Tuesday, August 14, 2012

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

The role of the Police is essential in the development of any country in the world. It is impossible for any economy to survive without ensuring internal security and other services provided by the Police service.
In Ghana, the traffic management and highway patrols services conducted by the police contributes a great deal to productivity by reducing travelling time, ensuring safe movement of people and goods among others. Just take a look at a chaotic confusion at traffic junctions in Accra whenever traffic lights go off for only five minutes without a police officer. 
In May 1975, political leaders of the West Africa sub-region came together in the capital city of Lome, Togo to form what is now referred to as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). One cardinal objective of the founding fathers is the free movement of people, goods and services.
 Almost 40 years the organization has continued to pursue this integration agenda by encouraging members through various fora at all levels to enhance the process. The latest strategy is the new Vision 2020 programme aimed, among others, at transforming ECOWAS into a borderless Community. This new vision means that ECOWAS is committed to strengthening its protocols on Free Movement of Persons and Goods, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment as well as the protocols on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
Conscious of the challenges militating against the realization of this unique Protocol of free movement of goods and people, ECOWAS has set up a National Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Committee (NFC), in member states. The Committee is to collaborate with other sister-countries and coordinate and support the efforts in facilitating trade along the Abidjan-Lagos road corridor.
 The facilitation strategy covers the Tema-Ouagadougou corridor as well. The membership of the NFC includes the Police, Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority, Ministries responsible for transport, trade and others.
The object of this piece is to underscore the contribution of the Ghana Police Service in trade facilitation along these corridors and to identify some of the factors impeding the achievement of the integration objective and how to remedy the situation. Road blocks or check points along highways are necessary to provide security for travelers and prevent trafficking of goods and services that rob countries of revenue for development.
A recent study conducted by the West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) based in Accra indicates that the Ghana section of the Abidjan –Lagos corridor that is from Aflao to Elubo, a distance of 558km has 30 roadblocks as of June 2012, translating into approximately one barrier per every 20km.
Comparatively, this makes Ghana a country with the second highest number of checkpoints on this corridor. The Tema-Paga section of the Tema-Bamako corridor has 43 main checkpoints; of these 43 main checkpoints, 30 are manned by the Police, 8 by Customs and 5 mixed, that is, Police cum Customs checkpoints. Some checkpoints are also temporarily erected as and when the Police Service deems it necessary for their function.
Interestingly, statistics shows that the Abidjan-Lagos corridor which links Ghana to most of her eastern and western neighbours is the “engine room” or key to the trade facilitation objective of the ECOWAS sub-region.
It is stated that, “about 65% of economic activities within the West Africa region is undertaken on this corridor.”  Because of the enormous contribution of this corridor to the economic well-being of the people in this part of the world, the World Bank agreed to support the implementation of “the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Project” to reduce trade and transport barriers in the ports and on the roads along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor i.e. from La Cote D’Ivoire through Ghana, Togo, Benin to Nigeria.
The World Bank’s desire to support the implementation of the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Project is to reduce the overall travel time along the corridor through reduction of the number of road blocks along the corridor and the improvement of the condition of the road while ensuring safety in the movement of vehicles. This is being achieved through financing road improvement works and sensitization and training workshops for stakeholders to identify with the objectives of the project.
In terms of road infrastructure, the Ghana section of this corridor is receiving a lot of Government’s attention, with the virtual completion the Akatsi-Aflao section with support from the African Development Bank.  The Tetteh–Quarshie-Mallam highway which was jointly commissioned in February this year by the departed President Professor John Evans Atta Mills and Former President John Agyekum Kufour was funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
 As we speak, information gleaned from the Ministry of Roads and Highways indicates that the Agona Junction-Elubo section of the corridor is receiving financial support from the World Bank again and construction are expected to commence by the end of the third quarter of this year.
The Customs Division of the GRA has been supported under the project to train its staff on single window management at the borders to reduce delays and facilitate movement.  The service is taking steps to harmonize their checkpoints with police service in a bid to reduce delays to transit trucks.
The number of road blocks comes with its attendant issues of bribery and delays. According to the WATH study in 2011, Togo managed to remove all police and gendarmerie checkpoints on its section of the corridor, becoming the best performing country in terms of controls.  Mali and Ghana have highest delays of about 20mins per 100km.
La Cote d’Ivoire on the other hand despite its political crisis was able to reduce bribery by 72% last year and this is commendable. 
Records show that Ghana was able to decrease bribes from 55 GHC per trip in 2006 to 15 GHC per trip in 2009. This was described as of the best performances for Ghana for that period. And the country was praised to the blue sky for this feat. But then from 2010, the trend started changing and within two years Togo took over the first position from Ghana.  It was discovered that the emergence of some “huhudious” unauthorized checkpoints and roadblocks started causing irritable delays to travelers. In fact the West Africa Trade Hub’s study revealed that “80% of the bribes are paid in half of the checkpoints;”  “One active checkpoint every 20km and one inspection at every 2.4 checkpoints for legal trucks.” All these lead to delays which have increased by 30minutes, reaching more than 2hours per trip,” the study revealed.
the question that agitates the minds of well-meaning ECOWAS citizens is whether smuggling, fraud, drug-trafficking, highway robbery and the associated transport and trade crimes can be eliminated by the numerous and sometimes unauthorized checkpoints on this livewire corridor of the sub-region? The police service is being called upon to strategize to develop other effective means of providing safety and security without hindering movements or causing delays.
Having realized that  the role of the Ghana Police is indispensable in effective management of this vital Abidjan-Lagos corridor for the benefit of citizens of the ECOWAS sub-region, the  National Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Committee of Ghana, whose secretariat is the Ministry of Roads and Highways, has embarked on a series  of capacity building workshops  for the   Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service  to equip them not only with logistics but also with knowledge and managerial skills to facilitate transit trade and to ensure the safety and security of travellers along the corridor.
The first workshop took place from July 19-20, this year at Elmina in the Central Region of the country. The event which was held under the theme “Enhancing the Performance of the Ghana Police Service in Transport and Trade Facilitation” brought together over 30 MTTU officers drawn from various districts of the Central and Western Regions. It was addressed by the Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways Hon. Dr Nii Quaye-Kumah on behalf of the sector Minister.
The Police officers were sensitized on the protocols of ECOWAS on trade, the various customs procedures and checks necessary for transit trucks, documentations expected from transit. The Police MTTU officers were also exposed to the ECOWAS brown card insurance and its security features as well sharing experiences from freight forwarders and importers on challenges in the corridor.
 The recommendations and action plan drawn by the Police at the end of the workshop gives the NFC the hope that the next corridor management report will record much lower barriers and enhanced mobility on the Ghana section.
Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Roads and Highways, intends to expand the capacity training programme for the benefit of more Police officers nationwide. The second sensitization workshop is scheduled from August 23-24, 2012 for MTTU personnel in the Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions.
The Ministry expects the usual cooperation and attendance by the security agencies concerned to improve the professional competency road management skills of the Police for the benefit of transport and trade facilitation in the ECOWAS sub-region.
 The writer is Deputy Director and Head of IT of the Information Services Department in Accra
Contact: abissath@gmail.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All ye mortal creatures of God
 Who mirror the visage of man
In the divine image of God!
All ye mortal beings of God
 Who symbolize the microcosm
Of the wondrous macrocosm!

Hail to the Saint anointed!
Saint Atta-Mills,
You were born a Saint
And desired no mortal
To canonize you as one
If Africans have Saints!
You were the Unprecedented President
That ever ruled our blessed land
How humble you were!
How noble you were!
How simple you were!
You were the first soul of our land
To be delivered in the manger of gold
At Tarkwa - a land awashed with gold
Yet, you snubbed the adoration of gold
And lionized the appellation of God!

You were the first democratic Leader 
As the Supreme President of Ghana 
To the shock of men of little faith!
You converted a mini Chapel
Into a Presidential Cathedral
Where day by day, the Lord was lauded
And you were not ashamed of that act !

You were the first National Captain
To attract multiple Red Cards
From mournful referees at ago
Even when you scored a classic goal
For the nation in the game of senate!
You were the first President
To be baptized a morgue Assistant
And the morgue adopted your corpse
When you obtained the eternal scholarship
To undergo a super natural course!
In the Universal University of the Maker!

You were the first President
To be knighted ASOMDWEE-HENE
By no less noble Kings of Ahafo
And all ten clans of Asafo
Proclaimed you King of Peace
You became the first National Osofo
To sanctify the National Park of Peace!

The anointed Prophet of God
You received no esteem from your own
As the Master himself was scorned by his own
Yet, you were a gem in the hands of God!
You were the first King of Peace
To experience the highest initiation
While still on the royal throne of peace.
Through your unpredicted transition
You brought blissful benediction
Upon a vicious sorrowful nation!
You have accomplished your mission
For a  nation still in search of  vision!

May your wisdom, as the star in the sky
Guide your wise brothers and sisters
From the East, West, South and North
In search of the Greater Light
And lead them into the Kingdom Of Wisdom!

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath 
(August 5, 2012)

To the memory of Professor John Evans Atta Mills– the Unprecedented President
Who Ruled Ghana from January 2009 - July 2012