We've No Ethnocentric Agenda In Deployment Of Soldiers — Defence Minister
Minister of Defence Dominic Nitiwul has refuted claims by the Minority NDC that government has deployed soldiers to Volta and Oti regions to intimidate residents from registering for the new voter cards.
Mr Nitiwul, responding to the NDC's allegations and giving update on the joint security operations along the country's borders, at a news conference in Accra, said Government had no ethnocentric agenda against any ethnic group or political party in the deployment of security personnel to protect the country's frontiers.
"Those going that tangent should drop it because it will not help anybody. I want the chiefs and people of the Volta and Oti regions to know that this is pure propaganda and mischief by the NDC and should be ignored, "Mr Nitiwul said, adding, “Those whipping up ethnocentric sentiment should bow down their heads in shame".
The Minister said the soldiers were deployed to the border towns to prevent unlawful entries and not to polling stations to intimidate or brutalise civilians.
Mr Nitiwul, also the member of Parliament for Bimbilla, said the Akufo-Addo-led government was not interested in ethnic politics, but to implement programmes and policies that would better the lives of Ghanaians.
The Minister said the soldiers deployed under "Operation Enhanced Calm Life" were given resources to stay at the borders for three months, while efforts are underway to find more resources to enable them to police the country's borders for extra three months.
Recounting when the military deployment started, the Minister said government, through the ministries of Defence and the Interior, started deploying soldiers and police to the border towns from February 21,2019 under an operation code named "Operation Conquered Fist", to complement the efforts of personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service and the Ghana Revenue Authority to prevent illegal entries.
On March 30th and April 20th, 2020, government deployed more solders to beef up security at the borders following the outbreak of the coronavirus to prevent foreigners from being sneaked into the country and ensure the border closure was respected.
However, he said, government realised that during the lockdown some recalcitrant people were still sneaking foreigners into the country through over 250 unapproved routes and 500 paths, hence it deployed more solders to stop the importation of the respiratory disease.
He said, for instance some 5,000 foreigners attempted to cross into the country during the partial lockdown and were subsequently arrested.
He noted that a test conducted by the health authorities on the suspects revealed that between 10 and 30 per cent Covid-19 infection rate among the suspects.
Mr Nitiwul observed that the deployment of security personnel at the borders helped immensely in reducing crimes at the border towns, especially in the northern part of the country such as Tumu, Bawku and Talensi during the lockdowns.
He, however, said upon easing of COVID-19 restrictions, crime rate started surging at the border towns whilst foreigners started using unapproved routes to enter the country.
He said, on June 18 and June 19,2020, the Defence Ministry launched an operation code named " Operation Enhanced Calm Life" to allow more solders to be deployed in order to support personnel of the Immigration Service at the borders.
The soldiers were deployed in nine border regions including; Volta, Oti, Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East, Upper West, Bono and Western regions to enforce the border closure in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
Mr Nitiwul stated that eight senior officers and 199 soldiers were deployed in the Upper East Region, four senior officers and 65 soldiers in three operational areas in the Upper West Region, three senior officers and 99 soldiers in the North East Region, two senior officers and 70 soldiers in six locations in the Oti Region, three senior officers and 95 soldiers in the Volta Region, whilst the Western Region received one senior officer and 13 soldiers.
Mr Nitiwul condemned the false claims being peddled by the opposition NDC and former President John Mahama, who is the NDC flagbearer for 2020 election, saying that it was pure mischief to create disaffection for the ruling government.