Ghana’s fight against drug trafficking and organised crime was yesterday given a boost with the launch of a $1-million project in Accra to end the illegal operations of drug traffickers.
The two-year project, which is supported by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and other development agencies, is to enhance the capacity of Ghanaian law enforcement personnel to counter drug trafficking and organised crime.
Drug trafficking and organised crime take various forms, including trafficking in persons, arms and narcotics, piracy, kidnapping, money laundering, trading in falsified medicines and food.
The drug trafficking and organised crime counter-project is to complement the gains of the national integrated programme (NIP) to fight transnational organised crime and strengthen the criminal justice system in Ghana, which was launched in May 2013.
The NIP outlines a shared vision of the fight against organised crime, terrorism financing and illicit trafficking, particularly the drug trade, and adopts an approach that strikes a balance between enforcement prevention and treatment.
Launching the project on behalf of the Vice-President, Mr Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Prosper D.K. Bani, said the borderless trend of drug trafficking called for stronger global collaboration and cooperation to fight against the crime at all levels.
“The fight, however, cannot be effective if we have weaker points in the chain of global law enforcement and this calls for capacity building,” he said.
Terrorism around the world, he said, was being financed by proceeds from drug trafficking and other forms of crime and “tackling terrorism effectively means the need to dig at the roots”.
Mr Bani expressed the hope that at the end of the project, Ghana’s drug enforcement authorities would develop their capacities optimally to enhance the performance of their duties in combating crime.
A fact sheet distributed at the launch stated that Ghana’s coastal strategic location along well-established trade routes and a large population of unemployed young men allowed organised criminal groups to traffic a wide range of illicit products, including drugs, through the country.
It said although Ghana was noted for the cultivation of cannabis, it had recently also become a trans-shipment point for Europe-bound cocaine produced from the coca plant found almost exclusively in northern and western South America.
According to the fact sheet, drug trafficking networks in Ghana developed from small structures into more sophisticated and globalised international business networks which had become well incorporated into the international drug trafficking trade.
That notwithstanding, numerous studies have indicated that capacity and technical challenges facing law enforcement agencies in Ghana hampered the effective fight against the drug menace and prosecution.
The NIP identifies major problems hindering the efforts of drug enforcement agencies as backlog in basic and specialised training, inadequate provision of modern equipment, intelligence databases and analytical software, and inadequate test kits to analyse samples or exhibits to help in prosecution.
Giving an overview of the project, the UNODC Regional Head of Enforcement, Mr Marco Teixeira, explained that the project sought to provide comprehensive support for drug law enforcement units of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.
To improve the coverage of drug enforcement, he said, the CID would be supported to establish four new drug enforcement units at the regional level and upgrade four existing units to effectively address the challenge posed by drug trafficking.
Under the project, he said, a core group of trainers would be trained and they would in turn train other law enforcement officials to counter narcotic and organised crime.
Additionally, he said, logistics would be provided to support and equip the units to function effectively and improve the drug testing capacity and to support prosecution.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr John Kudalor, in a speech read on his behalf, said organised crime across the globe was growing in sophistication and complexity, which poses a great threat to security and law enforcement.
“Criminal groups are becoming more organised and well-resourced and it is imperative for law enforcers to be well equipped to deal effectively with the challenges,” he said.
As part of law enforcement, Mr Kudalor said, “we need to work hard to take away proceeds of criminal activities from criminals, cut off possible sources of terrorism financing and make organised crime and terrorism a very risky venture”.
The Director General of the CID, Commissioner of Police (COP) Mr Proper K. Agblor, said the Ghana Police Service had resolved to trace and confiscate any economic benefit obtained from drug trafficking and organised crime in order to make it unprofitable for criminals to engage in illegal activities.
The trend of drug trafficking, he said, was changing, with more youth in Ghana becoming drug addicts and also engaging in violent crimes.
The UNODC Coordinator, Ms Christine Evans Evans-Klock, said the project was part of a broad programme to assist members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to develop and implement drug control and crime prevention strategies in the countries.
That, she said, was because drug trafficking posed serious problems for other parts of the world.
The US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Porter Jackson, was optimistic that at the end of the project, drug crime investigation, intelligence gathering and detection would improve, as the capacity of personnel of the drug enforcement units would be built.
The Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Mr Yaw Akrasi Sarpong, cautioned that the success of the project would depend on the integrity of the personnel of the law enforcement units.
He suggested that personnel of the units should undergo regular integrity tests and that a dedicated department be created with its personnel spread within the Ghana Police Service to ensure drug law enforcement in the country.