Pubdate: Wed, 05 Mar 2008
Source: Accra Daily Mail, The (Ghana)
Copyright: 2008sAccra Daily Mail


Contrary to the assertion that Ghana was just a transit point for 
illicit drugs and not a production country, Dr Joseph Bediako Asare, 
a member of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says the 
Board suspects there is small scale manufacture of cocaine and heroin 
in the country.

He said there was overwhelming evidence of the availability of the 
chemicals used in producing illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and 
amphetamine type stimulants in Ghana. These chemicals are used to 
refine the coca and opium, which are imported into the country.

"These chemicals come into the country mainly from South Africa and 
they come through customs check points all the time but the officers 
are not able to detect them," he said.

Dr Asare was speaking to the GNA after the launch of the 2007 INCB 
Report, which focuses on Proportionality and Drug Related Offences.

He noted that even though the security agencies were aware of the 
availability of the illicit drugs precursor chemicals in the country, 
they remained somewhat aloof about it because they thought Ghanaians 
were innocent about their availability and use.

"We tend to think that our youth are innocent but they are gradually 
getting into the business of drug production and very soon if we do 
not stem the influx of the chemicals we will have a big drug problem 
on hand," he warned.

Dr. Asare gave the GNA a list of precursor chemicals used in 
producing cocaine, heroine and amphetamine type stimulants, which, he 
said, were currently available in the country.

He called on the government and its agencies responsible for the 
import of certain chemicals for legitimate purposes to do proper 
estimates before importing them to ensure that the exact quantities 
were imported to prevent excess chemicals from getting into the hands 
of the bad nuts.

The report itself confirmed that drug traffickers were using Africa 
as a transshipment area for precursors such as ephedrine and 
pseudoephedrine used for making amphetamine type stimulants.

"Weak legislation against trafficking in precursor chemicals in most 
Africa makes it easy to obtain chemicals for illicit drug manufacture."

It said Interpol estimated that 200-300 tons of cocaine made their 
way from Latin America into Europe through West Africa, where it was 
stockpiled and repackaged for transport.

The report said West African countries, mainly Ghana, Nigeria and 
Cote d'Ivoire lacked the economic means, legislative and 
institutional structures to counter the drug challenge effectively.

As a result, Africa currently accounted for 7.6 per cent of all 
cocaine abusers in the world and the production and abuse of cannabis 
was also on the rise on the continent, the report said.

"Another problem in Africa is the misuse of pharmaceutical 
preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance, 
which are sold by street vendors and healthcare providers without a 
prescription," it said.

The report therefore called on African governments to address the 
problem, which had severe consequences on the health of their 
population and social fabric.

Dr Asare noted that in focusing on the principle of proportionality 
in drug related offences, the report sought to propose measures that 
were proportional to the gravity of the drug menace in dealing with 
drug related offences.

In that regard, he said, the report recommended the setting up of 
special courts for dealing with drug-related cases, saying that 
currently 50 per cent of prisoners in Ghana were in jail for drug 
related offences.

"We also need acceptable treatment facilities to deal with persons 
engaged in drug related offences to ensure better rehabilitation 
because our current social welfare system that takes care of such 
persons is not effective."

Dr Asare said there was need to be serious about going after 
suspected drug barons, investigate, prosecute and jail them where 
necessary to deter people from getting into the drug trade.
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