A viral video where a Police officer is seen assaulting a woman has gotten everyone talking with press statements coming from several quarters.
The incident which happened at the
Midland Savings and Loans Limited should prompt government, various institutions and individuals to check on certain things immediately. Some of these have been discussed in the rest of the article.
There is this notion and perception out there that Banks in Ghana treat customers differently depending on the size of your bank account and your financial status in the society. Over and over again, the banks have had to come out and deny this assertion, continuously telling the public that all customers are treated the same. This latest incident does nothing but give this assertion a strong backing and case. Will the bank have allowed the police officer maltreat the woman if she had 10,000 deposit in the bank? People have begun asking. The answer is most likely no. This case presents a good opportunity for banks in Ghana to revisit their lecture board and restructure how they deal with customers, especially those on the periphery who have very little savings with the banks.
Bad customer service in Ghana goes beyond banks. Hospitals, Passport Offices, Embassies are just few of the many institution that have serious problems with customer care.
Over the last five years, most of the biggest financial fraud news have been in the Susu and savings schemes. These susu schemes within a matter of years convert to savings and loans companies and begin to give loans. The end result is what happened at Midland Savings and Loans. Contrary to Bank of Ghana’s regulation, these companies give out susu deposits as loans. The companies run out of money to pay depositors and keep giving them excuses, usually bad network and ask customers to return next day. As the woman said, she has been coming there for the past few days and they keep telling her to come back another day. It is about time the government takes a critical look at the operations of some of these susu collection institutions and how they metamorphose into Savings and Loans companies overnight.
Where was the money the woman deposited? It has probably been given to someone else as loan.
Alternative Means of Conflict Resolution
When the relation between customers and banks turn sour, it usually ends up in a court, account closing or in rare cases brawls as seen in the midland video. Banks in Ghana needs to take their conflict resolution issues serious and not treat them as an ordinary management issue because a conflict with just one customer if not amicably resolved can result in the collapse of the institution. Bad news travels and the conveyor of the bad news, (customer) delivers the message faster than the speed of lightening.
So what happens when conflicts are not able to be solved internally? Like in the case of the woman, the best action was to contact Bank of Ghana. But does she know? Usually people who cannot read are vulnerable to unfortunate incidents like what happened. Though the Bank of Ghana has made it public that they can be contacted to resolve issues when they are failed to resolve internally but these communiques are done in English language only. So this means that a great number of people would be ignorant about this. Why do we limit everything to English when it’s not our mother tongue and formal education is not free in Ghana?
Would the world have heard of the rape of her daughter had this incident not happened? As a nation, it is high time we pay more attention to how the law is unfavorable to the poor. Getting the services of lawyers is an expensive task that very few privileged people could afford. Victims like this woman, whose daughter was raped need to be provided free legal counsel by the state. While there is a law like that, it hardly works and poor people usually end up without receiving justice simply because they could not afford to hire lawyers.
Legal-related NGOs have no support from the government and corporate world and as such are not able to handle the many issues they receive. The sector ministries only become concerned after the issues trend on social media. Interestingly, the issues might have already been reported to them.
The government should consider the various legal NGOs in its budget to ensure that the poor receive the necessary legal assistance.
Take action, Don’t wait for social media
Had the video not come out, would Midland Savings and Loans have apologized to the woman? Would they have reported it to the police? The reported compensation for the woman, would the customer have received it had this video not been taken? These are questions that need to be asked. Institutions shouldn’t wait for such matters to trend before they do the needful as it casts doubt on the credibility of the institutions and in this case Midland Savings and Loans.
If Midland Savings and Loans had taken steps to apologise, compensate and report the Police officer before the video reached the media, they would have presented a beautiful press statement and no one would have called for them to be sued.
Not only do companies wait on social media. The President of Ghana also comments on issues when they trend. President Akufo Addo refused to comment on the seven people who were killed in Ashanti Region because it has not trended that much. What prevented him from mentioning it when he addressed the woman’s issue?
Hold on with Press Releases
Institutions should not be quick to release press statement simply because the public is calling for their head and chastising them. This has the ability to jeopardise already fragile situations at hand. There is the need for institutions in such situations to make the necessary consultations such as seeking expect advice and legal consultation before coming out with press releases. Press releases have implications and should it be done without these consultations, the institution may be heading for the doom.
