…As ‘Mafia’ National Security ops ‘rob’ traders
Tougher border security has made cross-border traders, better known as importers, more vulnerable than ever, as they are attacked by hardened criminals on the Accra-Aflao-Lome route of Ghana’s eastern neighbour, Togo.
Not only that, but some Ghanaian security agents who have been placed at various vantage routes to ensure safety and security of people, especially traders, have rather turned themselves into an extortion “mafia gang,” taking goods and monies from poor traders in the name of authentication and re-examination.
Countless ordinary Ghanaians attempting to make precarious ends meet, as drivers and market traders, are accosted on a daily basis by armed National Security operatives who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money.
The Eastern Importers Association (EIA), mostly traders who ply along the eastern corridor routes of Ghana to neighbouring Togo, are accusing some National Security operatives of embarking on activities, which they claimed seek to undermine the Customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday to make public their predicament in the hands of the security operatives, Mr. Isaac Okweesi Amstrong, Secretary of the EIA, alleged that, some operatives of the National Security outfit along the Accra-Aflao route have engaged in unorthodox means to frustrate their trading and making life unbearable.
According to the traders, who numbered over 300, these corrupt security operatives have constantly seized their goods, some of them being perishable and taken them to the Osu Castle in Accra, all in the name of verifying the authenticity and legality of the goods being imported into the country.
“For sometime now, members of the Eastern Importers Association have suffered so many brutalities, illegal arrest, inhumane treatment and harassment at the hands of a gang claiming to be National Security operatives, operating on the Accra-Ho-Accra-Aflao route.”
“Aside from the inhumane treatment and illegal arrest, we received, these people who normally intercept us on the Tema-Aflao and Ho highways, forcefully seize our goods, sometime at the Customs Division of the GRA check points, leave the goods at the mercy of the scorching weather, even though most of these goods are perishable, for days in the name of re-examination,” the traders claimed.
They further alleged that, the activities of the National Security operatives are affecting their means of livelihood, because by the time the seized goods are released most of them have got spoiled or damaged, thereby making them run into huge debts as they are unable to pay back loans with interest taken from banks.
They added that, what makes them more worried was the fact that when their goods are seized with the reasons for either re-examination or authentication they are not sent to the Customs of GRA as it has been the practice, but strangely sent to the Osu Castle, the former seat of government.
The traders appealed to the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, to dissolve the gang immediately and constitute a committee of all stakeholders to investigate and to find lasting solution to the “mafia” corruption, which poses an economic threat to the revenue collections at the country’s borders.
“We the executives and members of EIA are of the firm believe that the operations of the gang claiming to be National Security operatives have not only made the process movement of goods cumbersome but also added to the corruption in the system,” the traders asserted.
They however further indicated that, they would take their concerns to the street in protest for the whole world to see if the presidency, through the Ministries of Finance and the Interior, failed to dissolve security operation team to end the illegal arrest and harassment on them.
Mr. Zakari Abuya and Ms Elizabeth Sitsoseku, Chairman and Organiser respectively of EIA, told The Republic that, even though they experienced similar problems under the previous administration, their goods were not seized to the extent that some of them perished and got damaged before they were released to them.
They claimed that the activities the National Security operatives were seriously affecting them, as their banks chase most of their members daily over loans they took but lost everything to the corrupt security officers.
Hajia Alimatu, a member of EIA, who deals in soft drinks, said she lost everything as a trader when her goods were seized on grounds that they were not approved by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA).
Most of the affected traders were heard blaming the current New Patriotic Party (NPP) government for collapsing their business, stating that if things remained the same they would vote against the party in the next general elections.
“We will vote against Nana Addo and his government, we are suffering, our businesses are collapsing, this was not what you promised us. We are part of those who voted for NPP and today your security people are seizing our goods and taking them away, we shall see,” the traders threatened.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba