By Martin Awuku
Five Ghanaians who were arrested by the Togolese security in a swoop at Gbadaag, a town along the Ghana/Togo border, over the alleged disruption of a voter registration exercise have been languishing in a Togolese prison for the past three months without trial.
Reliable sources told the Daily Graphic that the suspects, who are in a prison at Dapango in the northern part of Togo, were critically ill, with no medical care.
The five were picked up, together with some Togolese, at a market at Gbadaag in Togo on October 20, 2018, after some unknown persons had disrupted a Togolese electoral registration exercise near the market.
Reports indicate that the security personnel who were in search of the perpetrators stormed the market and rounded up many people, including the five Ghanaians from the Bunkpurugu District in the Northern Region who had gone there to trade.
The Gbadaag Market is a popular Togolese market near Bunkpurugu where nationals of both countries trade.
Mr Godwin Duak, a relative of one of the suspects, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, confirmed the detention of the suspects.
He gave their names as Duak Bitian, Kombat Nini Bjobin, Duut Dajeb, Kombian Jaben and Laar Mobong.
According to him, the five, who lived near the border, had gone to the market to trade and were resting at a pito joint when the armed security personnel stormed the market with three vehicles and rounded them up.
He claimed that the five Ghanaians were not involved in the alleged disruption of the registration exercise because they were not taking part in the exercise for the Togolese presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mr Duak added that the suspects had not been charged before any court in Togo.
“All efforts made for the security authorities to grant them bail have proved futile,” he said.
According to him, family members in Ghana had travelled to Togo on several occasions in a bid to secure bail for the five “but anytime we went there they took money from us before allowing us to see them”.
He stated that one of the suspects who is old had wounds sustained through a motorbike accident he was involved in three days before his arrest and his condition had deteriorated, as he had not been sent for medical treatment.
Another relative of another suspect, Mr Nanoang Silas Jadan, said: “We reported the incident to the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Bunkpurugu but nothing much has been done about it. We don’t have a problem when they are tried and found guilty, but our worry is that they have not been given a hearing.”
The family members appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Ghana Mission in Togo to intervene to secure the release of the five from unlawful custody.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the DCE for Bunkpurugu, Alhaji Majeed Azumah Duut, he confirmed the detention and said his attention was drawn to it but efforts to secure their release had proved futile.
“I received information that some Togolese disrupted a voter registration exercise at a polling station in a community on the Ghana/Togo border near Bunkpurugu and unfortunately some of our people who had gone to the market there were arrested, along with 17 Togolese.
“I contacted the local authority head for that area and made a follow-up to try and get them released but it was not successful. The Togolese authorities told me that because of their election they could not do anything about it. But I will be meeting the Togolese authorities in the coming days on the incident,” he said.
Attempts to get Immigration officials on the border to speak on the matter were unsuccessful.
Breach of security protocol
Commenting on the incident, a security expert, Mr Adam Bona, described it as worrying and a clear breach of international security protocols.
“The Togolese security should have informed the Ghana Mission in Togo that they had arrested some Ghanaians suspected to be involved in violence, so that the mission could get a lawyer to represent them in court. If they didn’t do that, then it is very disturbing,” he stated.
On what should be done at the moment, he said: ”The families of the suspects should make a report to the Northern Regional Minister, who is the Chairman of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC), and petition the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Comptroller-General of the Ghana Immigration Service to act swiftly on the incident.”