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22.11.2005 General News

Ghana -staging post for drug trade ?

By Statesman
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Statesman -- Ghana is gradually acquiring a reputation as a staging post for the transfer of drugs to the US, Europe and other consumer continents. The US State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2005, released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in March this year, read in part: “Ghana is increasingly a transit point for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine from South America and heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia. Europe remains the major destination, but drugs also flow to South Africa and to North America.

“Accra's Kotoka International Airport is increasingly a focus for traffickers. Ports at Tema and Sekondi are also used, and border posts at Aflao (Togo) and Elubo and Sampa (Cote d'Ivoire) see significant drug trafficking activity.

Nigerian traffickers continue to strengthen their presence in Ghana, as Ghana becomes a major transportation hub for them”

Some significant arrests have been made over the years. After a UK-led international law operation resulted in the seizure of nearly 600 kg of cocaine in a raid at Community 11 in Tema, three Britons, an American, a German and a Ghanaian were arrested and sentenced on October 25, 2004, to 20 years in jail with hard labour for their part in smuggling the drug into Ghana for onward shipment to Europe.

This remains West Africa's largest ever drug bust, estimated to have a street value of $14 million (about ¢127 billion).

On October 4 this year, a Belgian, Antoon Verhaert, who had concealed 1.6 kg of cocaine in a pair of lined boxer shorts and an improvised stomach band, and a Ghanaian, Pheliy Kyeremateng, who swallowed 21 pellets of thumb-sized cocaine, tied 30 pellets each to his left and right shins and hid 41 pellets under his scrotum, were arrested at the Kotoka International Airport.

With the growth in volume of trafficked narcotics through the country's borders, there has been increased talk that this is the time to press the US Government, through its Drug Enforcement Administration, to channel some of the funds earmarked for the combating of drug trafficking Ghana's way. While some effort has been made (in 2002, the US government provided the Government of Ghana counter-narcotics assistance in the form of surveillance and detection equipment, worth $64,000, including two narcotics detection devices (“Itemisers”) installed at Kotoka International Airport in December 2003), a lot more needs to be done to improve the capacity of the local law enforcement agencies, as well as provide the necessary logistics to enable them practicalise the training acquired. The capacity of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ghana Navy, Customs Excise and Preventive Service, the Police and other security agencies all need to be beefed up in the fight to combat drug trafficking

The US currently spends millions of dollars a year on stemming the flow of drugs into the country on its border with Mexico, as well as millions more on funding the destruction of these drugs at the points of origin, mostly in Columbia, as well as in Afghanistan and other major narcotic producing countries. A slice of this pie would make Ghana's efforts in the global fight a little easier.