Eleven people suspected to be members of an African network of illegal dealers in ivory and crocodile skin products have been rounded up at the Accra Arts Centre.
In a special operation co-ordinated in five other countries by the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), almost 500 kilogrammes of ivory and ivory products, as well as large quantities of crocodile skin bags worth US$350,000, were seized in Accra alone.
The operation was code-named 'Operation Baba' in honour of the late Gilbert Baba, a Ghana Wildlife ranger who was killed by illegal wildlife dealers at the Mole National Park a decade ago.
The suspects are Tahiru Haruna, 29; Mohammed Kabiru, 29; Rose Mensah Akuoko, 25; Atta Issah, 30; Razak Tahiru, 18, and Benjamin Yakubu, 45.
The rest are Garba Ibrahim, 55; Musah Ali, 40; Jibril Alhassan, 27; Yakubu Osman, 28, and Sumaila Alhassan, 63.
The Accra South District Commander, ASP Albert Fii Ochil, told newsmen that under the Ghana Wildlife Conservation Regulations, it was an offence to hunt, kill or possess any ivory or ivory product, crocodile skin and its products, among others, without permission from the Wildlife Department.
He explained that based on the input of INTERPOL, which was co-ordinated by Mr Harry Solinger, a team of policemen, led by Chief Supt C. T. Yohunu, and some members of staff of the Wildlife Division carried out the exercise at the Accra Arts Centre last Saturday.
He said the suspects claimed that the products had been brought to them already carved for sale by their agents in Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroun, Togo and Gabon.
ASP Ochil, who is also the head of the Parliamentary Protection Unit, said the suspects were being processed for court, while the seized items were to be sent to the Police Forensic Laboratory for further examination.
The Executive Director of the Wildlife Division, Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, said Ghana had witnessed a very sharp decline in its elephant population and was the first country to propose a total ban on the ivory trade as a measure to conserve elephants.
He said Ghana was, therefore, happy to be part of the international effort to conserve African elephants, more so when 'Operation Baba' was in memory of one of Ghana's dedicated officers, Gilbert Baba, who used to work at the Mole National Park.
“The co-operative effort between the police and the Wildlife Division is very much appreciated and it is our strong conviction that it is only with such efforts that we can enforce laws for the sustainable management of our natural resources,” he said.
The exercise took place simultaneously in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
Story by Albert K. Salia