FIND THE COCAINE – JOHN MAHAMA
The Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, has ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Paul Tawiah Quaye, and the police administration to carry immediate investigations into circumstances that led to the change of a substance suspected to be cocaine into sodium carbonate.
The decision follows an uproar over the acquittal and discharge of a middle aged woman, Nana Ama, by an Accra Circuit Court, who was accused of possessing cocaine.
The international image of the Police Service, and Ghana as a whole, was dented in 2007, when a quantity of cocaine seized by the police and kept in the exhibit room at the Police Headquarters turned into cassava flour (kokonte).
In the same year, the police, again, seized another quantity of cocaine at the Prampram beach in the Greater Accra Region, which was kept at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters.
The substance, this time, went missing under mysterious circumstances, which prompted the then Interior Minister, Kwamena Bartels, to set up the Kojo Armah Committee to investigate it.
The Kojo Armah Committee, after taking evidence from all the parties involved, recommended the prosecution of DSP Patrick Akagbo, who was then in charge of the exhibit store, because no evidence was adduced to prove that somebody broke into the exhibit room to steal the substance.
The then President, John Agyekum Kufuor, who was dissatisfied with the recommendations, also set up a presidential committee to review the Kojo Armah report. Unfortunately, the presidential committee could not finish its work, before a change of government occurred.
Though DSP Akagbo could not be prosecuted, as recommended by the Kojo Armah committee, many Ghanaians thought the development would serve as a warning to personnel of the police service to conduct themselves properly, when it comes to drug matters, but alas, that did not happen.
An Accra Circuit Court, presided over by Mr. Eric Kyei Baffour, on Tuesday, acquitted and discharged the middle aged woman, Nana Ama Martin, who was charged with possession of a substance suspected to be cocaine.
Nana Ama was arrested with the substance around the Nyaho Clinic in the Airport Residential area, for possessing the substance.
According to evidence given by a prosecution witness, Lance Corporal Prince Bonsu, Nana Ama Martin was arrested in a taxi cab, and when a search was conducted on her at the police station, one of the two bags she was carrying contained a slab, which was suspected to be cocaine, upon which the suspect was handed over to the narcotics unit.
An initial test carried by the police at their forensic laboratory proved that the substance was cocaine. But, when the court ordered the substance to be retested at the Ghana Standards Board's laboratory, it turned out to be sodium carbonate.
The court, in its ruling, noted that a Standard Board officer, by name Adarkwa Yiadom, noted in his evidence that he received a sample of the alleged substance, which the court ordered a test be conducted on.
He first screened the substance in the presence of the Registrar of the court and one of the prosecution witnesses for narcotic, and it proved negative.
He then conducted thin layer chromatography and gas chromatography tests, which all proved negative for cocaine.
According to the court, the evidence of the prosecution could not be relied upon, so long as it had been rebuffed by the laboratory examination at the Ghana Standards Board, adding that it could not invite the accused person to open her defense, and subsequently acquitted and discharged her.
The sudden change of the substance into sodium carbonate has, however, infuriated Vice President John Dramani Mahama, hence his order to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Paul Tawiah Quaye, to conduct thorough investigations into the circumstances that led to the sudden change of the suspected cocaine into sodium carbonate.
Mr. John Mahama, who is now acting as President of Ghana, following President Mills' travel outside the country, told the IGP that the government had put in place adequate measures to deal with the drug menace in the country, and would, therefore, not countenance any individuals or groups of persons who would sabotage the progress.
The Veep was presenting 35 four-wheel drive vehicles to the police administration at the State House in Accra yesterday, and wondered why the police, who keep legal evidence, could not account for the suspected cocaine, and directed the police administration to do everything possible to bring the culprits to book.
Meanwhile, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reports that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), on Tuesday, expressed concern about a cocaine exhibit which turned into sodium bicarbonate (baking powder), while in the custody of an Accra Circuit court.
”This is strange, especially, when the exhibits were sealed when sent to court, and overnight this has changed,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Kofi Adzei-Tuadzra in Charge of Narcotics told the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
He said the police had worked so hard to nail the suspect, only for events to turn up that way.
In a related development, the Chief Justice, Justice Georgina Wood, has also set up a committee to investigate the scandal.
The decision follows the contention by the police that they handed over cocaine and not sodium carbonate to the court.
The committee, which starts sittings today, would be open to the public.