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General News Wed, 22 Jan 2003

Mass Smuggling of Cocoa

The massive smuggling of Ghana's cocoa across her western borders to the Ivory Coast early last year by some unscrupulous middlemen which led to the loss of almost 60 million dollars in foreign exchange to the country is reported to have raised its ugly head once again.

Pieces of information gathered by the Chronicle at Juaboso last week indicated that the smugglers have now changed their mode of operation. Instead of allowing the cocoa beans to dry as they were doing in the past before buying it, they now buy it in its raw state and then smuggle it across the border to dry it themselves.

Speaking to the Chronicle at Juaboso on the unfortunate issue, Nana Afful Kwaw II, chairman of the anti cocoa smuggling taskforce which was set up by the minister of defence in August, last year, attributed the current situation to the failure of soldiers from the second battalion of infantry in Takoradi, who are members of the taskforce, to co-operate with their civilian counters of which he is the head.

According to Nana Kwaw, who is also a divisional chief of the Sefwi Wiawso traditional area, if the soldiers should co-operate with their civilian counterparts the current situation would have easily been brought under control but for reasons best known to them they have refused to do so.

Nana further told the Chronicle that the smugglers have taken time to carefully study the iterinery of the soldiers therefore immediately they finish patrolling one border post and move to the other, the smugglers would come back and carry the cocoa across the border.

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The chief, who claimed he has spent his personal money of ?3million to hire taxis to chase the smugglers also told the Chronicle that he and his men has lost confidence in the soldiers because their presence there is not in any way helping to fight the cocoa smuggling going on in the area.

Nana Kwaw also revealed to this reporter that as a chief who owns land in the area, he has told all his settler farmers that anyone caught smuggling cocoa across the border would have his farm taken away from him.

He also alleged that though the government has released vehicles to them to patrol the borders, the vehicles have been seized on their arrival in Sekondi.

He however said this would not deter him and his men from fighting against cocoa smuggling, which is killing the economy of the country.

Meanwhile, the commander of the second battalion of infantry based at Takoradi, Lt. Col. Ayitor, hasexpressed shock about the allegation levelled against his men by Nana Kwaw Afful, the chairman of the local anti cocoa smuggling taskforce, that they had not been co-operating with them to fight the crime.

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He told the Chronicle when he was contacted on his cell phone yesterday that he has stationed some of his men at Elubo, Dadieso, Enchi, Dabiso,Yamatwa and Oseikwadwo Krom, which are all border towns to fight this cocoa smuggling.

He said he personally met Nana Kwaw Afful and told him that if he wanted some of his men he should just send signal to them and they would come in to help.

According to him, his men on the ground have actually been co-operating with the local taskforce, especially at Sefwi Osei Kwadwokrom and Yamatwa and was therefore surprised that the chief could level such accusation against the military.

Lt. col. Ayitor further told the Chronicle that some members of the local taskforce are known smugglers and therefore they are not happy with the presence of the military in the area.

Because of this, continued the commander, they are doing everything possible to get the military away from their midst so that they can carry on with their business and this is exactly what they are doing with the unfounded allegation against them.

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He said as at the time that he was speaking to the Chronicle one of his men stationed at Oseikrom had been attacked and seriously injured.

According to him, he was even considering the possibility of sending a helicopter to bring him down to Takoradi for proper medical care.

Commenting on the other allegation made by the chief that they have seized some vehicles meant for the local taskforce in Sekondi, Ayitor said the vehicles in question were bought by the Cocobod and handed over to the military headquarters in Accra for the soldiers to fight the cocoa smuggling.

He said the vehicles were not meant for the local taskforce as the chief was alleging.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle