By Emmanuel Akli
Barely a week after the Wikileaks website exposed both the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its predecessor, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) governments on the way they handled the fight against narcotic drugs in the country, information filtering in indicates that the Atta Mills government has revoked as many as 375 diplomatic passports.
Among those who have been affected are Pastors, Imams, businessmen and chiefs, who by virtue of the diplomatic passport use the Very Very Important People (VVIP) Lounge at the Kotoka International Airport anytime they travel outside the country.
So far, there has not been any official comment as to whether these passports were revoked because their holders were suspected to be dealing in drugs.
But Deputy Minister of information, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa told The Chronicle in a telephone interview at the weekend that the revocation had nothing to do with the Wikileaks report, and that the decision was taken in 2009 as part of efforts by the Atta Mills government to fight against the drug menace in the country.
In the Wikileaks publication, President Mills was quoted as having told the American Ambassador in Ghana, during a private conversation that elements of his government had already been compromised, and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there.
Critics of the government have interpreted this statement to mean that President Mills might have information about people in his government who deal in drugs, and that he must expose them. The President has so far not commented on the issue, except a terse statement reported in the Ghanaian Times that he trusted his Ministers.
In the Wikileaks reports concerning the Kufuor government, the cables said the drug barons are generally supporters of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and suggested that the ruling party had no plans to pursue them, even though their identities were well known.
The cables further claimed that some of the barons had infiltrated NACOB so much so that the officers conspired with them.
The cables, which involve intelligence information sent from Ghana by the US embassy to its government in Washington, also quoted unnamed top NACOB officials, as saying that the government has effectively neutered NACOB, since the embarrassing arrest in the U.S. of NPP MP, Eric Amoateng, in 2005.
All the high-ranking officials during that time, according to the cables, were removed because the Government of Ghana (GoG) was upset with NACOB, since it co-operated closely with the U.S government on the case, which resulted in Amoateng’s guilty plea and subsequent imprisonment in the U.S.
Okudzeto told this reporter that the government was determined to fight the drug menace, as a result of which the President subjected himself to body checks during his first trip outside the country. He added that all Ministers who use the VVIP lounge are subjected to thorough security checks before they are allowed to board their flights.
According to the Deputy Minister, a draft bill that seeks to turn NACOB into a Commission and make it report directly to the President has also been placed before cabinet for discussion and subsequent approval. All these efforts, he contended, are part of the efforts to fight against the canker.
In the case of the 375 revoked diplomatic passports, Okudzeto said all manner of people had the passport and used the VVIP Lounge, hence the government’s decision on the issue.
In reaction, former President Kufuor also told Radio Gold that he was surprised about the information sent to Washington by the America Embassy about his government. Kufuor contended that his government did everything possible to fight the drug menace, and cited Operation Westbridge which he initiated with the British government, which operation led to the seizure of drugs at the Kotoka Airport.
“Indeed, if this is the information the American Embassy sent to their government, then it is unfortunate”, he said.