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Opinions of Friday, 27 June 2008

Columnist: Agyepong, Benjamin Opoku

RE: Armed robbers kill police Sergeant

It breaks my heart anytime I hear/read that armed robbers have attacked somewhere in a residential neighborhood, a bank or poor innocent travelers on a highway and robbed them of their wealth, sometimes robbing them of their complete livelihood or life savings. Oh yes, it really does break my heart. Also, my stomach churns upon hearing such a bad news, especially, when the robbery results in the death of a bread winner of a family as in the recent case in Madina-Accra, in which a police officer lost his life not for any mistake he did, but for working to protect life and property to put foot on the table for his family (Ghanaweb, 23 June 24, 2008). I become so outraged at the powers that be and the ludicrous approach to crime fighting in the country.

What is the size of Ghana that our government can not control crime? The reason why I get so mad at government is that, it is part of their mandate to protect the masses so that people can go about their economic activities freely without fear of being robbed of their life savings or loose their lives for such stupid reasons whiles members of government enjoy security protection 24/7. Individuals work so hard over their lifetime to accumulate wealth, and just within the twinkle of eye, gun wielding bandits pop up from nowhere and bolt with everything they have so hardly worked for, and if God is not on their side, they loose their lives as well. Whoever thought that our beloved Ghana, the country we so love and cherish and proudly display her name on our foreheads as one of the most peaceful places on earth, if not the most peaceful place on earth could degenerate into a Nigerian style survival of the fitters where armed robbers could attack a bullion van and carry away loads of cash and kill a police man on duty at the bank? Whoever thought that armed robbers could operate in Ghana with impunity?

A lot could be done to eradicate this menace which is affecting us in every aspect of our lives, it is shaping the way we do business, it is shaping the way we display our legally acquired wealth, it is shaping how and when we sleep-many people now sleep with loaded guns within arms’ stretch, and it is even shaping the way we build our houses today. It is not uncommon to see houses with fence walls as high as the roof, rendering the occupants of such houses, prisoners in their own homes. Others including myself have built houses with strong burglar proofs in all windows, such that, if per any misfortune, fire breaks out at the main entrances of such homes, occupants would have no other way of escaping but would resign their fates to God for intervention in rescuing them. If policy makers do not see this gradual shift in our cultural practices; resulting from unchecked armed robbery, then I am afraid to say that they have lost all moral grounds to govern.

If, however, these government officials have identified the menace of armed robbery, but are slow to tackle the problem, then this leaves me with the question, how many more must die before they take proper action to protect us? It is not enough for politicians to brag that armed robbery is on the decline. We care for total eradication and not decline. the persistence of armed robbery in Ghana, in my estimation, is a direct result of government policy failures and misplaced priorities- a situation where scarce resources are used for unwanted and unimportant projects that have no direct or even indirect benefits to the people whatsoever instead of spending resources on things that can beef up security for the ultimate protection of the masses. A government that can not protect its citizenry from internal and external aggression is useless.

Governance and misplaced priorities:

In May of 2006, government came out officially to clarify the rumors that had gained tremendous currency about the transfer of the Gulf Stream GIII presidential jet purchased by former head of state Rawlings. In the process, the nation was briefed that the Gulf Stream had been traded in as down payment for four Chinese made K8 Fighter jets and one flight stimulator for the Ghana Air Forces (GAF). The first and probably the only time most Ghanaians saw the k8 fighter jets was during the Ghana @ 50 celebrations where the planes flew over Accra with their fumes displaying the national colors beautifully in the skies over Accra. The question I have been asking a lot of folks since then but seems to get no good answer is this: was the purchase of those planes necessary? Could we have bargained for something more useful that could have benefited majority of Ghanaians?

At this day and age, when Saddam Hussein with his over 100 fighter jets could not stand the onslaught of the mighty American army with black hawks and B52 bombers, one wonders what 4 Chinese made K8 fighter jets can do for Ghana incase of any external aggression. When drones are sent to bomb Pakistani Villages to kill insurgents with the remote controller of the drone sitting in Atlanta-Georgia, one wonders why a country like Ghana will spent money in such a useless venture. Instead four police helicopter gun ships equipped with night vision facilities and recording devices to fight crime would have been a perfect want we really need and would have appreciated. I believe that if 2 of such choppers were stationed in Accra, one in Kumasi and another in Tamale with properly trained police crime fighters who can respond to crime instantly, highway and inner city armed robbery would be reduced if not stopped outright. Aerial response to crime is a very effective tool in fighting all sorts of high crime including drug trafficking, bank robbery, highway robbery except of course pick pocketing.

Well, all is not lost yet; government could still consider the option of aerial tracking of criminals in its arsenal of tools available to fight crime. This is very important especially given the fact that most of our streets are not named and there is constant traffic hold up which make effective ground response to crime all the more harder to accomplish. A modern police chopper in the north would help in no small way to control the perennial tribal violence bedeviling the region because the police can monitor events from the sky and relay information to boots on the ground to apprehend suspects (criminals).

We all deserve peace and tranquility to go about our normal duties and not until we push our elected officials to do the right thing for us, that peace we dearly long for will elude us and we shall live under the snare of our own shadows. Maybe, if the armed robbers would redirect their activities unto some ministers and MPs, and rob their homes, they would learn a lesson or two and feel for us the ordinary folks.



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