MADAM CHAIRPERSON AND HON. MINISTER FOR INFORMATION
DEPUTY MINISTERS OF STATE
SERVICE COMMANDERS AND HEADS OF AGENCIES
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
It is my pleasure to be here this morning to take my turn in the ‘Meet-the-Press’ series, a programme which is designed to bring Government to the door steps of the governed. It is my hope that at the end of my presentation and subsequent open forum or interaction, Ghanaians both far and within will be better informed about the work that the Ministry of the Interior and its Agencies perform.
The Agencies under reference are the:-
ü Ghana Police Service
ü Ghana Prisons Service
ü Ghana National Fire Service
ü Ghana Immigration Service
ü National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO)
ü Narcotics Control Board
The Ministry also has oversight responsibility for the Ghana Refugee Board Gaming Board National Peace Council Ghana National Commission on Small Arms and Migration Unit These institutions ensure the achievement of their mandate to provide a safe and secure socio-economic and political milieu for the development of our country. It is also hoped that by the end of this session, Ghanaians will come to terms with the challenges that the Ministry and its Agencies have to grapple with and the strategies that we have adopted to ensure the delivery of targets set in various laws and the Constitution with particular reference to the maintenance of internal security.
Madam Chairperson, the main objectives of the Ministry are to ensure through its Agencies the maintenance of Law and Order; Protection of life and property; Narcotics drugs enforcement; Immigration and border control; as well as the relief and management of disasters. The Government having assumed the reins of power for barely 7 months now has been confronted with critical security challenges and as pledged in our manifesto we are determined to confront these challenges and bring peace and security to all persons living in Ghana.
Accordingly my presentation shall touch on the following issues:-
• Law and Order in the Country
• The general crime situation as well as strategies to fight crime.
• Communal or ethnic and chieftaincy conflicts
• Recent spate of motor accidents
• The Narcotic Drugs menace and Strategies to Combat same
• Immigration and border control
• Relief and management of disasters
•Control of illicit arms and ammunition
• Prison/ Fire related matters
• The Refugee Situation and finally
• Challenges and the way forward
LAW AND ORDER
Madam Chairperson, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, comparatively, Ghana has enjoyed relative peace, security, and stability in a rather volatile Sub-Region. This has been achieved through the commitment of successive Governments, the effort of the Security Agencies and the collective Goodwill of Ghanaians. The bedrock of every nation’s development is its security. Without security, law abiding citizens, and other foreign nationals cannot go about their lawful duties. Therefore, a well resourced security service with the right structures and well motivated and informed security personnel will perform their tasks with professionalism and diligence and this can help sustain the rule of law and good Governance in the country. Consequently, the Ministry shall continue to implement appropriate policies and programmes to improve the service delivery of the security Agencies.
THE GENERAL CRIME SITUATION
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Criminal activities in the country continue to be a source of concern to us all. Amongst these are armed robbery, including vehicle snatching and other violent crimes. Government has therefore made it as one of its top priorities to tackle these security problems. To this end, the Security Agencies have come up with innovative strategies to deal with the situation by adopting aggressive crime combat and prevention operations which include the following:-
1. STRENGTHEN COMMAND AND CONTROL OF OPERATIONAL TEAMS
A joint Police and Military operations team has been established to combat armed robbery and other violent crimes. An operations room has been put at the disposal of the operations team at the Police headquarters. Senior Police and Military Officers now lead the Patrol teams and this enhances focus, commitment and professionalism in the fight against armed robbery.
2. JOINT POLICE/MILITARY PATROLS ‘OPERATION CALM-LIFE’
The Security Agencies have embarked on an operation or exercise code-named ‘Operation Calm-Life:’ - This is to assure the public at large that there is nothing to fear about their lives and property as Security Personnel have committed themselves to fight the menace, and restore calm, peace and security in the country. In this regard the Military and Police Patrols have been expanded and enhanced to operate in the major cities like Accra, Tema, Kumasi, and Sekondi-Takoradi. The cities have been rezoned into areas of smaller operations. In Accra for example the zones have been increased from 36 to 75 to ensure quick response from the operational personnel.
3. JOINT TRAINING OF POLICE AND MILITARY
The Police Administration and the Military High Command have started joint training exercises to ensure better performance and co-ordination. One hundred and ten (110) security personnel made up of eighty (80) soldiers and thirty (30) policemen completed a joint training exercise at Asutuare on Friday 26th June 2009. Similar training will be organised in Kumasi for personnel in the northern part of the country.
