The NACOB, Nayele Cocaine Myth

It was a Sunday evening. The date was the 9th day of November in the year of our Lord 2014. The flight was BA 078 from Accra to London’s Heathrow Airport, operated by British Airways. On this flight was a special Angel. Barely a month ago, on October 5, this year, I used the Accra airport to travel out of the country. Right after the immigration desks was the scanner and an unnecessary large number of officials from almost all the security agencies one can think of as operating in the country. There was a thorough search on my body and my hand luggage. I was made to remove my laptop from its bag before it went through the scanner. Further to the boarding gate were other security personnel who also searched me and asked me a lot of questions. In fact, most of them were very irrelevant and of no use for gathering security intelligence, apart from, perhaps, enabling the personnel show off how much power they had and how they could delay you from boarding a plane. However, I kept my cool and co-operated because, theoretically, whatever they were doing was supposed to be in the interest of Ghanaians, including myself. I even answered their senseless and silly questions. The fact is, from the way I was searched, there was no way I could have concealed anything that was illegal to carry. The Angel cocaine story However, on November 9, despite all these checks at the Accra Airport, Ms Nayele Ametefe, alias Ruby Adu-Gyamfi, alias Angel Mahama, supposedly passed through the airport scanners, went through the rigorous physical screening and search by security operatives at the first point, went through the second check, before the final check prior to boarding the plane, and none of the dozens of security operatives detected the cocaine Ms Ametefe was carrying. On her arrival at Heathrow, London, on November 10, Ms Ametefe was arrested for possessing 12.5 kilos of cocaine and she had both Austrian and Ghanaian passports (Nos. P4187659 and G0364497 respectively). About a week after her arrest, Ghana’s Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) took the most disgraceful and an undue credit, saying in a statement that Ms Ametefe “was arrested through the collaborative effort of the Narcotics Control Board and its British partners”. However, a Senior Officer, Mark Owen, of the British Border Force, UK’s anti-narcotics smuggling unit at Heathrow, has been quoted as saying that it was strange for the suspect to travel through Kotoka International Airport with the weight of such narcotic substance (12.5kg) without being noticed by the Ghanaian authorities. He, therefore, suspects connivance. Changing of flights Normally, one can book a flight and later change one’s travelling date. However, in the case of Ms Ametefe, after buying her first class ticket on October 8, she changed her flight schedule three times. The common theory associated with people dealing in narcotics and other banned substances is that their collaborators must be on duty at the time of their flight, hence they keep on changing their flight schedules to coincide with the collaborators’ working time. Was that the case with Ruby? The mystery surrounding Ms Ametefe and her cocaine is that the NACOB’s claim of a collaborative effort with the British authorities is very questionable. What Yaw Akrasi Sarpong and his NACOB are saying is that they knew that Nayele Ametefe was carrying cocaine as of the time of leaving Accra but refused to arrest her. Rather, they comfortably escorted her out of the shores of Ghana only for their British counterparts to show them how to do professional work. How did Ms Ametefe go through the rigorous screening at the Kotoka airport without any security operatives detecting the cocaine? Rumours are that she used the VVIP lounge meant for senior government officials and other designated dignitaries. Other issues Who is the chief security co-ordinator at the airport, and what has that person said so far about how Ms Ametefe boarded flight BA 078 on November 9? And what questions have Akrasi Sarpong and his deputy, Richard Nii Lante Blankson, asked their teams at the airport on why they didn’t detect the cocaine? Interestingly, both the NACOB and the BNI (our version of CIA, KGB or MI5) are rather concerned about the initial media reports that Ms Ametefe is a very close acquaintance of the President and his wife, and that she is also a member of the ruling NDC. These institutions are also concerned about reports that Nayele travelled on a Ghanaian diplomatic passport; another negative for the government if found to be true. The emphasis of the NACOB statement was to clear the air that the suspect has no links with the first family, while the BNI had to invite senior media personnel for interrogation, which the President says was proper because according to him, they were invited and not arrested. If the supposed discussions with the Editor of Daily Graphic and Chief Executive of City FM were friendly, why did those discussions not take place in the respective offices of the two men? But Mr President, if NACOB collaborated with the British authorities, where else should the BNI go for solid information, City FM, Daily Graphic, or NACOB? Ghana’s High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Victor Smith, has also said that he has sent officials from his outfit to visit Ms Ametefe in detention. This is fine, but do we have any precedent where any Ghanaian arrested anywhere in the world had received visitors from Ghana Mission officials; or this is an innovation? Does Akrasi Sarpong still stand by his institution’s position that it collaborated with its British counterparts in arresting Ms Ametefe when a senior official of the British authorities has questioned the operational efficiency of NACOB and all the security operatives at the Kotoka Airport? Has Akrasi Sarpong and his team also considered the disgrace they have put Ghana in, and how far they have endangered Ghanaians travelling abroad who are henceforth going to be put through extra scrutiny and unnecessary searches and delays at airports? As I have said before, in Ghana, we do not have ‘resignation’ and ‘sacking’ in our governance vocabulary, hence state officials engage in all sorts of corruption and undesirable activities, yet they are never sacked; in fact, some even get elevated to higher positions when what they deserved was an immediate sack and prosecution. Demystify the arrest This NACOB-Nayele cocaine myth must at all cost be demystified. First, Akrasi Sarpong and his top officers must immediately be interdicted, while all security operatives who were on duty on November 9 must follow, to allow proper investigations by an independent body to start. What we must note is that it is a disgrace and a big dent on the image of any country to be associated with the export of narcotic drugs, so we need to take a bold step to deal with this problem. In 2007, the Member of Parliament for Nkoranza North, Eric Amoateng, passed through our airport with 136 pounds of heroin and nobody detected it until he was arrested in the US on arrival there. Whereas his act deserved outright condemnation, some senior members of the NPP tried to sweep the issue under the carpet because he was one of theirs, while NDC MPs and senior members described the NPP as ‘Narcotic People’s Party’. This time round, the government has only concerned itself with clearing its image associated with early reports that the suspect travelled on a diplomatic passport and that she is also an acquaintance of the President and his wife. So, is that all government can do? Interestingly, the Communications Minister, Omane Boamah, has disputed the claims of NACOB, the government’s own agency on narcotic control, that it collaborated with the British authorities in arresting Nayele Ametefe. Hmmm, “asem beba dabi”. Whom can we believe now? The time to act decisively as a nation is now, for us to nip this canker of drug business in the bud once and for all. *The author is a political scientist, and media and communication expert. [email protected]