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02.03.2007 Crime & Punishment

Cocaine Trafficking On The Increase

DRUG law enforcement authorities have raised the alarm bells that cocaine trafficking through Ghana is on the increase, with seizures since 2004 showing a significant rise in quantities.

With the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) yet to compile total seizures for 2006, the seizure of 1.9 tonnes (1,900 kilogrammes) of cocaine by the police alone last year, compared to the 600 kilogrammes cumulative cocaine seizure for 2005, has made the authorities worried.

Giving an overview of the drug situation in Ghana at the launch of the 2006 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the Executive Secretary of NACOB, Major General Richardson Baiden, said it was becoming increasingly clear that international drug trafficking gangs were shifting base to “our part of the world for their illicit trade”.

According to him, there was legitimate maritime activity between Ghana and European seaports, which made detecting smuggled cocaine all the more difficult.

“Also, our vast coastline is being exploited by international trafficking gangs in concert with local criminals to transit drugs through Ghana,” he added.

Major Gen Baiden said there had, however, been a reduction in heroin seizures in the past year, a situation which he attributed to the fact that drug gangs might have probably found cocaine trafficking to Europe more lucrative.

With regard to cannabis, he said, there was an increasing use of the postal and courier system to smuggle various quantities to Europe and North America, particularly the USA.

He said cannabis was mostly concealed in art works, picture frames and ordinary letters.

The good news, he said, was that there had been increased collaboration, both locally and internationally, to bring the situation under control to ensure that Ghana did not become a safe haven for drug gangs.

Major Gen Baiden pledged the commitment of NACOB and the security agencies to work tirelessly to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement operations to curtail the flow of drugs through Ghana to other parts of the world.

The Interior Minister, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, whose speech was read on his behalf, noted that if Ghana failed to address the challenge of the drug menace, “we will one day wake up without a society”.

He said the government had demonstrated its commitment to fight the problem through such collaborative work as the Operation Westbridge at the Kotoka International Airport and the Container Project at the Tema Harbour.

He said although the government appreciated constructive criticisms, it could not accept the extreme views of some social commentators which suggested that nothing was being done about the problem.

Story by A. Kofoya-Tetteh