Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Wednesday called for a massive national effort in dealing with the drug menace in the country warning that the failure to act could pose a threat to Ghana's nascent democracy.
Urging a “multi-dimensional stakeholder commitment” in overcoming the crisis now plaguing a number of West African states, the Vice President said Ghana would suffer irreparable damage if concrete actions were not taken to stop the trafficking and abuse of the substance by the youth.
“The effects of the drugs menace have not only eaten deep into the moral fibre of Ghana but have also triggered organized crime as an occupational profession for some of our people, especially the youth” to the extent that “they have lowered the esteem of the nation and continue to paint an ugly picture of mother Ghana”.
Outlining the government policy aimed at dealing with the problem at a joint Government of Ghana-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) high level conference in Accra, the Vice President enlisted the support of the public to make “a sustained and collaborative effort to subdue the menace”.
West Africa now goes by the pejorative term “coke coast”, a catchphrase to the booming drug trade along the West African seashore which the UNODC estimates to fetch more than two billion dollars yearly for the traffickers.
The Vice President's concerns were made against the backdrop of the propensity by drug producers to negatively affect social institutions such as the judiciary by way of inducements, thus spawning gang warfare, organized crimes, terrorism, money laundering and neurological disorders.
Ghana is particularly at risk owing to the fact that a large proportion of her estimated 550 kilometres of shoreline is not effectively policed thus becoming a haven for the traffickers who, because of the sheer resources they command, are able to procure faster speed boats to avoid arrests.
Vice President Mahama described the situation as “sad” as it could make the country become a “naco-state”.
Vice President Mahama clarified the consequences of Ghana becoming a naco-state, noting that, when a country became a naco-state, “it also becomes ungovernable since violence, crime and official corruption become the order of the day. This can pose a threat to our nascent democracy and our desire to build a strong and prosperous nation”.
It is this state of lawlessness that the Vice President said Ghana must not slide into with his call on civil society, traditional authorities, religious leaders, among others, to strive to make a sustained and collaborative effort to subdue the menace.
“Let me use this forum to appeal to my compatriots to unite in our bid to rid this nation of drug trafficking. The need to rekindle our ethical values or morality, honesty and hard work and to question the source of wealth of persons who become rich overnight should be a patriotic duty for all of us to perform,” he said.
Dilating on Ghana's glide from a consuming country to a trafficker, Dr J.B. Asare, a Consultant Psychiatrist and member of the International Narcotics Control Board, corroborated Vice President Mahama's assertion that drug trafficking posed a grave threat to the peace and stability of the country.
Touching on the health dimension of the drug menace, Dr Asare said many youth could suffer from mental disorders from the high consumption of cocaine and heroin which could then become a major burden on the economy.
Dr Asare pointed to a high rate of mental cases among the youth between the ages of 16 and 29, owing to the use of psychotropic substances and pleaded with the government to establish a pilot treatment centre for such patients.
He said 80 per cent of all drug related admissions at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, for instance, were young persons below the age of 30, including Junior High School students.
Mr Antonio Mazzitelli, regional representative of the UNODC, said although the sub-region was not a known producer of illicit drugs, yet consumption and trafficking had been on the rise and asked government to work at reducing it.