Midland Savings and Loans proving through their press release that they took no steps until the video went viral is a big problem for the struggling firm. Their lawyers could have helped them come out with something more convincing.
Police Recruitment Procedures Need to be reviewed
The police is your friend is a popular mantra around the world and even in our part of the world but is that really the situation on the ground in Ghana? The police here only seem to think that their duty is to arrest criminals and offenders but the job of the police goes beyond that. The police should be able to give lifts to drunkards and even accompany people passing through dangerous areas among several others. Put simply, Police recruitment procedures in Ghana need to be reviewed as the officers look lost on their full responsibility as men in uniform..
Perhaps a reorientation and training of officers on their roles could help foster a better relationship between them and the general public, rather than the tense relationship that currently exists between both sides.
In a country where there is no proper database of crimes and criminals, thorough background checks of people are needed before recruitment. Records should be obtained from all schools attended, all places lived, all places worked, and even checks on social media accounts and emails as all these would give a clear picture of who is being recruited. Names of shortlisted individuals can be published for people who have any information on them to be given.
Laws Preventing Recording of Officers should be reviewed
There are laws that prevent civilians from recording police officers and security personnel. Not just security personnel, it is illegal to record someone without his consent. People have had their phones and cameras confiscated because they tried recording security personnel. While the makers of this law for all intent and purpose had good intentions for passing that law, most police officers have taken advantage of it and abused the system, committing criminal activities and corrupt practices knowing very well that there is a law that prevents anyone from recording them.
On the few occasions when officers have been recorded it has been by civilians who are not aware of this law. It is about time our law makers review this particular law because of the kind of systemic abuse these security officers engage in, committing crimes and all sort of evils freely with a helping hand from the law which forbids recording of their actions.
The Midlands Savings and Loans employee who recorded and released the video may likely lose his/her job for the action as it has put the comapny in bad light. In such a situation how does the labour law protect the worker and are these labour laws usually enforced by the Ghana Labour Commissions who are in charge of employee-employer impasses?
Over the years, employers have unjustifiably fired employees over very dubious reasons and the labour laws and labour commission could not come to the rescue of the victimized employees. This current situation presents a perfect opportunity for the Ghana Labour Commission to make a point and announce to the world that Ghana has a working labour law that protects employers from unjustified sackings and maltreatment by employees.
Social Media Policy at Workplace
While social media played all the role in addressing the issue, it is as well collapsing the company in question. The company is likely to face several suits that would result in a huge compensation to the woman and also tarnishing its image.
Social Media is here to stay and has become part of us and our businesses. Every company must have a Social Media Policy; what goes on social media and who posts on social media. With such policy, Midland Savings and Loans could have internally apologised to the woman, compensated her and have the police officer sacked (Which they wouldn’t have done).
Issues of this nature is best handled without paying attention to the gender of the victims as that has the potential to affect the fight against gender inequality. The woman should be referred to as customer. Any attempt to play the gender card and insist on referring to the victim by the gender, would mean the police would have been right to have done same to a man, but is only being condemned because the victim is a woman.
This weakens the case for the woman as it will make the action of the officer justifiable to some extent (after all the law is no respecter of person or gender). Gender equality is only achievable when both genders are treated the same, therefore we should not approach this issue as though it is only wrong because it was meted out to woman.
Look beyond a victim
When major Mahama was murdered, a Fund was set up to take care of his family. What about those who die through same or similar means? Situations like this present us the opportunity to look at the situation broadly than paying attention to only the victim at hand. So what makes Major Mahama more Ghanaian than the many policemen and soldiers who have been killed while on duty?
This is same in the case of Mrs. Patience Osarfo. While it is very good and very important to give her some funds to make life comfortably for her, we should as well pay attention to other people suffering same brutalities. So will the MP, Women Organizer and other donors donate to everyone who faces same police brutality? Several posts on social media show that the MP who donated GHS 2000 to the woman also have several suffering women in his constituency.
Situations like this should be supported by considering other people going through same problems. Why not a Patience Osarfo Foundation to support all victims of police brutalities or such foundation to fight police brutality? Well, let us hope people don’t force themselves to be beaten by the police in order to receive such donations.