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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Columnist: Gariba, Chieminah Abudu

We Won’t Kill You, We Want Money!

The motivation behind every armed robbery case in Ghana is money or valuables that can easily be converted into cash. In recent times, the incidence of armed robbery has assumed alarming proportions in some districts of Ghana. The Sissala districts are clear examples in this instance. Just when Ghanaians thought the government was winning the war against armed robbery, many people in the Sissala districts continue to suffer at the hands of ruthless robbers. The situation has deteriorated to the extent that many people in the Sissala districts travel in fear and with a kind of ‘I will surrender the money’ mentality.
The victims of a recent armed robbery on the Tumu-Wa road were given the following assurance by the robbers: ‘We won’t kill you, we want money.’ Indeed, this assurance may be refreshing to victims who cherish life more than money. However, only God knows how many will later commit suicide after losing their entire life’s savings.
For me, armed robbery in Ghana has exposed the institutional failure of the security agencies. Why am I saying this? The facts are there for all to see. During a recent robbery incident on the Tumu-Wa road scores of vehicles and passengers were held up for over three hours without police intervention. At another robbery incident in the Sissala West District, the regional police boss drove into the robbery scene and was stripped naked by the robbers.
Very often, the police are informed early enough to make arrests during robberies, but they hardly live up to expectation. In some instances, they don’t even go to the crime scene to do any investigations.
The police say they are ill-equipped to do their work. This may be true to some extent. But this should not be a justification for the gross display of incompetence of the police in the handling of armed robbery cases.
Generally speaking, the security agencies in Ghana lack intelligence gathering skills; which is the hallmark of every security set-up. One may ask, why do the security agencies in Ghana lack intelligence? The answer to this question stares us in the face. It is an undeniable fact that more than 95 percent of personnel of these security agencies are made up of people who wish they had had enough quality education. Majority of these personnel can hardly write any meaningful report, let alone to talk about trying to solve a crime puzzle. So, the sad reality is that the security agencies in our country lack men with the requisite brain power to unravel crime. Unlike their counterparts in other jurisdictions, the security agencies in Ghana lack scientists who can research into crime detection and prevention.
The Sissala districts, which border Burkina Faso, are fast becoming hot spots for armed robbery and other cross border crimes. To this end, if urgent measures are not taken to nip the situation in the bud, we may live to regret. Some of us are beginning to sound the alarm bells. I can only hope that the powers that be will take action.
Before I end this write-up, I would like to propose the following for the security personnel to research into and provide us with lasting solutions to the problem of armed robbery in Ghana.
• The police should consider developing and installing on all public buses distress buttons. These buttons when pressed should immediately send GPRS signals to the nearest police post indicating the exact location of the vehicle in distress.
• The science department of the police service should collaborate with their counterparts in the UK and USA to develop custom-made liquid solutions with GPRS technology to enable the police quickly determine the location of valuables and mobile phones seized by robbers.
• Finally, the police should consider recruiting top class scientists to facilitate crime investigations and prevention. This recommendation should be easy to implement because the introduction of the single spine salary structure has made the police service more attractive than ever before.
From this point forward, the security agencies in Ghana should exercise their mandate of giving protection to all, so that we can live and work to achieve the collective vision of mother Ghana. Anything short of this will unleash fear and terror on the citizenry. At the moment, a section of the Ghanaian public seems to be associating the police with a slogan similar to that of the armed robbers: ‘We want money, but we won’t die for you.’

Chieminah Abudu Gariba
Founder and director of Sissala Heritage Foundation