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Opinions of Monday, 22 June 2009

Columnist: Amegashie, Felix Mawulolo

Better Security In A Better Ghana, Mr President!!!

To Mr Paul Quaye (the Inspector General of Police) and the kingpins in the security services appointed under the Mills administration, I wish to congratulate you for your feat and equally welcome you to the hundreds of challenges that confront your outfits and the good people of Ghana. Commentators have expressed different shades of opinion on “general safety and insecurity” in our country. Some schools of thought have over-exaggerated this issue but I opine that a comprehensive security paradigm should be designed and implemented anytime soon under the leadership of the IGP that will be a blueprint for the security services and ancillary agents aimed at improving the system.

Statistics from the Ghana Police Service, according to the Divisional Commander of Police for the Accra East Division, Ms Elizabeth Dassah, indicate that crime prone areas like Cantonments, Osu, Teshie,La and Nungua recorded less crimes in the first quarter of the year than in the first quarter of 2008.

She gives the following details,”23 cases of rape and defilement were recorded in the first quarter of 2008 as against 7 cases recorded in the first quarter of 2009; 246 cases of threat in 2008 compared to 128 in 2009; 144 cases of property damages in 2008 as against 139 in 2009, and 9 cases of illegal possession of narcotic drugs in 2008 compared to 3 this year”.

“The rest were 558 cases of theft recorded in the first quarter of 2008 as against 506 recorded in the first quarter of 2009;179 fraud cases against 177 cases in 2009 for the same period and 1,076 cases of assault in the first quarter of 2008 compared to 603 cases in the first quarter of 2009”.

It is refreshing that hours into the administration of a new government, available figures dispute the assertions of the NPP that violent crime has overwhelmed many parts of the country. It is in the spirit of contributing to an advanced national safety and security system in a technologically driven world that I all out for renewed fervour to reforming the police service via the structural changes and realignment of roles the IGP is bent on implementing. A well-structured participation by government and the private sector is critical to augment the current operations of the security agencies. This will give meaning to President’s pledge to grant Ghanaians a sigh of relief as regards general security in our homes, offices and on our streets to promote national peace, cohesion and economic development.

Foremost, I task the Ministry of Interior and Local government to revisit the failed attempt at street-numbering as soon as possible. It is inevitable that this rather pragmatic but carelessly implemented under the Kufuor administration should be revisited and properly done for its obvious security and economic benefits to all and sundry.

As a second step, I entreat the IGP, the Chief Fire officer and the Director General of the Ghana Health Service to establish emergency response units in designated Police, Fire Service and Ambulance Services outposts within selected radii in our communities, towns and cities. These outposts should be allocated customized three (3)-digit toll-free emergency numbers and automatically prefixed on all GSM service providers.

It is against this backdrop that I urge the players in the telecommunications industry and civil society to support the call of the Minister of Communications to implement that interconnectivity platform among all network providers that makes it possible for one to switch mobile phone networks without necessarily swapping SIM cards using the same phone.

Additionally, these toll-free numbers should have the convenience of changing from one designated area to the other as one move into a different community. This should be done with the full support of the National Telecommunications Authority and the Six (6) mobile network providers in Ghana.

As a major logistical boost to this project, the office of the National Security Adviser should procure customised mobile handsets that are tolerant to these emergency numbers ONLY in the designated Police, Fire and Ambulance service outposts all over the country. This measure is to discourage the misuse of these phones by unscrupulous personnel for private purposes rather than the reasons for which these handsets had been procured.

Furthermore, these emergency response numbers should be automatically displayed on the screens of our handsets each time your handset is switched on. Let me admit that TIGO has demonstrated the possibility of this service. Users of this network enjoy the luxury of identifying one’s current location each time one finds oneself in an area foreign to you. As soon as one moves into another area the display automatically swaps if one moves out and enters a different zone where the network is available, thus ones handset could display locations like “Achimota1” or “Kanashie2”, etc. This technology should be co-opted by National Security and used for this project. The emergency numbers that should be considered include the Police Patrol Team, Ambulance Response units and National Fire Service. This would be very useful especially in promoting our tourism industry and foreign nationals in and on visit to Ghana would better trust our security system and encourage others to travel to even the most remote tourist sites in Ghana without fear.

The obvious merits of system is that, at the spur of the moment, every mobile phone user is able to make a distress call, free of charge, to the nearest service point of the Police, Ambulance or the Fire Service for swift response to save life and property. This move will generally reassure citizens that one need not call a Radio Station or pick a taxi to report physically at the nearest service point when emergency strikes. This I believe will help curb the loss that comes with violent robberies, Fire outbreaks, fatal accidents, Floods and other major unforeseen disasters when they strike us in our homes, on highways and in any part of the country.

This project should be welcomed by the major telecommunication network providers as a social corporate responsibility to help this and future governments in the hydra-headed attempt to curb and eliminate dangerous crime, disaster and unforeseen mishaps as and when they occur.

The responsibility will fall on the Information Ministry and the National Commission for Civic Education to educate Ghanaians on the measures adopted by the government and their civic roles in support of the security agencies in fighting crime, accidents and natural disasters.

Obvious challenges will be the rather high illiteracy and GSM distribution and usage rate in the country. But in spite of these demerits, this initiative will foster more secured public-security services cooperation in giving useful information leading to making timely arrests of drug, sex, and human traffickers, smugglers and quick responses to scenes of fire outbreaks, accidents and other emergency situations.

I am sure that these initiatives will definitely require millions of dollars to pursue and implement especially on issues of procurements and logistics but I believe it will be worth the effort to save mother Ghana toady and the future. President Mills has demonstrated enough commitment on his promise of a lean government and I believe that the financial gains from the implementation of this policy could be ploughed back to support the Ministry of Communications, the National Communications Authority and the Security Services to embark on this project.

Support will be needed from the international community and the corporate institutions within Ghana to make this project a reality. An insignificant percentage of the huge entertainment budgets of some network providers could be channeled into this outfit to help develop this initiative as part of their social-corporate responsibility.

We live in a new world that is powered by information technology and we need to replicate the advantages of the times in all facets of our economic, social and political life.

I might not be a Security Expect like Dr Kwesi Anning or a Peace and Conflict Resolution Consultant like Mr Emmanuel Bombande, but I hope these suggestions could be considered and reviewed by these expects in contributing to the debate at engendering peace and preventing conflicts in Ghana. God Bless our Homeland Ghana and make our Nation great and Strong!!!

FELIX MAWULOLO AMEGASHIE lix_mawulolo@yahoo.com