Ghanaians are currently enduring serious social and economic problems. And to add to their woes, the nation has for the past two years been infested with dangerous armed robbers of all shades. These armed robbers who use sophisticated weapons have become so daring that they operate in broad daylight, displaying total disregard for the police or the other law enforcement agencies in Ghana.
There have been many instances where Ghanaians resident abroad who have returned home for holidays or to invest their monies have been targeted and robbed. A disturbing phenomenon of their activities is carjacking and highway robbery hitherto unknown in Ghana, the land of freedom and hospitality.
Armed robbers brazenly snatch cars from their owners, waylay traders on the highways and deprive them of their monies and personal effects. In some cases they even murder their victims in cold blood.
Tourists who bring a lot of foreign exchange to help stimulate the economy have not been spared. There have been several reported attacks of tourists by armed robbers even at their hotels.
Ghana, which used to be a haven of peace in West Africa, is now earning a bad name because of the activities of these armed robbers.
The activities of these armed robbers have compelled many Ghanaians to live in fear. It is not uncommon to get a phone call from a friend or a relative lamenting the armed robbery situation in Ghana. I have questioned others and myself whether it is true that armed robbers conduct their heinous operations in broad day light in Ghana of all places.
Ironically, the more the police step up its operations to crack down on armed robbers, the more the armed robbers change their mode of operations and attack innocent victims.
It is therefore gratifying that President Kuffour has appealed to Ghanaians to be vigilant in their communities and expose armed robbers and miscreants to make the work of the police successful.
President Kuffour who was addressing thousands of Muslims at prayers to mark Eid-Ul-Adha at the Independence Square in Accra said: "Somebody always knows the thief or the armed robber and such miscreants do not deserve to be sheltered by us. Somebody somewhere, always has the relevant information the Police require to make the breakthrough in a criminal investigations."
This blunt statement by the president is an indication of how serious armed robbery is in Ghana today and how the situation is getting out of hand.
Even though the call by the president for communities to be vigilant and expose armed criminals in their midst is good; it does not go far to address the problem, which keeps expanding daily.
It has been reported several times that most of these armed robbers operate at the Kotoka International Airport. Some of the criminals pose as genuine people who have come to the airport to meet their relatives from abroad.
The situation is so bad that it is a struggle for arriving travelers with luggage to meander through the usual crowd of loiterers, just to exit the gate and join a vehicle. We all know that they just loiter around to know who just arrived in town with a lot of " booty" to facilitate their nefarious activities.
While some passengers have been chased immediately after leaving the airport and robbed on the highway, others have been followed to their houses only to be attacked and robbed late in the night.
To control this situation, there is the need to hire and put more detectives at the airport. The basic role of these detectives would be to observe the behaviour of everybody at the airport. The detectives should be provided with vehicles so that if they see any vehicle suspiciously following a passenger leaving the airport, the armed detectives will also follow them in addition to alerting the police headquarters for a back up.
Apart from this, the detectives should also observe and question where necessary people who idle at the airport for hours without any specific thing to do. If this kind of operation is set in place, it will not be long before the government disrupts the operations of the criminals at the airport.
Since armed robbers have also been robbing residential areas, I will urge all residents to form Rapid Response Teams (RRT) in all the communities in Ghana. With the RRT in place, if one resident is attacked the other residents will not stay in their rooms shivering but will endeavour to fight back.
There are many instances and ways to fight back the criminals when one individual is attacked. Some members of the RRT should be able to come out of their rooms to either deflate the tyres of the vehicles used by the criminals or set fire on the vehicles.
Other residents should also alert the police immediately while some of them who have guns can all give out warning shots simultaneously. We should remember that majority of these criminals are cowards, therefore the filling of gunshots alone will scare them to run away.
While commending the government's recent efforts to provide needed logistics for policing, the over all impact towards crime combat would only be achieved if law enforcement agencies learn, to respond promptly to distress calls from the citizenry and adopt more professional attitude towards their duties.
To further enhance security, the government needs to recruit more policemen and provide them with the requisite training to patrol residential areas in the big cities like Accra, Tema, Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale during the night.
The government should also feel free to allow the armed forces to join the police in combating the armed robbers. Even in America the government of George Bush has allowed armed personnel to guard the airports, railways stations and other important government buildings and installations to check the activities of terrorists.
Rewards should be instituted by the government for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of armed robbers. The identity of the tipsters should be kept secret. It is a common fact there have been instances where people have given tips to the police only for their identity to be revealed by the police. When something like this happens, it will put the lives of the tipsters and their families in danger.
Foot patrol policemen must also be allowed to police the big market areas in Ghana to curb the activities of armed pickpockets who use sharp knives and other implements to hurt their victims after robbing them.
Since it is said that the devil finds work for an idle hand, I will appeal to the Kuffour administration to create jobs and adsorb many of the roaming youths that have resorted to armed robbery as a last resort.
Ghana has come very far, therefore armed criminals should not been given an inch to destroy the country. The attack on tourists by armed criminals could seriously affect the tourism industry in Ghana. Currently Kenya is going through the same problem as armed robbers pounce on tourists and rob them daily with impunity. Therefore, the tourism industry in Kenya is suffering.
The brazen activities of armed robbers and the lack of adequate security for Ghanaians is also preventing many Ghanaians outside the country from traveling home for holidays. It is a fact that Ghanaians abroad contribute tremendously towards the stimulation of the economy therefore, their refusal to travel home can adversely affect the economy.
We can also talk about investors who would find it very difficult to invest in a country that their officials cannot walk or sleep in the night. Armed robbery is clearly a menace needing the collective responsibility of all Ghanaians in fighting it. I will come again.