The trial judge hearing the case of three vigilantes who were arrested in connection with the violence that characterised the December 18 Congress of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has said the court “erred” in taking the plea of convicted Dauda Mohammed Nasir.
Nasir had pleaded guilty on January 10 when he was first arraigned on the charges of prohibition of vigilante groups and activities.
He was then convicted on his own plea and remanded for sentencing today (January 25).
However in court on Wednesday, January 25 when the case was called Mohammed Nasir, through his lawyers led by Beatrice Annangfio prayed the court to have the records of January 10 proceedings set aside for the convict’s plea to be retaken.
Lawyer Annangfio among other things argued that the clerk of the court who interpreted the Hausa Language to the convict was not a certified interpreter.
She argued further that having had conference with her client he only admitted to being on the conference grounds and not admitting the offense.
She also argued that convict was not informed of his rights to counsel and it would be unfair if the plea of the convict is not retaken.
“The duty of the prosecution is not to at all cost secure conviction. The duty of the prosecution is to administer justice. I wish to say that you exercise magnanimity and retake his plea,” Lawyer Annangfio prayed the court.
Superintendent Sylvester Asare who opposed the request said the court had no jurisdiction to set aside its proceedings, especially after conviction.
Supt. Asare noted that what the defense was asking the court to do was to “Sin against the combined effect of section 199, of Act 30”.
The prosecutor consequently prayed the court to turn down the request and deliver its sentence on the convict.
The Circuit Court presided over by His Honour Samuel Bright Acquah after listening to the parties said his court erred in allowing his clerk to do the Hausa language interpretation.
The court also said It is clear on records that the court to didn’t do enough to let him know his rights.
His Honour Samuel Bright Acquah also said the court should have found out if he wanted to go on without counsel and whether the accused understood his plea or not.
The court said it did not “know whether the clerk who interpreted the Hausa language to the convict really understood the language he interpreted to the convict.
To this, the court said it “erred” and when “the court erred” it does have the right to correct that since trial ends after sentencing, not conviction.
The court said the prosecution does not lose anything if the plea of the convict is retaken.
He said the minimum punishment for the offense of vigilantism under the section the convict is 10 years and must be given that opportunity.
According to reports, Dauda pleaded not guilty to two counts when his plea was retaken.
The two others, Abdul Halid Shaibu, Alias Olu and Razak Ibrahim, Alias Oga who had earlier pleaded not guilty were also in court.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges of prohibition of vigilante groups and activities contrary to section 3(3) of the Vigilantism and related offences Act, 2019, Act 999.
Their lawyers – Lamptiig Apanga, Paul Asibi Abariga and Beatrice Annangfio all prayed for bail and the prosecution did not opposed.
All the three accused have been granted bail in the sum of GHc50, 000 with two sureties.
The sureties the court said are to be public servants earning not less than GHc2,000 and must be within the jurisdiction of the court.
The court said they are to report twice to the police on every Mondays and Fridays. The case has been adjourned to February 15.
Per the brief fact of the case presented by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Sylvester Asare, the accused persons are members of vigilante groups operating within the National Democratic Congress [NDC).
He said, on December 10, 2022, Police received a report of violent disturbances at the NDC’s National Youth and Women’s Congress held at Cape Coast, in the Central Region and upon receipt, Police commenced an investigation into the matter.
ASP Asare said, during the investigation, the team reviewed police-specific video footage of the Congress and declared 16 persons including the accused person wanted in connection with the violence.
According to him, investigation revealed that while proceedings were ongoing at the Congress, two rival vigilante groups violently clashed throwing stones, blocks, and clubs among others causing injury to some persons and destroying properties.
Further investigation had it that, the 1st and 2nd accused persons and others at large work for and in furtherance of their own interest and that of George Opare Addo aka Pablo as the National Youth Organizer of the NDC.
According to him, it was also established that the 3rd accused person and others at large acted for himself and Hon. Hannah Bissiw and Brogya Gyamfi.
ASP Asare told the court that, on December 9, the first and second accused and others at large were transported from Tamale to Cape Coast to engage in vigilante activities to further the interest of George Opare Addo to win the election.
The Prosecutor said, the accused persons and others at large were given GH$50.00 each as pocket money and on the same day, suspect Jango, currently in police custody organized the rival group including 3rd accused from Berekum and its environs to further the interest of Hannah Bissiw and Brogya Gyamfi won their respective positions.
The Prosecutor said, the “Police investigation also revealed that Al, A2, A3 and others at large were lodged in separate hotels in Cape Coast and fed.”
“On 10/12/2022 whilst the congress was ongoing, the vigilante rival groups without any provocation and to further the interest of their respective candidates resorted to the use of violence, threat and intimidation and injured some persons.
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“Some members of the opposing factions involved in the fight got injured and rushed to the hospital for treatment.
It was also established that Al and A2 were paid GH¢250.00 each for their services as vigilantes at the Congress for George Opare Addo,” he told the court.
“Thus, A3 and his accomplices also received GHC200.00 each for their services as vigilantes at the Congress for Brogya Gyamfi and Hannah Bissiw.
On 06/01/2023, A1 and A2 were arrested from their hideouts at Tamale and brought to Accra for investigation,” ASP Asare told the court.
The accused he said were arrested on January 7 and 8 while the third was arrested from his hideout at Kintampo.
All the accused persons he said admitted the offence during interrogation while investigation continues.