were carried out in … (C: some were done in the Afram Plains) the Afram Plains (C: Yes, my lord), very well. Now, Colonel, you have seen the video (C: Yes, my lord), which are different videos put together, you don’t doubt your men being in the first part of it?
C: No, my lord.
L: Where we see these brown uniformed men chasing people around, you don’t doubt that?
C: No, my lord, but as I have said, some of the Hon Sam George’s men were in brown and black.
L: Now, we saw people being brutalised?
C: I saw somebody being beating in the video.
L: So you see such things as real? We also see scenes of the police officers trying to calm the men down.
C: I saw my DSP there, actually he was doing some gestures, but I cannot tell what he was doing.
L: That portion of the video, have you previously seen it?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: Have you asked questions about it?
C: Yes, my lord. I asked my DSP why he could not control the scene.
L: Before you continue…as you sit here, if I tell you it happened at a polling station, you wouldn’t have answer?
C: Yes my lord.
L: I suggest to you that it happened at a polling station. You won’t have an answer, won’t you?
C: I won’t. No my lord.
L: You don’t find it prudent to find out where it happened?
C: My lord, I can check later. As I have said, there are a lot of doubts about most of these videos that were going round. The initial ones were correct, but subsequently, people have tried to doctor. There are lot about the videos, which I think is not good for our press.
L: Now, the men being manhandled, you told the Commission you don’t know where that happened, have you found out why?
C: The initial video I watched is like he attacked somebody and that person attacked, then they rushed on him, that is what I saw. I don’t know if it is the same video that we are seeing. If you check the initial video, where Hon. Sam George was shouting why do you kill a man in his own house and all that bla bla. The left of that video…I saw this tall guy behind Sam George, I don’t know what was his hand…I will kill you! I will kill you! I think this a patched video.
Justice Emile Short: The initial video you are referring to, do you have it?
C: My lord, I have to check. I’m sure the people still have it.
Justice: very well the initial video, who took it.
C: My lord, the author I don’t know.
L: You don’t know the source?
C: No, my lord, all were on the internet
L: Sir, (C: Yes, my lord) has it come to your attention that on the day there was a shooting incident at La Bawaleshie area close to the Presby. Has that come to your attention?
C: Yes, my lord, in the report submitted by my DSP.
L: Now, according to the report submitted by your DSP, first of all, what led to the shooting incident? Before you come to that, what first of all brought the men to that vicinity?
Col: My lord, as I have stated earlier, they were on a confidence patrol. And they had men to them at very important places that they were keeping surveillance – Okponglo, the Skills Training area; the warehouse around La Balewashie; El King Hotel – most especially the warehouse.
My commander had intimated that they were moving in with some weapons. I am hearing stockpile, but as a military officer, I won’t say stockpile of weapons. I won’t say that. Until I am able to see the quantity and quantum of weapons and ammunitions, then I can say it is a stockpile of weapons, but they were moving with some weapons on them, especially those of them who have come from Tamale and Kumasi.
And, after their arrest, the picture I saw; I saw one huge person, and I was told that he is the leader of the Hawks vigilante group. I actually googled the picture and I saw he is the leader of the Hawks; he is the face of Hawks on the internet. He is a huge man, and you will see at the back written the Hawks and he is one of those arrested.
So it could be that the Hawks with the Kumasi boys and the people who had from the North and some were also in the house, they were the people that we had information that they were moving into the house with weapons and ammunitions. But I wouldn’t say stockpile, is too big a word in my professional parlance.
L: And what, according to your report, led to the commotion and shooting?
C: My lord, according to the report I had from my practical commander on the ground, thus DSP Azugu, they had some problems with some guys who had moved into the La Bawaleshie Primary, … polling stations, on the pretext of providing security to the polling station, and he advised that there were enough security men on the ground, and that they couldn’t be deployed there.
He also mentioned that Hon Oko Vanderpuije intervened, and the problem there was solved. But when they finished, they moved to that structure there … and as they moved there, some started surging from that place, throwing stones and they heard some guns and whatever happened went on… Because I wasn’t there, so I can’t give a vivid account of what happened there. I can only give evidence per the report.
L: Colonel, so then, are you saying that the report you received is not detailed enough?
C: It is detailed. What I needed to have is all in the report, and I think he will tender it in today.
L: Tell the Commission the information you have, per the report of the details of what happened?