4. ESTABLISHMENT OF ‘TENT CITIES’
The Police Administration has established ‘Tent Cities’ in crime prone areas which do not have police presence to bring security to the door steps of the public to counteract the menace.
5. INTRODUCTION OF DAY AND NIGHT CHECKS IN VULNERABLE AREAS
The Security services have started mounting road blocks and snap checks at vantage points in the night within high robbery incidence zones. Similar checks are being mounted during the day to show security visibility in the communities and thereby scare would be criminals.
6. FORMATION OF NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH COMMITTEES
The public have been encouraged to form Neighbourhood Watch Committees. In this regard District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies are to be directed to assist in the formation of Neighbourhood Watch Committees. (Ministry of local Government and Rural Development is to ensure the implementation of this plan).
7. CO-ORDINATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND STAKEHOLDERS AND VIGOROUS ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW
The co-ordination of the efforts of all Security Agencies will be intensified through periodic review meetings and collaborative efforts for the success of the Police Operational plan.
These include stakeholders such as the Judiciary, the Attorney-General’s Department, Prosecutors to ensure quick diligent prosecution and the Executive (In-granting pardon to criminals). In the same vein Security services are to vigorously enforce laws on the acquisition, proliferation and use of arms and ammunition in the country. This will instill public confidence in the Security and Judicial Services and motivate the public to volunteer information and serve as witnesses.
8. PUBLIC EDUCATION AND MEDIA SUPPORT
The Police Administration has embarked on a massive Public education exercise to increase awareness on the growing menace of armed robbery as well as educate the public on all matters affecting their security. In this respect television programmes such as Crime Combat and Crime Alert are to be revisited. There will also be publication of a list of wanted persons in the print and electronic media. The Security services shall work at getting support from both the electronic and print media in the fight against armed robbery and other violent crimes.
9. ORGANISATION OF INTELLIGENCE LED SWOOPS
The Agencies have intensified Intelligence gathering on Criminals, their modus operandi and their hideouts in the effort to fight the menace and bring it under control.
10. INSTITUTION OF REWARD SYSTEM
A reward system has been instituted to motivate the General Public who volunteer useful information to the police that leads to the identification and/or arrest of criminals. Similarly it is recommended that the reward system should be extended to Security Personnel who exhibit gallantry and professionalism to motivate them in the course of their work.
11. RESPONSIBILITY OF REGIONAL, DIVISIONAL AND DISTRICT OFFICERS
The Regional, Divisional and District Police Commanders are to take full responsibility for their respective Regions, Divisions and Districts and are to be held accountable for the security within their areas of responsibility. In this regard they are to use all innovative means and appropriate technologies available to them to ensure maximum security within their areas. This will form the future basis for their future assessment for promotions etc.
12. USE OF MOTOR CYCLES AND CLAMP DOWN ON UNREGISTERED MOTOR BIKES
The Police are to be provided with motor cycles to enable them reach out to un-motorable and inaccessible areas as well as overcome traffic jams. In the same vein all users of motor bikes are to be subjected to checks after 6:00pm as using motor cycles has become the new modus operandi in snatching mobile phones and ladies hand bags etc. We appeal to the general public to co-operate with the security personnel in the exercise. The Police will enforce regulations in respect of the use of motor bikes in the country.
13. HOTLINES SET UP
The Police have begun an exercise to make for easy accessibility of telephone numbers of Patrol Teams, Information rooms, Regional, Divisional and District Police officers to the general public.
These numbers are as follows:- 021 - 773906 - Co-ordinating Centre 021 - 773900 - Information Room 021 - 773695 - Information Room Also 191 on KASAPA/ TIGO / VODAFONE / MTN KUMASI / NORTHERN SECTOR – 191 POLICE INFORMATION ROOM – KUMASI 051-22323
14. PERSONNEL TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
Personnel training and development is one area the government is paying attention to in the provision of professional services. In line with this a committee has already been set up to come out with a curriculum that would help to build capacities of personnel to address modern challenges in policing. Furthermore, a lot of training programmes have either been conducted or are lined up for police personnel to upgrade their professional skills.
15. LANDGUARD MENACE
Ladies and Gentlemen, the landguard menace is beginning to eat deep into the very fabric of our society, thereby breeding a culture of indiscipline, total disrespect for law and order and acts of criminality. Government takes a very serious view of this developing trend and will not tolerate acts by persons involved in this menace. The Security Agencies have been directed to ensure that they deal with the issue head on so that all law abiding citizens can go about their normal activities without fear or favour. Land guards will be dismantled and all their conspirators, abettors or principals/agents will be prosecuted.
16. SPATE OF MOTOR TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS
Madam Chairperson, the Police and other stakeholders in the transport industry have reduced the recent spate of accidents on our roads following government intervention. The Police have consequently re-enforced motorised patrols to check over-speeding, drunk-driving and other road abuses. We have also developed medium to long term strategies to eliminate armed robbery all together but these factors cannot be addressed here for security reasons.
17. RECENT SUCCESSES
Ladies and Gentlemen the culmination of all these efforts by the Security Agencies have led to major successes in the fight to combat armed robbery and other violent crimes. These successes include the foiling and/or arrest of some criminals involved in armed robbery and other violent crimes. This situation compares more favourably with the past years when the robbers had a field day in the execution of their crimes. Notable among the successes chalked are:-
• Two notorious armed robbers namely, one Karimu in Kumasi was killed in a shoot out with the Police whilst George Ayitey who is on the Police wanted list has been arrested in Accra.
• On 3rd July 2009, following an attack on the Mepe Rural Bank the Police arrested the Six (6) suspects and retrieved one (1) vehicle and a Shotgun.
• On the same 3rd of July 2009 the Police at Achimota in a robbery at Atala Company Limited were able to arrest six (6) persons together with two (2) Motor bikes used in the robbery.
• On 5th July 2009 at the Tema Industrial area, the Police killed one(1) robber identified as a Nigerian and retrieved one locally manufactured pistol, empty shells and eleven live “A A” cartridges. Since then two more suspects have been arrested including a Nigerian.
• Earlier in Tarkwa in the Western Region, the Police arrested two (2) armed Robbers including a Police man who had robbed an Indian National of his Gold bars.
• At Tesano on 9th July 2009 the Police arrested two (2) suspects and were able to retrieve one (1) cutlass and an Opel Taxi cab.
• On 13th July 2009 on the Anwiankwata- Bekwai road, eight (8) suspected armed robbers who had blocked the road and engaged in armed robbery were confronted by a Police team resulting in their deaths. Items retrieved from them were:- i. Four locally made pistols ii. Eleven live cartridges iii. Three spent cartridges iv. Six mobile phones v. Some talismans
• Also at Awoshie on 15th July 2009 the Police arrested three (3) suspects and retrieved one (1) locally made pistol, one locally made double barrel gun and a Taxi cab with Registration No. GS 9524 Z.
• On 13th July 2009, at Agyiregano / Legon the Police were able to retrieve an AK 47 rifle, 34 rounds of 6.72 ammunition and one cutlass. The list of armed robbers arrested or maimed or killed is a daily occurrence to as all
18. CHIEFTAINCY/ COMMUNAL/ ETHNIC/ POLITICAL CONFLICTS
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have some of the above conflict challenges in the country, the main ones being Dagbon, Bawku and Anloga which are Chieftaincy and Ethnic related. Government is very much committed to finding durable solutions to the many protracted conflicts seemingly engulfing our nation by using the established institutions and mechanisms. It is hereby reiterated that Government will not interfere into Chieftaincy matters but at the same time will not tolerate criminal activities in the name of ethnic or chieftaincy conflicts.
19. BAWKU CONFLICT
The situation in Bawku and its environs has been calm and peaceful following the vigilance and measures put in place by the Security Agencies. These measures include searches and intelligence based swoops and arrests. An Inter Ethnic Peace Committee has been established to help educate the factions on the need to co-exist peacefully and to give early warning signals about the eruption of violence so that it can be prevented and /or managed. This committee has been provided with a vehicle to facilitate their rounds or movement. Government has directed the various factions to submit legal documents about their respective claims so that a solution can be timely found. Government is still maintaining a curfew in the area but will lift it when peace and normalcy return in the area.
20. DAGBON CONFLICT
The situation in Dagbon has also remained calm and peaceful in recent times following the renewed confidence of the people in the system as well as the vigilance of the Security Agencies in the area. Again the culture of impunity which had crept into the Society is beginning to wane. Government is still maintaining a curfew in Gusheigu and its environs and will lift the curfew when there is peace in the area. The Otumfuo led committee of Eminent Chiefs will resume their resolution processes and we hope that in the not too distant future the Dagbon Crisis will be a thing of the past.
Ladies and Gentlemen let me emphasise that there will be no peace unless there is justice. And there will be no peace in the midst of injustice. Accordingly, Government has assured the belligerent factions not to take the law into their own hands as government is determined to be fair and neutral but ruthless to criminal elements. The rule of law and due process of law must be seen to prevail.
Madam Chairperson, permit me on behalf of Government to express our gratitude to the three (3) Eminent Kings, the Asantehene Osei Tutu II, the Yagbon Wura Bawa Doshie and the Nayiri Naa Bahogu Abdulai Sheriga for their effort in trying to find solutions to the traditional aspects of the Dagbon Conflict.
21. ANLOGA CHIEFTAINCY CRISIS
The Anloga Chieftaincy Dispute which re-erupted last week at Anlo resulting in violent clashes led to the death of one (1) person, injury to several others and the destruction of property worth thousands of Ghana cedis. The situation in the area has returned to normalcy and the Security Agencies have been directed to investigate the latest clashes as well as monitor and maintain law and order at all times.
22. THE NARCOTIC DRUG SITUATION
Madam Chairperson, in the recent past the country was engulfed by the drug menace in several perspectives: - mass cultivation of cannabis for processing, export and local consumption, the involvement of Ghanaians in international drug trafficking syndicates with foreigners using Ghana as a transit/storage point for cocaine and heroin and the spill-over effects and extensive abuse of hard drugs at street level in Ghana. This appears to be a new dimension contrary to the previously held view that Ghana was only being used by foreign barons as a transit point exploiting the services of idle Ghanaian youth as mules/couriers. The exact magnitude of the drug problem in the country became apparent in 2004 when drug seizures and other related incidents exposed the extent of the drug problem and how Ghana’s image had been damaged and dented internationally.
Ladies and Gentlemen, by December, 2006, a series of high profile drug related incidents has been recorded and any doubts as to whether Ghana had a major drug problem was completely eroded. Below are some of the significant incidents;
* In January 2004, the first huge seizure of 588Ø kilograms of COCAINE was made at Tema resulting in the arrest and conviction of four (4) British and one (1) German national.
* Then there was also the seizure in 2005 of overØ 500 kilograms of Cocaine from a house in East Legon, Accra. Two Venezuelans were convicted and jailed for their involvement.
* In 2006, a seizure of 1,900 kilograms of CocaineØ at Prampram, a fishing village near Accra also resulted in the conviction of two Ghanaian Police Officers.
* In the same year the loss of about 2,000 kilogramsØ of Cocaine from the MV BENJAMIN vessel had involved 3 Chinese, 4 Ghanaians and One Korean. One Assem Darke the alleged owner absconded but two persons were tried and convicted.
* Again in 2006, a sitting Ghanaian Member ofØ Parliament, Hon Amoateng was prosecuted and sentenced to 7 years jail term on four counts of heroin trafficking in the US.
* Also in January 2008, MV Blue Atlantic wasØ intercepted by a French Naval Ship in Liberia with 2,300kg cocaine in Liberia and all the crew members were Ghanaians.
* Furthermore, there was the loss of parcels ofØ cocaine at the CID Headquarters in Accra.
Madam Chairperson, having assessed the drug situation in the country from the incidents catalogued above and from the negative observations made by the International Community about Ghana, Government has been compelled to adopt pragmatic measures to salvage the situation and the country’s image. This has been backed by Political Will and commitment to enforce the strategies to combat the drug menace in the country. The key strategies in combating the Drug Menace include: -
• Improvement of Personnel Skills and Motivation: Drug trafficking has assumed a sophisticated level with traffickers using highly ingenious methods to outwit enforcement agents. This calls for the deployment of well-trained, motivated, committed, result-oriented and skilled personnel to counteract them. In this regard the Drug enforcement Agents are being trained as well as exposed to modern techniques in the fight against Narcotic Drugs.
• A Proposal for the Amendment of the parent narcotics laws (PNDCL 236 of 1990 and Legislative Instrument 1507) is currently being critically examined. The areas of amendments are aimed at;
• Making the Narcotics Control Board an autonomous Commission so that it can fund its operations from a reliable budget. The Commission will be empowered to have the authority to receive, investigate and prosecute any complaints of alleged drug abuse and collaborate with appropriate bodies dealing with anti corruption and money laundering etc.
* Providing a legal basis for the control of Precursor chemicals that are diverted for illicit drugs manufacture.
* Strengthening the sections on Property /Assets§ confiscation of drug offenders thus, making the confiscation process easier and straight forward and less attractive to Drug Barons.
Ladies and Gentlemen, With the assistance of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), and relevant law enforcement agencies, Government will ensure the meticulous enforcement of the Anti Money Laundering Act of 2007(Act 749) so that drug traffickers and other criminals will not benefit from their illegal acts.
PROVISION OF OPERATIONAL EQUIPMENT
Government is also sourcing funding to provide state-of-the-art drug detection equipment to be located at our ports of entry and exit. In this vein, it has been projected that major entry/exit points will be provided with scanners, trace itemisers and field test kits as appropriate. In addition to the Kotoka International Airport, Tema and Takoradi Harbours, other borders such as Aflao, Paga, Elubo, Sampa, Sankaasi, and Hamile are all being considered.
I am happy to inform all and sundry that already, an equipment code named ‘Operation Westbridge’ has been installed at Kotoka International Airport and the Container Project at Tema Port has also been installed. These equipment have enhanced our capacity to combat the drugs menace. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government has further directed a more vigorous Inter-agency co-operation and co-ordination among drug law enforcement agencies.
As a result, Standing Committees of the inter-agency co-operation meet on regular basis to synchronise activities and exchange operational intelligence. They have been directed to partner each other in the investigation of serious cases and to frequently conduct joint raids on drug peddling spots. The projected co-operation is also to reduce all forms of antagonism existing among the agencies. As we all know drug trafficking does not respect political boundaries. We shall therefore increase and strengthen our international collaboration and Intelligence sharing at both bilateral and multilateral levels. All existing partnerships are being maintained and new ones will be vigorously pursued.
As a means to complement current enforcement and control measures, the Government is committed to the establishment of a Sniffer Dogs Operations Team using locally bred dogs. This is to ensure improved detection of concealed drugs in bulky cargo. Ladies and Gentlemen, a serious de-motivating factor is from the judicial circles. It is the unexplained court acquittals of perceived drug barons and the non-confiscation or de-confiscation of properties of the drug barons. Government will prevail on the AG’s Department to file appeals in such cases and to also ensure that prosecutors are up to their tasks. Orientation courses will be mounted to make Judges abreast with current illicit drug trends so that they can make informed decisions whilst upholding the due process of law.
THERE IS ALSO THE NEED TO DECENTRALISE THE OPERATIONS OF NACOB
The drug menace is nationwide. NACOB’s movement across the country to reach out to all communities not only makes it ineffective, but also a strain on the meagre resources of the Board. There is therefore the need to decentralise to regional and zonal levels across the country. Zonal Offices have therefore been established in Kumasi, Tamale and Takoradi. Offices will also soon be opened at Aflao, Koforidua, Elubo and Paga.
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER CONTROL
Madam Chairperson, the Ghana Immigration Service shall continue to perform its mandatory role as the interface between foreigners and our country. It will also effectively pursue the enforcement of all existing immigration laws and related enactments. With the stable political and economic environment in the country, the Service shall address the increase in the demand and grant of immigration permits to propel the economy forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen, due to the vulnerability of the country’s borders as well as the volatile environment in our sub-region the GIS is shifting its focus to improve security at the borders. We have thus set up Border Patrol Unit to secure and manage the country’s borders to check proliferation of small arms, light weapons and ammunitions. It will also check the increasing drug and human trafficking activities across the sub region. It will also clamp down on fuel smuggling, reduce the mass movement of Fulani herdsmen in the country and assist the Military / Police in maintaining law and order in volatile areas in the country.
Against the backdrop of these challenging or added responsibilities close to one thousand five hundred (1,500) personnel have been recruited and out of this number 900 have been trained and deployed along the land borders totaling 3,200 km and assigned with patrol vehicles and motorbikes. Efforts will be made to arm the personnel and also ensure that the Service benefits from the nationwide communication project by the Ministry. In view of recent increase of cyber and white collar crimes and other immigration offences, the GIS has set up an Intelligence Unit to provide intelligence led immigration controls and operations.
CONSTRUCTION OF RESIDENTIAL ACCOMODATION
In an attempt at improving the residential accommodation of personnel, especially staff in the Border Patrol Unit, the Ghana Immigration Service has embarked on a number of construction works.
The project is made up of:- Six (6) 4 storey buildings comprising 24 Units chamber and Hall Six (6) 3 storey building comprising six flats Six (6) 3 bedroom bungalows As I speak, work has commenced at the following Sector Commands, Volta Region - Nyive,Menuso Upper East Region - Bawku Missiga Northern Region - Yendi Upper West - Tumu Brong Ahafo Region - Gonokrom and Sampa Western Region - Dadieso, and Takoradi
NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT ORGANISATION (NADMO) PROTECTION OF PERSONS AND PROPERTY THROUGH DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Madam Chair, The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) manages disasters and other emergencies in the country. It does this by co-ordinating the resources of Government institutions to prevent the occurrence of disasters as well as bring relief to disaster victims, rehabilitate, resettle and restore some damaged facilities. Although the hazard profile in the history of disasters in Ghana has not been as calamitous as in some other countries, recent natural and man-made disasters such as floods, domestic and industrial fires, bush fires and threat posed by possible earthquake have made it important to shift emphasis to disaster risk reduction. Act 517 of 1996 which established NADMO needs to be reviewed to take account of the new challenges and responsibilities in Disaster Management.
