The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has resorted to a game of words to save its crestfallen face after a humiliating exposure about how it authorised the import of a large cache of arms on the heels of the 2016 elections.
Leading the charge in a bizarre twist is the man whose signature appears on the said correspondence.
The authorisation was given just two days before President Akufo-Addo took over from the defeated John Mahama.
James Agalga, NDC MP for Builsa North, who admitted giving authorisation for the import, however, added that the NPP gave the final okay for the weapons to be brought into the country and should, therefore, be responsible for the action.
He told Starr FM yesterday that the NPP government’s focus on the letter requesting permit instead of the time the authorisation was given is ‘disingenuous.’
Per his argument, the situation in the country when the elections were around the corner informed his decision to authorise the import. “The situation in January 2017 was not the same as it is right now; there were some security circumstances that we were confronted with,” he said.
Therefore what the NDC statement simply seeks to do is to say that in view of the changed security situation in the country, there should be circumspection in the issuance of arms importation permit.
He added: “So if you go back and bring the letter that we supposedly signed in 2017 to make the case that we’re even the ones responsible for the importation without bringing to the fore when the import permit itself was issued is disingenuous.”
It all comes after their sustained brouhaha about a so-called insecurity in the country and blaming their self-created situation on a government.
When it eventually turned out that they authorised the import of 4,000 pieces of hunting guns close to the 2016 elections they were cornered, with James Agalga concocting varying tunes.
Not even the transition team formed to ensure a smooth handover of power from the exiting NDC to the victorious New Patriotic Party (NPP) was informed about the authorisation. Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said the development took place on the blind side of the transition team.
The NDC, in a recent haranguing about the import of firearms into the country, berated the NPP at a time when the country was grappling with the spate of insecurity.
A correspondence dated 5th January 2017, which authorised the import of the said consignment of firearms that caused uproar at the Tema Port last week, was signed by the then Deputy Minister of the Interior James Agalga on behalf of the minister.
Interestingly, it was the same Agalga, NDC MP for Builsa North, who led the attacks on the NPP administration when the weapons hit the Tema Port, and the latest revelation has punctured the so-called campaign being waged by the opposition party.
According to the Agalga signed correspondence, permission was granted a certain importer M/S Yadco Ghana Limited to bring into the country explosives and accessories for use as captured in the authorisation in the mining and quarry sectors.
Twenty thousand cases of 500 pieces of shotgun cartridges, 4,000 pieces of hunting shotguns and 500 boxes of percussion caps were given clearance to be brought into the country.
“The purpose of this note is to request you to issue the company with the import permit. Permit not transferrable and does not require ECOWAS authorisation,” read an aspect of the authorisation.
Speaking to the issue, Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said the NDC rather issued permit for the importation of the arms before leaving office in January 2017 under the seal of the then deputy minister for the Interior James Agalga on 5thJanuary 2017.
“It’s curious that after the election of 2016, two days to the handover on the 5th of January at a time of the transition, this permit was issued on the blind side of everyone.”
The Information Minister explained that upon the arrival of the consignment, the necessary procedures were followed and the items delivered at a designated location, adding that there is no cause for alarm.
“The state security agencies are ensuring that the consignment does not get into the hands of unauthorised persons,” he added.
It’s dangerous a trend when weapons imported into the country are not properly tracked and their final destinations not known to the security agents.
It’s for this reason that a time-tested elaborate tracking system of guns, which are imported legally into the country, has been in place since the colonial era.
The importer seeks permission to import arms from the Interior Ministry, and when the firearms arrive, they are deposited into the importers’ warehouse under the police escort.
Dealers & Form D
Importers are distinct from dealers. The latter can purchase firearms from the importer but this is preceded by the issuance of a Form D.
This represents an authorisation to withdraw firearms from the warehouse.
A wireless is sent to the appropriate officer such as the Regional Police Commander if the weapons are destined for inter-regional movement.
The preceding wireless would have to inform the Regional Police Command about the details of firearms proceeding to their jurisdiction.
The police escort upon arrival with the consignment will report to the Arms and Ammunition Officer, whose duty is to ensure that the stock are deposited in the private magazine of the dealer both persons taking inventory of the received stuff and the magazine secured with three padlocks.
The dealer keeps two keys and the police one, and the understanding is that there would be no access to the magazine without police presence.
Firearms Buying Procedure
A prospective buyer is referred to the police for vetting and when he or she meets the requirements for possessing arms they are issued with Form A2, which represents police authorisation presented to the dealer for the purchase of the weapon of their choice.
Opening Of The Magazine
With the police authorisation acquired, the dealer then invites the police so both parties can open the magazine after which the police will take over the weapon and register it in the name of the buyer.
With the identity of the firearm and the owner duly registered both can be traced by the police when the need arises.
The next and final stage is for the police to take the owner of the weapon through lessons in its use and the responsibilities thereof. The weapon and the permit are then handed over to the owner to end the process.
Ghana, like other countries in the West African sub-region, is saddled with the proliferation of small arms, a source of criminal activities fueling armed robberies and ethnic conflicts.
The Commission on Small Arms, a state agency under the Interior Ministry, is tasked to control the reckless proliferation, which is a rather challenging task requiring the co-operation of all citizens.