C: According to the report, when they started moving in, the people there started throwing stones at them and there was some firing behind them, and they also fired warning shots into the air. And, according to the report, which was verified from the ammo issued that the day, and what was returned to the SWAT team on that day, they have lost or expended six rounds of AK. Six rounds of AK!
They managed to get close to the house, the gate was locked, so they could not enter, and their intention of trying to cordon place was aborted, and I side with him to abort the cording, because as part of the basic principle of internal security operations, there are three main basic principles – there must be justification of whatever you are taking; there should be a minimum force; and you must prevent the situation from escalating.
And I think he used the last principle of preventing what was happening from degenerating into a worse situation. After all, we have the information about these weapons that were going into the house from within them, and we will get the weapons at the appropriate time. So I side with him for aborting the operation.
He said, from there, they moved back and as they moved back, there were some of issues of…, I don’t know, according to him, it in was in front of the vehicles, and Hon Sam George had a problem with one of our operatives, where it led to an assault of the honourable Minister, sorry honourable MP.
L: Colonel, your men told you that some men were throwing stones at them (C: Yes my lord)? These men throwing stones, did they tell you where exactly they were?
C: Those who were throwing stones, they were coming from the house that was under surveillance.
L: And they have told you they have stones in the house?
C: I wouldn’t know if they have stones in the house… My lord.
L: Colonel, your men told you that some men were throwing stones at them. These men who were throwing stones, were they did they also tell you where exactly they were?
C: Those who were throwing stones, they were coming from the house under surveillance.
L: And, they told you, they have stones in the house?
C: I wouldn’t know where they had the stones from, but they said…
L: Colonel, help the Commission, you were peltered with stones by men coming from the house, but then you can’t tell whether they have stones in the house or not, or they got outside and picked stones and started throwing, is that what you are saying?
C: My lord, I did see from direction which…from the report, they were coming from the house general direction, but not from the house. Nobody could confirm, because I think the gate was at their blind side. The gate was not facing people, so it was at their blind side, but it came from the back, so they wouldn’t know whether the stones were picked from the house or outside the house.
L: Now you have also indicated to the Commission your men were giving warning shots, is that correct?
C: Yes, my lord, as indicated in the report.
L: And, according to the report, did they give six warning shots?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: How many rounds of ammunitions were issued on the day?
C: My lord, that can be answered by the DSP, he issued ammunitions to them, I don’t issue ammunitions to them. The procedure at the National Security, let me be frank with you, we don’t have ammunitions to issue.
The SWAT team request for ammunitions from police operations at the Police Headquarters. They approve and supply the SWAT team, so the SWAT Commander, is responsible for the issuing of ammunitions. The weapon they are using, which is AK, we issue them 25 AKs and we could not issue ammunitions.
The AKs were issued to the people we met there. We met the SWAT team; I met the SWAT team there, and in course of the change over between myself and my predecessor, I have to follow all weapons that had been issued.
So I made my arms store man to go to wherever the previous officer had issued weapons to them, and they went and inspected 25 weapons of the SWAT team. We have some weapons with the Jubilee House, we have to go and inspect them; there are weapons that have been issued for personal protection of certain VVIPs, and we have to actually inspect them.
There are some weapons with some individuals who, at that time, I thought they don’t need those weapons, so I have to recall all the weapons. All those who had weapons, we need the weapons again, and I have to recall, and there are documents in the office to show all of these things.
L: Colonel, in the course of your earlier account, you indicated that out of the ammunitions issued for the day, six were shot, am I right?
C: Yes, my lord.
L: My question was the number of ammunition issued for the day?
C: I have to call my DSP, as I sit here I cannot give you the figure, as I am sitting here. Actually, he came with all those documents here; the day he was here. I’m sure within that long hours he forgot, and I know the Commission has asked him to produce all those evidence, so it will be send to the Secretariat…
L: Very well. Now, have you seen photographs of wounded men said to have sustained injuries at the scene of the shooting…?
C: No, my lord. The injuries… the one at the police station where I saw some blood sustained…that one I have seen it. That is why I said I saw that huge person when I got to know he is the face of the Hawks.
L: Are you referring to one of the men arrested by the SWAT team?
C: Yes, my lord. The tall fair one, I don’t know his name, but when you google information on the Hawks, you will see his back, and he is the same person. I’m told he is the chairman of the Hawks organisation.
L: Did you download a copy of that photo?
C: No my lord, but I can give you the link, or you google, just type NDC Hawks…