WATCH OUT! DRUG-TRAFFICKING CAN DESTROY THE DIGNITY OF EVERYONE OF US!
By CAMERON DUODU
The arrest in London of a woman called Ruby Adu Gyamfi, also known as Nayele Ametefeh, has undoubtedly put the Ghana Government into a flap.
That is understandable, because for about ten years, the Ghana Government has deliberately compromised the sovereignty of Ghana by allowing British anti-narcotics personnel to operate from Kotoka International Airport to try and stop drug-smuggling at source.
If one reads the secret cables sent by the US Embassy in Accra to Washington and leaked by www.wikileaks.org , one can see that the Ghana Government has come under great pressure from both the US and UK Governments, to try and prevent Ghana from becoming a transit point for narcotic drugs destined for Europe and America and smuggled into Ghana from Latin America and the Caribbean.
(It is a moot point whether, if Ghana was as concerned about say, the smuggling of wigs or skin-bleaching creams into Ghana from the US and the UK, after the importation of the two items had been made illegal by the Ghana Government, the Governments of the two countries would allow Ghanaian Customs operatives to be stationed at JFK airport and Heathrow, secretly to screen passengers flying to Ghana with those items!)
Yes, it is a moot point that needs no belabouring. What is undeniable, from a perusal of the Wikileaks cables, is that the Ghana Government has been co-operating in a most servile manner, with the two countries in trying to stop the export of drugs from Ghana into their territory.
Indeed, whist he was in office, the late President J A Mills went so far as to request the UK authorities to supply his Government with equipment that would enable members of his own entourage to be scrutinised before they boarded planes to fly with him abroad!
I am sure his then deputy, President John Mahama, was aware of the arrangement. Which puzzles me as to why he got himself involved in the Ruby arrest affair. Why did he defend the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) when it “invited” two top Ghanaian media practitioners to quiz them about reports they had published relating to Ruby’s arrest? Has President Mahama not got a Minister of the Interior (who should be in charge of the BNI and answer questions relating to its behaviour?)
Not that the President’s defence of the BNI had any logic to it. In a liberal democracy like ours, when a media organisation publishes a false report – such as the presumably unfounded statement that Ruby was in possession of a Ghana diplomatic passport – what the Government ought to do is to issue a statement denying the report, and providing authentic information about the matter, if possible. The UK authorities would have been more than willing to furnish our Government with such information, for a Heathrow newspaper had published a report on the arrest, obviously on the basis of information provided by British Customs.
Neither of the media organisations concerned would dream of refusing to use an official statement issued by the Ghana Government. Therefore taking their personnel in can be seen as an act of deliberate intimidation, meant to discourage the two organisations from showing too much interest in the matter.
Which then begs the question, why would the Government of Ghana want to intimidate them into silence? And why would the Government of Ghana compound the initial mistake with a defence, by the President, no less – of the BNI’s authoritarian decision to take the journalists in?
But now look! – the matter has escalated to the point where the President has ordered the dissolution of the Governing Board of NACOB!
I ask you: does the Governing Board of NACOB involve itself in the day-to-day running of NACOB? That would be extremely strange, wouldn’t it? I mean, I happen to have served on the boards of directors of three public bodies in Ghana, and unless the governing board of NACOB is completely different from the norm, then I can state with all confidence that the board members would meet only when the Chief Executive, through the Secretary, summons them to a meeting.
We never, repeat never, dealt directly with the staff. If vacancies occurred that necessitated Board participation in the selection process, we set up an ad hoc committee to deal with that.
The Government therefore needs to explain this to us: were the Board of Governors expected to take part in the day-to-day operations of NACOB, to such an extent that if somebody slipped through the narcotics control net at Kotoka International Airport, the Board of Governors would, as a body, be collectively held responsible for the lapse? Does that amount to natural justice?
If not, then the Government’s dissolution of the Board can only be interpreted as a desperate diversionary tactic. But that act of distraction cannot succeed in covering up the Government’s embarrassment over the matter. It is a crack-pot idea, in fact.
Why? Because what a serious Government ought to have done already would be to set the Criminal Investigations Department(CID) on NACOB’s staff and task it to to unearth the truth about their possible involvement in Ruby’s activities.
First line of enquiry: Who were the NACOB staff on duty at both the VVIP lounge and the ordinary Departure Lounge of the Kotoka International Airport on the night of 9-10 November 2014, when Ruby embarked on her trip to London? What sort of activities did the staff engage in whilst on duty that night? Was any curious or unusual behaviour observed by any members of staff about their colleagues?
Second line of enquiry: what took place at NACOB headquarters itself on the night in question? Did some “big” men leave the office – unusually – to make themselves present at the airport? Were there any unusual telephone conversations, especially conversations that included the frequent use of the words, “Yes sir!”? In this connection, the total silence observed on this issue by Mr Akrasi Sarpong, the normally voluble Chief Executive of NACOB, should merit special attention.
I am sure that the CID has other methods of unearthing the truth about that night – if asked to do so. Its third line of enquiry could include, for instance, a probe into the financial affairs of any key suspects that the investigation unearths: had any unusual payments been made into their accounts? Had some of them made unusual purchases of late?
If the CID was given such a task, it would have to be authorised to publish its findings itself, so as to ensure that the Government does not try to doctor it. And it must be allowed to institute criminal actions against any of Ruby’s NACOB collaborators that it unmasks.
Such an investigation would be in all our interests, for West Africa has been designated as a drug-transit centre of great concern to the US and UK authorities, and unless we do our bit to remove ourselves from the list of suspect nations, many innocent people among us will suffer for nothing.
I know what I am talking about, for one day, I had arrived at Heathrow Airport and begun to tread my weary way towards Immigration when, all of a sudden, a huge Alsatian dog darted towards me! I hadn’t seen it coming and I was absolutely stricken with horror, as I didn’t know its purpose. The dog sniffed around me for only under 30 seconds, but the unexpected manner in which it had pounced on me completely shattered my nerves. Before I could absorb what had happened, it had gone back to its female Customs handler, and they had gone round a corner and vanished from sight. I was just left standing there, shaking like a leaf. And cursing a system that could allow that to happen to ANY FELLOW HUMAN BEING. Suppose I’d had a heart attack? Is my life less sacred than those potential users of drugs whom the system has been set up to protect?
What was I to do? Complain to the airport authorities? What for? The woman probably had full authority to do what she did. But even if she did not have the authority to abuse my right to be treated with respect and dignity, of what use would my complaint be? The incident had already occurred! The scars that the one minute of sheer horror had inflicted on my psyche have, of course, stayed with me and will ever remain.
Why had I been selected for the dog-sniffing? Were the dogs specially trained to pick out only Black people? (I had not seen anyone else being subjected to that treatment!)
I don’t know. But there is one thing I do know for certain: racial profiling of Blacks – now reinforced by the Ebola scare – is pretty common at foreign airports and we should leave no stone unturned to prevent ourselves from being trampled upon at foreign airports by individuals primed to regard every Black person as someone from whom normal decencies can be withdrawn.
And that means doing our best ourselves to root out the bad eggs in our midst. I mean, President Mahama was embarrassed by the mere mention of an alleged Ghana diplomatic passport in the affair. Heck — big deal! I, who have never even smoked cigarettes, was nearly snuffed out by an Alsatian dog which darted with brutal hostility towards me from nowhere — in pursuit of drug smugglers.