Armed robbery and organized crime are changing faces because society is dynamic. As at independence, the population of Ghana was about five million but sixty-one years down the lane, the population has grown to nearly thirty million souls. When we had our independence we were not in a computer age and access to internet was unthinkable. Times have changed and as a country, we should also be proactive. During the revolutionary era, the military did all that they could to subdue armed robbery with ‘guns’ but hard as they tried, they could not stop the menace.
Successive governments also tried to stop the madness but sadly the situation continued to grow from strength to strength. I remember when the late President Professor Atta Mills came to power, he told Ghanaians that now that he was the president, armed robbery will be a thing of the past. In his time, the criminals changed their modus operandi. They relocated to the hinterlands and began attacking passengers in buses. The Accra-Kumasi, Kumasi-Bolgatanga and Kumasi-Yeji highways saw rampant armed robbery attacks and many people lost their precious lives. Then the government introduced highway patrol but that even had worsen the situation because the armed robbers could easily get information about these armed patrol team through their informants who call them on their cell phones to tell them where the patrol teams were operating.
The truth is that, this is not the first time armed robbers struck at daylight. They have been striking at random ever since but it seems Ghanaians have awaken to the fact that we must confront these miscreants head on. Anytime I hear people blaming the police or the IGP for not being able to stop armed robbery, I begin to think if they really understand the situation. Guns and bullets alone cannot fight armed robbery in this country. Intelligence gathering and the use of modern communication gadgets are key to the fight. These armed robbers live among the civilian population and neighbors know them. They look at their lifestyles and wonder where they make their monies even though they do not do any work at daytime. If the police publish a hotline, people will call to report the behavior of suspects in their areas and the intelligence agencies can then monitor such persons, particularly foreigners.
Sometimes I wonder what role the BNI, CID and National Security play as far as intelligence gathering is concerned. When Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was in power, he established the Special Branch of the Ghana Police Service and the outfit did a yeoman’s job as far as intelligence gathering was concerned. You could not identify a Special Branch operative in a crowd because they operated undercover. Some of them were trained in Bulgaria and the USSR and they were well versed in undercover investigations. It was Rawlings who disbanded the Special Branch and replaced the outfit with the BNI. The reason? The Special Branch trailed him when he and Kojo Tsikata were planning the 31st December revolution and so they must go since he could not count on their loyalty.
The BNI operatives and the National Security operatives who are posted to the districts are known by almost everybody in the district. Some of them even pay homage to chiefs in their palaces to introduce themselves to the chiefs as officers posted to their towns. As for the National Security operatives, they walk tall with their Motorola and do not hesitate to introduce themselves to people irrespective of their background. How do you expect such a person to gather intelligence? As for the CID, they are virtually doing nothing as far as intelligence gathering is concerned. All what they do is to sit by their desks at the various police stations, taking statements from suspects and receiving monies before suspects are granted bail.
When you take time to read about the exploits of intelligence operatives in other jurisdictions like the MOSSAD of Israel, KGB of Russia, CIA, MI5, MI6 and the FBI of the US, you begin to think if we are serious at all. You may ask: How do we fight and win the war against these armed robbers? We will have to direct every resource at our command, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement and in fact, every financial influence to defeat them. We need to employ moles, pay them well, who will work with these armed robbers and report back to our intelligence agencies so that their plans can be nipped in the bud. Our intelligence agencies should use covert operations, secret even in success. In other jurisdictions, prostitutes, taxi drivers, traders, even drug addicts are hired to act as moles.
Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of Ghanaians: “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Armed robbery unanswered cannot only kill innocent persons; it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. The president was out there the other time trying to woo investors to Ghana but the sad aspect of this armed robbery cases is that investors will shy away from any country where there is no security. As a nation, we must come together to give our law enforcement agencies the additional tools they need to track down armed robbers before they strike. Corporate institutions in this country have a role to play in this respect. In fact, we have to come together irrespective of our political affiliation to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, to know the plans of armed robbers before they act and to find them before they strike.
Since the spate of daylight robbery in recent times, it is natural for people to wonder if Ghana’s future is one of fear. But as we confront these sick brains, this country will define our times, but surely, not to be defined by armed robbers. We must not get tired, we must not falter and we must not fail. The outcome of this fight against armed robbers is certain because in this world – freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war.
THE NIGERIA CONNECTION
In South Africa, when a research showed that the greater number of armed robbers and criminals were Nigerians, they sent undocumented Nigerians packing. Instead of going back to their country where Boko Haram reigns supreme, they preferred to come to Ghana and live in Accra where authorities will find it difficult to locate them. What is most annoying is that Ghanaians received them and in some cases helped them to acquire Ghanaian passports. Just walk through the Tip Toe Garden area at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange and see what these Nigerians are doing there. As for prostitution, these Nigerian ladies have refined the trade and they attract businessmen, politicians and tourists. Some of them pretend to be petty traders but in actual fact, they do their actual job in the night at the brothels. The Nigerian armed robbers hide in the rooms of these prostitutes during day time and go out for operations during the night. Some of these ladies who badly needed money can be hired as moles to track down armed robbers.
The problem we are facing is that our land borders are so porous that you don’t need a visa to enter Ghana. Go to Gonokrom near Dormaa Ahenkro in the Brong Ahafo and see. Immigration Officers doze off at post because few people pass through the border. Greater number of people from Gonokrom enter Ghana through bush paths. If an armed robber or any criminal, for that matter, is declared wanted in Nigeria, the safe place he or she prefers is Ghana because we are all English speaking nations. Besides, you cannot go to Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso to play the fool there. Nigerian armed robbers who were deported to their country after serving their prison terms in Ghana easily return to Ghana to continue their trade through these porous borders.
When the Vice President, Alhaji Bawumia had an emergency meeting with heads of security agencies, there was one decision which they made which really made me happy. At the meeting, government directed among others that all financial institutions should install CCTV cameras in their premises. Government will roll out a programme to link all these CCTV cameras to a National Operational Command Center. This decision is very perfect but the question one may ask is: As a head of a financial institution, should it take the government to direct you to install CCTV cameras in your premises knowing the importance of these gadgets as far as security is concerned? Or were these financial institutions expecting the government to use the taxpayers’ money to buy CCTV cameras for them? It is time to think.
One of the top ten Cuban cigars is Hoyo Monterey Double Corona. Anytime it rains cats and dogs like what is happening in my holy village right now, this type of cigar is ideal for cigar connoisseurs. So here I go, polluting the air!!!
By Eric Bawah