The three hospital employees standing a criminal trial for thefts of government drugs in Ghana’s Upper East Region have been granted bail after spending about one month in police custody.
But residents have expressed concerns about possible interference in the case after learning that the docket of the case has been forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Department in the region for advice.
Fasilat Raheem, a drug storekeeper at the Upper East Regional Hospital, and Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy, were each temporarily released in the sum of Gh¢50,000 (USD4,389) with two sureties.
And as part of the bail conditions, one of the sureties should be a government worker on a salary not less than Gh¢2,000 (USD176).
The Circuit Court in the region’s capital, Bolgatanga, granted the bail on Wednesday, 6 September 2023, and adjourned the case to Monday, 18 September 2023.
The hospital’s driver, Raymond Asoke, had come out of police custody on bail granted at the High Court ‘1’ in Bolgatanga on Friday, 1 September 2023.
Police retrieved thirty-four boxes of government drugs from the accused persons after a months-long investigation by Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti uncovered a near-abandoned building where drugs supplied to the Upper East Regional Hospital by the Ministry of Health were illegally being kept.
Police say the accused persons have, up to now, declined to name those who have been buying the drugs from them.
On Wednesday, the police opposed the bail application filed for the two female accused persons by their counsel.
The police told the court that the Attorney-General’s Department had called for the docket to support the prosecution and argued that releasing the accused persons from custody while awaiting directions from the Attorney-General’s Department might affect prosecution.
Public comments and reaction from Attorney-General’s Department
Minutes after the case was adjourned, residents poured out their misgivings about the docket going to the Attorney-General’s Department.
“We have very strong opinions that the call for the docket by the Attorney-General’s Department in this region now appears to be confirming what we heard that some politicians had plotted to smartly use the Attorney-General’s Department to make this case a foolish case behind the scenes because the wife of a big man is involved in the crime. This case is of a serious national interest. Our eyes and ears are on the ground,” said Jones Ayambire, a social development worker who was in court on Wednesday.
Cynthia Addah, a teacher, added her voice, saying: “We are very impressed with how the court and the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Service have handled this critical case so far. We also shouldn’t forget that we heard that a key witness in this case died mysteriously under circumstances which are being traced to an interested party who is still roaming free in town.”
“And the sudden request for the docket by the Attorney-General’s Department is now the matter of public discussion. Whilst we are watching, we are also putting a petition together on this development,” she added.
Another resident, who identified himself as Iddrisu Akurugu, said: “Watch out for another demonstration. It is a demonstration organised for justice on behalf of patients who died because there were no medicines at the regional hospital and on behalf of people who shouldn’t die because of drug shortages.”
Continuing, he said: “Nobody is sleeping on this matter. We know it is normal for Attorney-General to call for dockets and proffer advice but their office in this region has that record of calling for dockets with a motive to kill cases. It’s not new to us. I can mention examples, even a recent one. If you have ever lost a loved one at the regional hospital just for lack of drugs, you would know how it feels.”
When contacted, the region’s Chief State Attorney, Joyce Debrah, said her department did not call for the docket.
“The police have not brought the docket to us. I didn’t call for the docket. The police said they were overwhelmed and wanted to bring the docket to us. I told them that when they are done with the investigation, they can bring it. I want to believe they are not done with the investigation.
“The 2IC (the Deputy Regional Police Commander) spoke to me about the police wanting to bring the docket to us. You know the [lawyer representing the accused] filed a bail application. I even stood on that and asked the attorney (her colleague) to call for the docket and as at the time she was responding to the bail application, they had still not brought the docket,” she told Media Without Borders on Wednesday.
Only a few weeks ago, residents staged a street demonstration, led by the Upper East Youth Movement, warning politicians, traditional authorities and religious leaders against interfering in the case.
“We wish to appeal with all humility to all these powerful and influential men and women in society especially our politicians, traditional and religious leaders who are fond of meddling and peddling influence to bend the curves of true and proper investigations and prosecution of cases to, in the name of the development of our deprived region, stay away from this serious case,” said the group in a statement read by one of its leading members, Bismark Adongo Ayorogo, at the regional police headquarters in Bolgatanga on Friday, 18 August 2023.
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org