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Criminals with Ghanaian Passports

Wed, 20 Jul 2011 Source: Mante, Kwadwo

By Dr. Kwadwo Mante (PhD)

mantea1@gmail.com

I am always alarmed by the way criminals from outside our boundaries and other known foreigners illegally (and sometimes easily) acquire Ghanaian passports for all kinds of unsavory enterprises. I have countlessly read about criminals arrested for various offences in the US, who purportedly are Ghanaians (because they are holders of Ghanaian passports), yet documents and other information gleaned from them pit their nationalities somewhere. (See Ghana web story on 7/19/2011). One Ghanaweb reader lamented that every “black Nigerian prostitute in Dubai uses ghanaian passports [sic]”. While this unproven statement is acidic and banal, it points to the larger problem of passport issuance in Ghana.

A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the” identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth. Most often, nationality and citizenship are congruent”. After sojourning in the US for sometime, I have come to the realization that acquiring a US passport is like getting a heart transparent. In the US, after filling the passport forms with all the necessary information, one is required by Federal law to show his eligibility by providing documents that are approved by law. These documents (birth certificates, etc) are then scrutinized and verified to show their unquestioned authenticity before the passport is issued. In other words, your aunty, cousin, father or mother has nothing to do with it. As matter of fact you could be a friend of President Obama, but that connection cannot help you acquire a US passport illegally.

In Ghana (the country of gold and gold dust), the opposite is true: All that is required is to produce some fictitious document(s) and allure some worker(s) of the passport office by way of old fashioned bribe. Officially, I know the passport office will deny this assertion, but how can they explain to the whole world how these criminals who cannot differentiate between “fufu and banku” became recipients Ghanaian passports. As far as I can recall, this illegal acquisition and trading of Ghanaian passports have been a long held practice in the heart of the capital. We are not ambivalent to the reason why these “Nigeria criminals” want Ghanaian passport. It is uncontested fact that there is no love lost between holders of Nigerian passports and some foreign immigration officials.

My heart always bleeds for my country when criminals from other countries (especially Nigeria) are allowed to acquire Ghanaian passports without any scientific background checks or documents verification. To the untrained mind, biometric passports (which are currently being issued in Ghana) will stem this cancerous practice, but I beg to differ. According to Mr. Akanpong (the acting Director, Legal and Consular Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), “no middleman can acquire a biometric passport for anyone because with this system, the applicant has to be available for his or her thumbprint to be taken for data and identification purposes before the passport is issued” (ghanabusinessnew.com). While this statement has some element of truth to it, it can at best be decribed as farcical and regurgitated nonsense. All that these criminals have to do is produce some fictitious documents, pay somebody from the passport office and elsewhere and walk into the biometric center for the so called thumb prints to be taken.

While data security is the main advantage of biometric passports, more is needed to secure the process of issuing passports in Ghana. Unless this tumor of narcissistic corruption is cured by way of long jail terms for these passport traders in and around Accra, Ghana’s image will spiral downwards to the abyss of corruption worldwide especially in this goggle and face book era. Please don’t tell me Parliament must enact new laws to deal with this problem: There are existing laws that need to be enforced.

As long as some Ghanaians entrusted with the responsibility of issuing passports are willing to directly and indirectly take bribes, these merciless drug barons, sophisticated sex traffickers, hardened criminals, money launders, unscrupulous business men and women from Nigeria and other countries will continue to game the system. Like we say here in the US, “money talks and BS walks”. I am waiting for the day when real Ghanaians will rise up and refuse to sell their countries for filthy lucre. To protect Ghana’s image is protect the way and manner passports are issued in Ghana. To some extent, our long term development is tied to our image worldwide. This is my two cents and I now turn it over to Joe Lartey. What do you think people?

***Dr. Kwadwo Mante is freshly minted PhD. He is a Corporate Finance and Public Health expert based in the US. He can be reached at mantea1@gmail.com.

Columnist: Mante, Kwadwo