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Opinions of Friday, 2 March 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

NIA, NCA, hold key solution to dealing with armed robbery

I strongly urge the National Identification Authority (NIA) to urgently consider amendment of the National Identity Register Act to empower the NIA to collect, process and store DNA of all individuals issued with the new Ghana Card, in addition to fingerprints, iris and other information to be captured and stored in their database.

I am well aware of privacy and data protection concerns that some people and organisations have, and the fact that in some countries DNA can only be collected from people suspected or convicted of crime. We can have a separate debate on those concerns. For now, though, let us look at how we can use DNA through the National ID Cards to address violent crime, including armed robberies.

According to Dick Warrington, “The most common places to find DNA are in blood, semen, hair, and saliva…You can also find DNA in urine, skin cells, perspiration, teeth, bone, and internal organs, so you need to examine your scene carefully. For example, if a bullet goes clean through the suspect, the bullet itself can be tested for traces of DNA. DNA can also be left on a variety of objects that people have touched or worn. We’ve found DNA on everything from dirty laundry to eyeglasses, cigarettes, bottles, and drinking glasses, partial fingernails (both broken and clipped), masks, gloves, and bandanas. All of these items should be collected and tested. In addition, you should look for DNA in the same places where you would look for fingerprints: the steering wheel of a car, doorknobs and handles, counters, and cabinets, etc. All of these surfaces can be swabbed and tested for the presence of DNA.” (Source: https://www.forensicmag.com/article/2009/04/dna-collection-and-packaging).

Contained in the above passage are the solutions to the violent armed robberies we are facing now, using DNA technology. Armed robbers will stop raping victims, if they know they will easily be identified by their DNA from the NIA database. Their perspiration (sweat), even on the steering wheel of their get-away cars can lead to their identification and arrest. There is so much advantage in having a DNA database of all citizens when it comes to fighting crime that I am willing to forgo all my privacy rights in order to be safe. Is the privacy and protection of your DNA data more important than your life itself? Would you be more concerned about the privacy and protection of your DNA data, than criminals barging into your house in the middle of the night and raping your wife and daughter after robbing you of your possessions and getting away with it?

Apart from personal security of citizens, we are also talking about loss of productivity and investor confidence, both of which will adversely affect the Ghanaian economy in the long term. For example, aside from losing the Lebanese businessman in Tema, the company (which operates 24/7) decided to suspend operations for several days. Which foreign investor reading this story online would be confident to bring his money to invest in Ghana?

The NCA on its part, once National ID Cards have been issued, must order all Telcos to require mandatory update of IDs used to register SIM Cards. Any phone number whose owner does not update their SIM registration with the new Ghana Card details, within a specified timeframe, must be deactivated.

With a national DNA database and mobile phone numbers linked to National ID Cards, security agencies will be in a better position to fight violent crime, whether it is armed robbery or terrorism.

Prof. Ken Atafuah and Mr. Joe Anokye, your move. Please remove your human rights and privacy advocacy hats for one moment and wear the hats of many ordinary Ghanaians who are scared to death and are being killed by armed robbers! Thank you.