Some of the key provisions that need to be looked at include a legal enforcement to enable the organization ensure disaster preventive measures and the establishment of a disaster fund. Furthermore Government has secured funds from the World Bank and UNDP totaling 7 million USD to be spread over five years, to undertake projects in climate change adaptation to reduce disaster risk and alleviate poverty. Ladies and Gentlemen, the country over the last decade has witnessed an increase in severe rainstorms resulting in /floods during the rainy period. Possible causes of the increase in floods are due to climate change, poor engineering of drains, culverts and bridges and the haphazard development and building on water courses and swampy areas and poor waste management in the areas affected.
Also the six-hour rainfall depth of 313.8mm recorded at the Accra Academy Station of the Ghana Meteorological Agency on 19th June, 2009 signaled the beginning of the heavy and persistent rains. Since then Greater Accra, Central, Eastern, Volta, Western, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions continue to experience heavy floods. Initial assessment in the Regions indicates that a total of twenty three (23) deaths were recorded and over 52,429 persons were internally displaced and several people injured. Property estimated at GH¢8,720,932.00 has been destroyed. These included damage to infrastructure and personal belongings with farmland and crops submerged. Government has released GH¢2.5m to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing( MWRWH) for emergency desilting, rehabilitation and reconstruction of broken down bridges, culverts and roads. The estimated cost for the drainage improvement works in Greater Accra region alone as submitted by the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing is USD99.7m. Rapid assessment of the victims revealed a wide range of needs (immediate, medium to long term).
A total of an amount of GHc4, 000,000.00 (USD2, 666,666.7) worth of emergency relief has been provided so far by the Government of Ghana. It is therefore very crucial to have a holistic drainage system (including regular maintenance) in place as a medium to long term measure. It is also imperative to enforce laws and regulations prohibiting building on waterways etc.
CONTROL OF ILLICIT ARMS AND AMMUNITIONS
Ladies and Gentlemen, Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) have become the main instrument of violence in most developing countries, and it is estimated that over 500,000 deaths world wide and millions of injuries every year are associated with Small Arms and Light Weapons. With reference to what is happening in Dagbon, Bawku, Anloga and other parts of the country, as well as the close correlation between illicit arms proliferation and the incidence of armed robberies, this has become a very important security issue. The following measures have been adopted to address the problems:-
• The Ghana Police Service is seriously embarking on its gun re-registration exercise.
• The Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNACSA), the Police Service with the support of the UNDP has created a National Firearms Registry at the Police Headquarters, Accra and Regional Firearms Registries are also being renovated and fitted with the state of the art IT equipment. This is to ensure that we have proper records of registered arms in the country so that we can monitor.
• Efforts are being made to locate local manufacturers of small arms like pistols and shotguns to ascertain their users etc. However the long term strategy is to provide alternative livelihood programmes for the manufacturers to dissuade them from the guns trade.
• Finally, the GNACSA with the support of the UNDP is also expanding the technological, communications and collaboration efforts of Police Service, CEPS, Immigration, Fire and Prisons Services in the fight against illicit weapons trafficking.
PRISONS RELATED MATTERS
Madam Chairperson, the traditional role of the Ghana Prisons Service is to ensure the safe custody and welfare of prisoners and to undertake their reformation and rehabilitation. The Service continues to discharge these functions to complement the efforts of the police in the maintenance of law and order. Currently the prisons are choked, holding 14,194 inmates. This is made up of 10,455 convicted prisoners and 3,727 remand prisoners. This number far exceeds the prison national occupancy by 79%. The high number of inmates in the prisons has resulted in serious overcrowding.
For instance, Nsawam Medium Security Prisons, built to accommodate 717 prisoners currently holds about 3,000 prisoners.Kumasi Central Prisons holds over 1,800 instead of 600. Sunyani Central Prisons also houses over 800 instead of its capacity of 400. It is worrying to note that almost all the prison establishments in the country have exceeded their capacities. Ladies and Gentlemen, this overcrowding situation coupled with the Services’ inability to attract health professionals to man the prison clinics due to poor conditions has resulted in the high occurrence of diseases and sometimes death in the prisons. Besides, officers face acute accommodation problems and also most of the equipment installed to train the inmates has become obsolete making it difficult if not impossible for the inmates to acquire employable skills. Many prisons built several years ago now lack physical space for the expansion of skills training workshop.
STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE THE CONDITIONS IN THE PRISONS
Madam Chairperson, Government is deeply concerned about the general conditions in the country’s Prisons. It is therefore doing all it can to improve upon the situation for the better. The Ministry has advanced plans to expand the ‘Access to Justice’ programme to cover all the ten regions. As a first step, the Ministry of the Interior in collaboration with the Chief Justice arranged for eleven court sittings at Nsawam prisons in one day. The courts were made up of one High Court, two Circuit Courts and eight Magistrate Courts. In all, over 300 prisoners were short listed to appear before the Judges. The initiative would be replicated in the other regional capitals etc. This new programme is to reduce the number of remand prisoners.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is observed that, as a result of the closure of Ussher and James Fort Prisons, a large number of trial prisoners as well as prisoners on appeal would have to be conveyed from Nsawam to Accra daily thereby increasing the operational cost of the Service. The constant movement through heavy traffic also poses serious security concerns. Government is considering putting up a remand prison in Accra near the Borstal Institution to decongest the prison and also cut down running cost. Besides, measures would also be taken to construct more prisons.
In the meantime all stakeholders including the Judiciary led by the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, Police and Prisons Commanders, Civil Society Organisations and the Ministry of Interior (i.e. those that deal with the criminal justice system in the country) met at Akosombo on 14th – 15TH July 2009 to strategise and collaborate in order to improve the system.
The Prisons Service has established a Business Development Unit to secure jobs/contracts in order to engage the inmates meaningfully. Government will support and encourage the Service to take this initiative seriously in order to generate funds internally to reduce Government spending on the prison system. Besides, we are also appealing to the Judiciary to de-emphasise on custodial sentences on minor offences to decongest the prisons.
FIRE RELATED SECURITY SITUATIONS
The Ghana National Fire Service is charged with the responsibility of protecting lives and property from the ravages of fire, and to provide rescue and evacuation services to those trapped in all forms of emergencies. The Service has played this traditional role under severe constraints and has presently de-emphasized this traditional fire management role, to include Fire Safety and Rescue Operations.
As a result, the Service is now an active player in the management of Road Traffic Collision Extrication, and this I must say has helped save lives. Government intends to continue with this initiative and even expand it to cover all aspects of rescue so that all Ghanaians would be assured of their safety in times of emergencies Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fire Service Management has put in place measures to “ensure a fire-free Ghana through Fire Safety”.
As a result, the Service is redirecting its focus, in line with the objective of Act 537 of 1997, to prevent and manage undesired Fires. This is being done through: Organising intensive and extensive Public Fire Education Programmes to:
o Create and sustain awareness of the hazards of fires, and
o Heighten the role of the individual in the prevention of fires.
In line with this, the Service is for a start, strengthening the Fire Safety Departments in 5 regions, and motivating personnel to carry out this task.
Madam Chairperson, the GNFS has for some time now been faced with some challenges. In its bid to tackle some of them Government secured two loan facilities totalling Fifty-Five Million US Dollars, made up of a Forty (40) Million and a Fifteen (15) Million US Dollars from Project Development International / Exim Bank of USA and the Exim Bank of India respectively for the procurement of Fire Equipment for the Service.
I am therefore pleased to announce that the Service, before the end of the year, will take delivery of 77 Fire Tenders and 10 Foam Tenders from India to augment the fleet in the system. Government will ensure that these Equipments are delivered and used for their intended purposes. Other challenges such as Office and Residential accommodation and Improved Condition of Service, will be addressed in due course.
The fire equipment from the USA include tenders with ladders to tackle high rise buildings. Government intends to continue with this initiative and even to expand it to cover all aspects of rescue so that all Ghanaians would be assured of their safety in times of emergencies.
It is noted that the nature of the various markets around the country make them inaccessible to fire tenders and unless they are relocated and re-designed we will always have problems in dealing with fires at market places. WAY FORWARD For an efficient and reliable Fire Service, Government will ensure the following:
v The provision of fire fighting and rescue equipment as well as personnel protective clothing;
The enforcement of Fire Precautions (Premises)v Regulations LI 1724, to ensure adequate Fire Safety for the citizenry;
v To intensify Fire Safety education especially in fire prone areas as well as major markets throughout the country.
v In the meantime, market fire education taskforces, are earmarked for five (5) regions by September 2009;
The review of the Anti-Bush Fire Law, PNDC Lawv 229, to make it relevant for the effective control and prevention of bush fires;
Establishment of specialized Rescue Teams at FireØ Stations across the country to ensure that citizens who find themselves in unfortunate situations are professionally rescued;
v Establishment of website for the service; and Linking all the Regions to Headquarters through ICT THE REFUGEE SITUATION Ghana is a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as the 1969 0AU Convention governing the specific aspects of the refugee problems in Africa; Government will continue to honour all her obligations under the conventions. Ghana in that regard has continued to receive refugees in need of international protection. Ghana currently has a total of 17,706 refugees. The majority of them come from Liberia (15,336).
Following the unrest which occurred at the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in February 2008 leading to the signing of the Tripartite Agreement on the voluntary return of Liberian refugees in Ghana, there was a major increase in the number of Liberians who opted to return to Liberia. As at the end of the organised voluntary return on 30th March 2009, over 9000 Liberians returned to Liberia. The Ministry together with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have started a verification exercise at the Buduburam Refugee Settlement to determine the exact number of Liberian refugees in the country. Government is currently exploring with other stakeholders to find a permanent durable solution to the Liberian Refugee problem in line with the Tripartite Agreement signed and also in accordance with International Refugee Law.
CHALLENGES OF THE MINISTRY AND ITS AGENCIES
Ladies and Gentlemen, as with all other public institutions, the Ministry and its Agencies also face constraints and challenges which makes it difficult to achieve our set goals. These constraints and challenges cut across the Agencies and they include the following: i. Inadequate infrastructure/ office and residential accommodation ii. Inadequate logistics/Budgetary Support (vehicle, communication and office equipment); and iii. Inadequate human resources and poor conditions of service.
MEASURES TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES FACING THE SECURITY AGENCIES
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government is initiating various interventions to address the problems facing all the agencies. For example, in the areas of accommodation and infrastructure, the Ministry is involving the private sector, the local and donor partners to construct residential and office accommodation as well as renovation of existing ones.
In the Ghana Police Service, the completion of the UN Documentation Centre at the National Police Headquarters, extension of sanitary facilities at the National Headquarters, and other construction works across the country have been the major government interventions. For the Ghana Prisons Service, the near completion of the Maximum Security Prison at Ankaful in the Central Region and construction of inner perimeter fencing with chain-link at Medium Security Prison, Nsawam are examples.
With respect to the Ghana Immigration Service, renovation and reconstruction works are being undertaken on office and residential accommodation in Koforidua, Atuna, Aflao, Wonjuga and Assin Fosu. This include the remodeling of office premises at Paga and beginning of new construction works for the Border Patrol personnel at Paga, Elubo, Gonokrom and Sampa. In the area of logistics, Government is making serious efforts to improve the logistical and operational needs of the Agencies. The 2nd phase of vehicles and other equipment being delivered by Paramount Logistics Corporation of South Africa for the Prisons and Police Service will be pursued.
The facility will be extended to the regions and districts. It is believed this will improve the communication problems of the Police Service to enable them act swiftly on cases and distress calls from the civilian populace. Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, Human Resource Development is a cornerstone of Government’s development agenda and the Ministry and its Agencies have not been left out in this drive. The Ministry has been working towards improving the police-civilian ratio of about 1:1075 to bring it in line with the UN minimum standard of 1:500. Consequently, the police manpower level has been increased by 5,666 since 2003 and the total workforce of the Ghana Police Service now stands at 20,500.
Efforts are still being made by the Government, to increase the manpower strength to at least 25,000 by the year 2010. Also, the Government shall assist the Ghana Prisons Service in its programme of retraining and reorientation of its human resource base to enable the Service work towards its vision of highly efficient Correctional Service. In the case of the Ghana Immigration Service, One thousand and five hundred (1,500) personnel have been recruited. Out of this number 600 have benefited from advanced training at the Asutsuare Military Camp.
To strengthen the manpower base of NACOB in the face of the rising drug menace, junior staff of forty (40) have been recruited and trained. Additional staff would be recruited to man the decentralised offices in the Regions and District Capitals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning I have attempted in this address to give you an overview of the activities of the Ministry and its Agencies. The Ministry together with the Agencies would continue to adopt strategies to improve upon our logistics requirements, human resource development, communication network and available infrastructure.
This will be achieved by way of providing office and residential accommodation, as well as enhancing the conditions of service to enable the Agencies effectively and efficiently maintain internal security in the country. I wish to emphasize the need for public cooperation in the work of the Security Agencies, especially the Police who need information from the general public in order to deliver effective services. I hope we can count on your moral and material support. I thank you all for the attention. I now leave the floor open for questions and issues that need clarification.
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