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Friday, August 7, 2009

BNI Grounds British Airways

British Airways Flight 078 was last Monday night grounded at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra on the orders of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the country’s national security apparatus. The international flight had passengers on board and was ready to take off to Heathrow in London when the pilot, Captain Remington, announced that the plane had been grounded by the government of Ghana through the BNI and would not be allowed to fly until one of its passengers, Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, a former Information Minister, with his wife and two kids, are forced to disembark.

The episode drew strong condemnation from passengers on board the international flight and some reportedly questioned whether Ghana had returned to its dark past where the respect of human rights was thrown to the dogs.Mr. Asamoah-Boateng told Daily Guide that he initially declined to disembark but was compelled to do so after Captain Remington moved from the cockpit and explained to him that he should get off the flight so as to allow the BNI release the plane. “I had a contract with British Airways that they should fly me to London on Monday night and if they are asking me to move out of the plane with an explanation that it had been grounded because of me, I had no choice but to comply,” Mr. Asamoah-Boateng noted.

The former Information Minister, his wife and two kids, aged four and a year and a half, therefore disembarked and returned home. He has vowed to seek redress in the courts of law.This is the second time the BNI had prevented Mr. Asamoah-Boateng and his family from traveling though they had on both occasions booked and paid for their accommodation at the Renaissance Hotel in London and accordingly checked in and were ready to take off. “I do not understand what they want. After the first episode, I went to court and a court of competent jurisdiction operating under the laws of Ghana has granted me permission to travel with my family from the 3rd of August to the 24th of August.

The BNI was in court and they are all aware of this court decision so I do not know whether we are in a revolution or not as it seems some people have become stronger than the courts.” Mr. Asamoah-Boateng said prior to boarding the flight, he and his family were physically prevented at the final boarding gate by two BNI agents and one gave his name as Samuel Abrokwa. “He said I could not travel because the BNI Director wanted to speak to me downstairs. They pushed us aside with their elbows and in the process shoved one Nigerian traveler who tumbled in a chair. The episode was embarrassing and the other passengers started to boo and hoot at the BNI guys so they stood aside.

“I followed them downstairs and met one Josephine who told me that her boss, Yaw Donkor, had ordered that I should be prevented from travelling and that he did not give any reason. I explained that since they had no Police order or court order, I would travel because I had been cleared by the courts. “I went ahead to board the plane and indeed, they grounded the flight and shoved me out of the plane. I do not know if the laws still work in Ghana,” Asamoah-Boateng posited.


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