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General News of Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Source: The Enquirer

Enquirer: Why Bartels Was Fired

President John Agyekum Kufuor has fired Mr. Kwamena Bartels, the Minister of Interior, over matters relating to the Prampram cocaine, which some top police gurus ‘swallowed’ from the police exhibit room. Castle sources hinted The Enquirer that the decision was taken by the president early Saturday morning.

Kwamena Bartels, apparently was asked by the President to write his own resignation letter, but he reportedly told the President that he will go and think about it, a position which was said to have angered the President.

Even though no official reasons had been assigned for Mr. Bartels’ dismissal by Press time Saturday, The Enquirer newspaper gathered that it had everything to do with the forty-two parcels of cocaine stolen by police officials from the 6th Floor Exhibits room at their Headquarters.

When the paper reached the fired Minister on phone last Saturday, he declined to comment and said he had not been informed about it. Moments after news of his dismissal broke, counter news emerged that the President had rescinded his decision to remove him only for that news to be rebutted by Presidential sources, who insisted that as far as they were concerned, the President was still standing by his decision to remove Bartels.

Other sources said that even if Kwamena Bartel’s dismissal is not announced, it might be concealed in an impending Cabinet reshuffle so that it would not look obvious.

Information gathered by the paper suggests that the manner of handling recent investigations by a committee of enquiry set up by the minister under the dismissed minister was the immediate cause of Mr. Bartels’ dismissal.

Mr. Bartel’s set up a committee of enquiry chaired by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Evalue Gwira, Mr. Kojo Armah, to unravel the mystery surrounding the missing drugs and related matters. The committee recently presented its report to the ministry.

The suggestions however, are that the president found Mr. Bartels’ conduct in the missing cocaine investigation unsatisfactory. Mr. Bartels thus becomes the first official to fall in the aftermath of the theft and subsequent cover-ups. Until his dismissal, the ousted minister had served as a full minister, since 2001, when President Kufuor and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) assumed the reins of government. Mr. Bartels, who is also MP for Ablekuma North Constituency in the Greater Accra region, was appointed to the Interior Ministry in 2007 after, serving briefly as information and National Orientation Minister. He had held several other Ministerial portfolios.

On May 21, 2006 a few gallant police officers, following on a tip off by some local fishermen at Prampram, near Accra, apprehended a Benz truck loaded with 67 cartons of cocaine, weighing 1,900 kgs. One Kenneth Ugah, who was said to be the driver of Benz truck, was the only suspect arrested at the time. The drugs were tested certified to be cocaine and sealed. The 67 parcels were then locked at the 6th Floor exhibit room of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters, for safe-keeping. Forty-two parcels of the white powder were subsequently reported stolen.

Mr. Ugah, who was arraigned before court and remanded in custody, was released on bail a year later on June 25, 2007. He subsequently jumped bail. The Enquirer has, in recent publications, been on the case of the Prampram cocaine haul, the sloppiness of investigations, and who actually stole the drugs from the police headquarters.