Editorial News Thu, 23 Nov 2006
Information being picked up by The Statesman from the Castle is that President John Agyekum Kufuor is preparing to take the Ghana Police Service through a major institutional reform.Details are pretty scanty at the moment. However, The Statesman welcomes this as the most responsible action that can come out of the exaggerated theatrics of national deprecation which Ghanaians were made to endure through the public sittings of the Justice Georgina Wood Committee.
It was a case of a nation at its worst, shaming itself into believing that the land was awash with hard narcotic drugs, and that the whole police service, from constable to Inspector General, was tainted with ‘coke’ and run by drug barons. In the view of The Statesman, the decision to set up the committee was mostly an exercise to save face before our ‘senior’ partners (the Americans and British) in the war against drugs – to show them that we are indeed serious about a war which no nation, big or small, has ever won. Speak to the anti-drugs law enforcement officers in the UK, France, the Netherlands, USA, Spain, Italy, etc, and they will tell you that Ghana is not a major headache for them. While they admit that Africa has become a major trans-shipment point, they also point out that only a very tiny fraction of the drugs, from places like Asia and South America, is actually off-loaded here. The bulk is broken down into smaller vessels and transited on to Europe and north America.
Even the statistics at Schipol, Heathrow and de Gaul airports indicate that the very few drugs that are couriered through our airport are not even carried by Ghanaians but by citizens of the consuming countries, who are seen as standing a better chance against detection.
We believe that the Georgina Wood Committee, if the country would be generous to the facts, was a major sham – in fact a disaster. Its recommendations are falling apart – from the IGP to an ACP.
Witness evidence gave the initial impression that some detectives were very corrupt – only for them later to be exonerated, after the harm was done to the national psyche. Prosecution from the Committee and around it is falling into pieces. Even the panic decision to refuse bail to every suspect of a drug-related offence should be seen as just another example of the alarm mode that our authorities allowed themselves to be gripped by. Yes, two tonnes is a major catch – but, it is probably less than the amount of drugs that are consumed in London alone everyday.
However, the Committee only served, even if in an unnecessary way, to re-emphasise the corruption and indiscipline that every Ghanaian knows is still inherent in the police force. We shall therefore urge the President to go ahead and set up a commission of enquiry, drawing upon the findings of an earlier enquiry, and use that as the scientific basis to reform the police service for the good of all.
But, let no Ghanaian be fooled into thinking that we have a special problem here. We must take the fight against drugs seriously, by all means. But, we should not perversely whip ourselves and bandage the wounds with guilt. Yes, the committee was able to tell us that no police officers were found to be involved in the missing 76 parcels. But, it is not even strange that the committee could not find the parcels. Such things are better done by investigators, not boards of enquiries with MPs, journalists and judges instead of professional criminal detectives.
The worldwide market for drugs is growing – and this is something which must be tackled on a worldwide scale.
According to a 2004 survey, for example, an estimated 112 million Americans aged 12 or over (46.1 percent of the US population aged 12 and over) reported having used an illicit drug at least once in their lifetimes. An estimated 35 million Americans aged 12 or over (14.4 percent of the US population aged 12 and over) had used an illicit drug during the previous year. Break it down further, 34.1 million had used cocaine in the past, 5.6 million in the previous year and 2 million in the month the survey was conducted. The above are the results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2004.
Again, according to the 2006 World Drug Report, cannabis, the world’s most abused illicit drug, was used by an estimated 162 million people at least once in 2004, equivalent to some four percent of the global population aged 15-64 – and consumption continues to increase.
The market for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is stabilising, reflecting improved law enforcement and better precursor control. Some 25 million people used amphetamines at least once in 2004, while some 10 million used ecstasy. Total ATS production was estimated at 480 tonnes in 2004, which is lower than the peak in 2000.
In Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, the area under opium poppy cultivation was over 100,000 hectares in 2005.
The underlining fact is this: the war on drugs works on the principle of demand and supply, and the formula to combat that has not been able to move beyond the criminal law, which only ends up overcrowding our prisons.
Now, more creative and imaginative methods are needed if Ghana is to stamp out drug crime – we need a water-tight police, with no room for leakage, no space for corruption. And we need a water-tight intelligence system, which works to not only catch those bringing drugs into or through the country, but to infiltrate their supply-and-demand chain, and to break it down from the inside. Yet so far, these methods themselves have been open to corruption. As the late Milton Friedman’s 1998 article reproduced in The Statesman last Monday points out: “In the drug trade, the crime consists of a transaction between a willing buyer and willing seller. Neither has any incentive to report a violation of law. On the contrary, it is in the self-interest of both that the crime not be reported. That is why informers are needed.
“The use of informers and the immense sums of money at stake inevitably generate corruption – as they did during Prohibition [in the US against the sale of alcohol in the 1920s]. They also lead to violations of the civil rights of innocent people, to the shameful practices of forcible entry and forfeiture of property without due process.”
The task of the Government in its police reforms now is to marry effective information systems with transparency in the police service. If a cleaner police force is the result, then some good may have come of the Committee report, after all.