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Opinions of Monday, 30 March 2020

Columnist: Al-hassan Hudi Ziyat

Covid-nization of national security in Ghana: bitter lessons for the future

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A comprehensive National Security Framework for Ghana have been in the pipeline for quite a very long time. In the absence of it, our approach have been adhoc and firefighting. Thanks to the Messer Emile Short Commission revelations on the weaknesses of the framework and the need to fix same.

It must be noted that, the concept National Security encompasses broad and far-reaching measures aimed at ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people of a nation as well as the protection of their assets, resources, institutions and interests. Beyond traditional security of warfare and protection of territorial boundaries and internal security of a nation, national security include human security with its related matters of food security, environmental security, health security, nutrition security, water security and cultural security.

On human security, the UNDP posited that, it involves the safety of people from chronic threats such as hunger, diseases and repressions as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in patterns of daily life-whether in homes, in jobs or in communities (UNDP, 1994).

The absence of a comprehensive national security framework in Ghana have indeed compromised our greater preparedness in taken safeguards to effectively protect the safety of citizens in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic. Key critical questions begging answers are;

1. Was there an intelligence failure in detecting COVID 19 Pandemic spread in Ghana?

2. Did we as a nation undertook any risk analysis of COVID 19 when it started to rare its ugly head in Wuhan, China as far back in January, 2020?

3. What about a Comprehensive National Crisis Management Strategy?

The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, has placed responsibility on the State to protect and safeguard its citizenry in whose name and for whose welfare the power of state are to be exercised. However, security has become a collective enterprise where the citizens’ role in enhancing their personal security and supporting the state with information to act forms an integral part of the architecture.

The Security and Intelligence Agencies Act, 1996 (ACT 526) provides in section 4, the functions of the National Security Council headed by the President to include;

(a) considering and taking appropriate measures to safeguard the internal and external security of Ghana;

(b) ensuring the collection of information relating to the security of Ghana and the integration of the domestic, foreign and security policies relating to it so as to enable the security services and other departments and agencies of Government to co-operate more effectively in matters relating to national security;

(c) assessing and appraising the objectives, commitments and risks of Ghana in relation to the actual and potential military power in the interest of national security; and

(d) taking appropriate measures regarding the consideration of policies on matters of common interest to the departments and agencies of the Government concerned with national security.

Modern global security threats in a technological hamlet are one too many. There are not just complex and difficult to understand, but there require a robust strategy with strong well-resourced intelligence gathering and processing that is constantly been reviewed based on happenings around the World.

In this vein, Section 12 of the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act, 1996 (ACT 526) provide for the functions of the Intelligence Agencies in Ghana inter alia to;

(a) collect, analyses retain and disseminate as appropriate information and intelligence respecting activities that may constitute threats to the security of the State and the government of Ghana;

(b) safeguard the economic well-being of the State against threats posed by the acts or omissions of persons or organisations both inside and outside the country;

(c) protect the State against threats of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, hijacking, piracy, drug trafficking and similar offences;

(d) protect the State against the activities of persons, both nationals and non-nationals, intended to overthrow the government of Ghana or undermine the constitutional order through illegal political, military, industrial or other means or through any other unconstitutional method; and

(e) perform such other functions as may be directed by the President or the Council.

As Frances Cairncross noted in her seminal book, titled “The Death of Distance (1997)” that, geography, borders, time zones-all are rapidly becoming irrelevant to the way we conduct our business and personal lives due to globalized communication. For threats to national security that are global in form and character, unless a robust Comprehensive National Security Framework that requires the collection and processing of INTELLIGENCE at every material time with far reaching decisions that protect our collective security and national interest. In the absence of such a framework and robust structures in the midst of these serious international threats, we will always be taken by events as they unfold and our mitigation efforts becomes reactionary. Was there an intelligence failure in the scheme of COVID 19 outbreak in Ghana? I may not have a direct answer, but if we have had a robust intelligence mechanism, we would have been doing what we ought to have done three months ago. A lesson COVID 19 have paid us so dearly to learn.

Security risk assessment is fundamentally conjoined with intelligence gathering. It inter alia encompasses identification of risks, its sources, impact and mitigations which leads to implementation of key security controls to prevent it and or reduces the country’s exposure to its vulnerabilities. It is not far-fetched to query whether or not we undertook such analysis of COVID 19 when it started becoming clearer since January, 2020 particularly because of our relationship with China as a strategic trade and development partner. The answer is not a straight one and I have it not. But I wished our National Intelligence had directed us to do such an important analysis as far back in January, 2020.

Ghana’s Comprehensive National Crisis Management Strategy sounds good, but the question that begs for an answer is that, do we have it? I have no idea. It must be noted however that, there are myriad legislations in Ghana that provide the legislative Framework for disaster and emergency management as well as the general Administration of public health. These laws include inter alia the following;

1. 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana
2. Emergency Powers Act, 1994, (Act 472)
3. National Disaster Management Organization Act, 1996, (Act 517)
4. National Building Code, LI 1630
5. Local Government Act, 1993, (462)
6. Road Traffic Act, 2004, (Act 683)
7. The Quarantine Act, 1915, (CAP 77) as amended
8. Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851)
9. Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1020)

It is worth noting that, these many laws on a broad, inter-disciplinary area particularly in relation to public health Administration of a pandemic like COVID 19, naturally creates systemic and administrative challenges in emergency preparedness, crisis communication, management and operations. Therefore, there is the need to create an all-inclusive coordinative environment for emergency or crisis management in what I called “Comprehensive National Crisis Management Strategy”. This should be done immediately post-COVID 19 with adequate resources provided to forestall any lapses in Ghana’s future response to any of the many threats dangling like albatross. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to plan.

We need to COVID-nised our national security and intelligence response mechanism post this pandemic, in a manner that will detect, plan, respond and mitigate a pandemic like coronavirus that has travelled many miles, taking many months, infecting hundreds and taking the lives of others. Let us continue to unite under the red, gold and green with faith, prayers, hope, calm and fortitude as we battle to reduce new community infections through social distancing, hand-washing with soap under running water, sanitizing, contact tracing and testing, self-isolation, quarantine and partial lockdowns. I am confident that, this too shall pass.

May God Bless our homeland Ghana
And make us great and strong!!!

Al-hassan Hudi Ziyat
(Development Consultant)