… Customs Commander muddies waters more
As the Akufo-Addo government, overstuffed with over-important security appointees, still searches around for the $30million cocaine lost at the Tema port, like a needle in a haystack, a plot suggesting officialdom’s complicity in the cocaine loss has thickened.
Confidence Nyadzi, the Tema Sector Commander of Customs, who had rushed to the media to proclaim that the story about the cocaine loss was false, when the story first broke, has opened his mouth wide again.
This time, he has implied that the 10 heavy bags of cocaine got missing because of either the negligence or complicity of an Examination Officer at the Tema Port. He does not name this examination officer.
However, he suggests that this Examination Officer in question had not fulfilled his duty in a chain of routine checks and verifications that was necessary to ensure that the missing bags of cocaine that had been put together with a consignment of rice was fished out.
On Accra-based Joy FM, Mr. Nyadzi points out that major omission on the part of the Examination Officer at the port was what created leeway for whoever had smuggled the cocaine out of the port to have his way.
According to him, the sequence of checks to verify the contents of goods that come to the port normally starts with an application to Customs for samples of the goods to be taken and then it passes through a number of verification points before it gets to either the Ghana Standards Authority or the Food and Drugs Authority for testing and ultimate verification.
In specificity, he maps out the process as always starting with an application to Customs, which processes the application at the Management level and then sends it to a Harbour Supervisor. The supervisor then minutes it and relays it to an Examination Officer.
“But in this particular case (the $30million cocaine case) application was approved by Customs management, it went to supervisor, the supervisor also minuted the same application to an Examination Officer.
“(But) at this point no Examination Officer was contacted.”
He adds that, “Because there was approval on the letter, they took it straight to the port authority, who also treated it as an approval from Customs and allowed the people to have access.”
Mr. Nyadzi does not explain who the “they” are.
Then he makes an even more interesting submission. He maintains that the whole cocaine loss was due to the fact that the Narcotics Control Board and other agencies, including the Bureau of National Investigations and the Joint Port Control Unit (JPCU) had kept the tip-off about the drugs to their chests and refused to share it with Customs.
“No intelligence was shared with Customs,” he maintained, adding that if intelligence had been shared the loss would have been avoided.
Interestingly however, Mr. Confidence Nyadzi admits in the same interview that the JPCU’s membership included a Customs Officer. Again, he failed to name the Customs Officer.
When it was pointed out to him that on account of the membership of that Customs officer on the JPCU, Customs cannot claim that the tip-off on that huge amount of cocaine was denied them, Mr. Nyadzi claimed that even the Customs Officer on the JPCU had been kept ignorant of the tip-off on the drugs!
According to him, even that unnamed officer got to hear about the drugs after it had disappeared.
It is worth noting that this is the same Confidence Nyadzi who had told the media, immediately the story of the cocaine loss broke that the story was baseless and that the public should ignore it.
“I can tell you that there is no truth in that reportage. I know that this matter has been dealt with at the office of the Minister of Interior and at that meeting was the Commissioner of Customs, the ex-commissioner, Mr. John Vianney, myself, NACOB and the relevant stakeholders.
“We looked at all the issues involved, as to whether there was a cocaine missing or not, I don’t think anybody can tell you that. And I’m telling you that the report is misleading. There was no cocaine in Tema Port in anybody’s custody which got missing,” he had said.
His dismissal had implied that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) which, together with the Surinamese authorities, had issued the alert on the drugs to NACOB had misled Ghanaian security agencies with a false alarm.
The whole new revelation by Mr. Nyadzi that a Customs Officer had been on the JPCU all the while, but somehow had been denied access to the tip on the drugs by the same JPCU has left many questioning the sincerity of his claim that Customs had been kept ignorant of the tip from the UNODC.
The gargantuan $30million cocaine loss while under the surveillance of practically the entirety of Ghana’s security apparatus has raised questions about whether President Akufo-Addo’s appointment of a National Security Minister, Coordinator and Advisor is really worth it.
On October 24, 2016, UNODC, in collaboration with the Surinamese authorities, sent intelligence to NACOB that a ship from Surinam heading to the Tema Port had cocaine concealed in containers loaded with rice.
The ship arrived at the Tema Port in December 2016.
Five containers had been isolated and packed at Depot 10 for 24-hour surveillance as NACOB acted on the intelligence from the UNODC and flagged the five containers. Meanwhile NACOB had informed all the relevant security agencies at the port, including Customs, and the JPCU of the containers, via letters.
In Customs’ letter dated 8th, September, 2016, FSCU 7559200, TRNU 2610834, TCLU 3224764, TRHU 1653800 and TRLU 8778855 are listed as the flagged containers and it is clearly instructed that before they are moved from Depot 10 to the Golden Jubilee Terminal for collection by the owner, a scan must be performed on them.
Suspiciously, following from that, the importer never turned up to collect the containers for two whole months, suggesting that an insider had tipped him of the isolation and impending scan.
NACOB consequently got fed up waiting for the importer to turn up and decided that on February 25th 2017, it would perform a mandatory scan with or without the presence of the owner.
Suddenly, on February 22, three days before the scheduled mandatory scan by NACOB, the drugs agency got a tip-off that one of the containers had been moved to the Golden Jubilee Terminal without recourse to NACOB. NACOB checked and confirmed that the container had indeed been moved behind their backs.
Because of this tampering, NACOB decided to bring forward the date for the mandatory scan to 23rd February, the very next day after it discovered the movement of the container.
In the company of JPCU, UK’s Operation West Bridge members, and Customs officials, among others, it then opened the container and realized that the container indeed had contained 50 kilograms of rice, but 10 bags weighing 5kg each had mysteriously vanished.
The UK’s operation West Bridge team had then used itemizers to ascertain that indeed there were traces of cocaine and same had been confirmed by K9 sniffer dogs trained to sniff out drugs.
Then investigation revealed later that, while NACOB and everyone else were not around, Customs had allowed the importer to open the container. A total of 10 bags, believed to contain 5kilograms each of cocaine, had been carted away.
Immediately the story broke, Confidence Nyadzi, the Tema Sector Commander for Customs, rushed to the media and claimed that the story was false and so the public should ignore it.