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Opinions Mon, 2 Mar 2009

Airport's Taxi Drivers Turning into Armed Robbers?

What a Surprise?

The ascendancy of insecurity in Ghana is very alarming. When it involves our own taxi drivers to whom we pay and entrust our safety and purpose of finding our directional bearings from the airport to our destinations, then oops! Crooks in all forms and shapes agglomerate at the airport as taxi drivers waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting preys, that is, innocent passengers. Until when will this banditry be allowed to take its toll on innocent Ghanaians without our clueless governments getting up to the task of ensuring security and safety for all?

The mention of J.J. Rawlings in association with the NDC ascending to power was though oxymoronic, sending a shiver up the spine of many, others were joyful that the mere mention of his name was enough to put the robbers to fright. These robbers were anticipated to scuttle into oblivion. They should rather be running, panting and gasping for breath with their teeth chattering incessantly and sweating all over their body like a frightened dog with the tail tucked in-between its legs. However, the opposite is what we are seeing. While the robbers are defying all conventional wisdom by getting daring by the day, all that the government could do is to energetically proceed on a relentless shameless toilet and car-seizing spree. What a bullocks! What a bunch of insensitively clueless politicians that is at the helm of affairs in Ghana?

The underlying incident out of numerous others has angered me so much that I writhe in my seat and cannot wait any further in silence without bringing it to the attention of Ghanaians the world over. A Ghanaian lady of 26 who had never returned to Ghana since she was brought over to the United Kingdom at the age of 2 has fallen a victim to these unscrupulous armed robbers parading the airport as decent taxi drivers. This poor lady who lives in Glasgow had her mum taken to Ghana to pursue a cure for her illness after all the latest scientific medical diagnoses and medication had failed her in the Whiteman's land. As usual, the suggestion was, let us take her home in case there could be any ray of hope in our traditional medicines. Unfortunately, the mum passed away a month into her futile search for a cure in Ghana. By tradition, the family resident in the UK decided to attend the mum's funeral. The body is yet to be buried as at writing.

When the girl was returning to Ghana for the first time in twenty four years with her grandfather aboard KLM Airways flight landed in Ghana on Saturday, 14 February 2009 at 06:30, the following sad story did occur to them. They had prearranged to be picked up on their arrival by the deceased person's brother, that is, the grandfather's son or the girl's uncle. On their arrival, the uncle was notified over the phone but unfortunately coincidentally, he was going through stomach cramps. He then tasked his son to convey the grandfather and the niece from the airport.

Having waited till about 09:25 without any sign of them being picked up as understood, they flagged down one of the taxis plying the airport and the inner city. They asked to be chauffeured to Dansoman. Guess what? The taxi driver having driven off the premises of the airport got on his cell phone chatting to some friends who turned out to be accomplices in the worst nightmares of the victims. He took to certain routes other than the known straight ones. The old man questioned why he was using those alleyways and bypasses which were nowhere near in the direction of Dansoman? As usual, the response was to avoid heavy traffic. At a point, and exactly at 10:00 of the clock, the driver pulled up and the taxi was immediately surrounded by four people who emerged from nowhere. They were armed with a shotgun and pistols. The narration of the ordeal they succumbed to gets me emotional with the eyes welled up with tears. The thieves robbed them of everything; money and all their belongings inclusive, in a broad daylight. The girl was only spared of the clothes she was wearing after been padded down to retrieve all valuables on her. They were not even spared a penny or a pesewa to get them another taxi or a "trotro" home. The taxi driver bolted leaving the victims to fend for themselves. I guess if the crime was not committed in such a broad daylight, this succulent damsel could have had her "bearded meat" tasted by these scoundrels that is; she would have suffered a rape.

How on earth should such dishonest guys be allowed onto the soil of the airport as taxi drivers? I pity the grandfather, the girl and their family. Their ordeal is really a double slap in the face; a dead person in the family and all the money and items meant for the dead body and themselves gone. What a double whammy to this bereaved family? The lady is though desperate to get back to the UK, she has neither her passport nor even a £1 for that matter, nor her mum yet interred. Imagine how this girl is feeling, new to Ghana as she is. What story will she recount to her colleagues on her return to the UK? We thank God that they were spared their lives.

The mistreatment culminating in utter shock to the old man saw him admitted to the hospital. He was only released from hospital admission a week ago. When he weeps at the funeral, it will not only be for the pain of loss and in remembrance of his beloved deceased daughter, but also, his mishap at the hands of these cursed bastards who a Nigerian will well say in condemnation, "they no go die better".

* I suggest that before one jumps into any of the airport taxis for that matter being a passenger, please do communicate the details of the taxi to your relatives resident in Ghana or abroad. In the event of any problem, the registration number of the vehicle could be used to trace up the culprits. But as it is in the case of this poor girl, there is nothing whatsoever they can do as it never occurred to them such an eventuality was likely to befall them hence, not noting down the car's registration number. You can ask the taxi drivers themselves or any bystander to borrow you their cell phone for a minute even if you will be required to pay for it. Be always safer than sorry.

* For the bad attitude of some of the taxi drivers who are also linked up with thefts and armed robberies, all ingresses and egresses of taxis at the airport must be registered at a mounted check point at the entrance to the airport. This will facilitate trapping down a culprit, taking into account when a crime involving any of the taxis was committed.

* All the security personnel currently detailed to seizing cars at false perceptions and presumptions of such vehicles belonging to the government but stolen by the NPP should be redeployed to other safety and security purpose duties. Dispatch them to the airport to monitor the taxi drivers. I will not condescend to President Fiifi John Evans Atta Mills' order to these security personnel seizing cars in silly machismo while the safety of many a Ghanaian is at risk.

* All are advised to always use the airport's own registered chauffeurs or cab drivers. They are always inside the airport's arrival building just before exiting. They wear identification names around the neck and are in white shirts. Though their charge may be a bit higher, you will feel safer in their hands. Regardless, communicate their details to someone else as suggested above.

Rockson Adofo, London

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson