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Opinions of Saturday, 6 October 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The runaway manifestos and Owens’s big day in London

By George Sydney Abugri

Let us dance away from the noisy political crowd for some respite, Jomo. The crowd is getting too rowdy these last few weeks to the election for comfort and the attacks on the integrity, personality and morality of political figures have become as appallingly vicious as they are gory in a poetic sense.

So? So we go buggy riding away from all that, old chap, spinning tales totally apolitical on our merry way, beginning with this one about coke tails meant for the streets and a gentleman called Mr. Yaw Akrasi Sarpong:

The man who was supposed to make the use of Ghana as a transit point for drug smuggling so dangerous that the barons, their mules and collaborators would give Ghana’s air and sea ports a berth as wide as the concept of the chasm, was left clutching a bucketful of embarrassment, frustration and anger this week, and wondering what hit him with such a hard smack.

It is elementary, Jomo: Those agents of the Narcotics Control Board which Mr. Sarpong heads, whose actions and inactions facilitated the smuggling of more than US$10 million worth of narcotic drugs in two consignments to the UK through the Kotoka International Airport on Monday and Tuesday this week, are what hit him.

Mr. Sarpong is now contemplating resigning his headship of the NCB. Some have suggested that National Security Chief Mr. Gbevlo-Lartey take the walk with Mr. Sarpong if the latter does walk off into the sunset.

Granted that the Security Chief agreed to relinquish his office on account of the latest narcotic drug smuggling scandal, it would still not be in the national interest to let him go. Not at a time when foreign combatants have sneaked into Ghana, set up armed combat training camps in the bush and are undertaking training exercises in the unholy hours of the nigh under flash lamps!

The National Democratic Congress administration had apparently reckoned it could erase the reputation of Ghana as a transit point for narcotic drug smuggling with a more robust approach to solving the problem of the frequent smuggling of drugs through KIA.

So? So it hands the headship of the National Control Board to one of the NDC’s old-time, loyal and trusted cadres of the June Four mould, Mr. Akrasi Sarpong, a one time Regional Secretary of Jerry Rawlings’s PNDC.

Mr. Sarpong promptly sets to work with radical gusto, talking tough, acting tough and managing some drug seizures at KIA. Narcotic drugs smuggling control agents in the UK and the US in particular, are indeed impressed.

What Mr. Sarpong probably did not reckon with was the complexity and intricacy of a global black market industry so powerful that it has helped bring governments to power, toppled others and kept court judges, police forces, immigration officials, legislators and public service bureaucrats in many parts of the world under its thumb.

The annual global drug smuggling industry is now believed to be in the region of a trillion dollars. No one has a darned clue where the money comes from or where it goes. A safe wager is that it ends in offshore bank accounts and laundered investments.

Anyhow, it happened that Mr. Sarpong let down his guard this week and in a matter of 48 hours, two separate loads of marijuana and cocaine worth a fortune are smuggled into the UK through KIA!

How do we explain the mystery of the scanner at KIA suddenly developing a mechanical mind of its own and choosing to malfunction only when the two consignments of illicit cargo were passing through KIA?

Why were security agents assigned to cargo screening duties last Monday and Tuesday at the airport, told to take a break from work? Who instructed them to leave the airport? Who?

How could unknown persons smuggle a large quantity of cocaine and marijuana from Ghana to the UK within two days and vanish without a trace and with all the technology now available for tracking air travelers and export cargo in these days of global terrorism?

Mr. Marc Owen the Director of the anti-narcotics smuggling unit Border Force at Heathrow, was as pleased as Punch over the two drugs seizures and was so busy congratulating himself and his officers, that he plumb forgot to ask the question.

Mr. Owen who says his unit at Heathrow has been set up to “disrupt” the activities of “criminal smugglers” was apparently beside himself with satisfaction with “the success we are having in disrupting criminal smugglers and keeping drugs off the streets of London.”

The BF chief is proud that in a matter of only two days, he and his officers at Heathrow had struck “a US$ 5million dent in their {smugglers’} profits”. Good for Mr. Owen but where are the smugglers?

To be fair to Mr. Owen, he is trying to find them: He is asking people in Ghana and the UK who may have any information about Mr. the “criminal smugglers”, to call hotline 0800595000.

Mr. Owen may also consider planting spies at Heathrow’s Terminal Three. Who knows, he might catch some smugglers bound from Ghana.

In the meantime, political parties in Ghana are busy “launching” their manifestos for Election 2012, Jomo, and I would gladly forgo my next bowl of corn mill porridge and roasted groundnuts to know which party has narcotic drugs smuggling as a key thematic issue in its manifesto.

On second thought, why should I bother about that when there is the urgent case of vulnerable social groups which have been completely ignored by the political parties in the drafting of their manifestos?

Every republic day, the president invites over for a drink, those men and women who have sweated liters of venous blood over the decades to bring the republic some modest progress. To qualify as one of the invitees to the annual dinner, you must be grey, grizzly and show physical signs that you are only weeks away from a bad stoop and a walking stick or even the sixth acre!

That is not my idea of real state concern for the welfare of its pensioners. In a recent newspaper article, William Opoku-Inkoom of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Ghana confirmed what I had always suspected:

Many of the health problems facing pensioners are nutrition and ageing-related: Our bodies are no longer able to maximize the utilization of nutrients from food eaten. Many of us cannot afford food of high nutritional value and food supplements to make up for the nutritional deficiencies.

Many cannot afford food rich in anti-oxidants to do battle with rampaging free radicals having a field day with already worn-out body tissues and disposing us to a wide range of health problems.

Many pensioners are also at risk of various neuro-degenerative disorders. They are easily prone to hypertension, prostrate cancer, cataract, depression resulting from social exclusion etc.

That there is no party manifesto detailing any tangible and time-bound initiatives of social intervention incorporating these and the numerous other concerns related to the welfare of those who have burnt up their energies in the service of the nation and are now old and weak, is the mystery of the campaign season!

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