Security experts at the Centre for Advanced Strategic Analysis (CASA) say even though the socio-economic reasons underlying the ratification of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocols are good, emerging trends indicate it pose serious threats to Ghana’s security.
The threats, they claim, have become dire in the wake of Ghana’s oil exploration activities and instability in most countries within the West African sub-region.
The recognition of the need for economic integration including free flow of persons, goods and services among ECOWAS states stimulated the enactment in 1979 of a Protocol on free movement of persons, and the right of residence and establishment.
The first phase of the Protocol, ratified by all member states in 1980, guaranteed free entry of citizens from Member states without visa for ninety days.
The second phase of the Protocol, right of residence, became effective in July 1986 and all member states ratified it. However, the right of establishment is yet to come into force.
Mr. Samuel Aning, a Fellow at CASA, and a Senior Lecturer of Contemporary Studies at the Methodist University says a major security challenge is lack of infrastructure to allow Ghana to run checks on the identities of the hundreds of migrants coming into the country from neighbouring countries.
“You realise that as a region we have had a lot of instability…in Sierra Leone, Liberia and recently in Cote d’Ivoire and Mali. In my interaction with students from some of these countries, they have told me some of the dangerous people who have been active in the fighting in these countries roam free in Ghana”, he told Myjoyonline.com in an interview.
He identified arms trafficking, arms trade, terrorism, drugs trade and cyber crime as real issues casting a shadow over the seemingly calm Ghanaian setting.
According to Mr Aning, there are guns traversing the entire region, not Ghana in particular, which imply there are routes of entry for some of these dangerous people and destabilising elements within the ECOWAS sub-region.
Mr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, also a Fellow at CASA and founder of e-Crime Bureau was concerned about the capacity of our law enforcement agencies to monitor, track and prosecute cyber-crime activities.
He said though it is hardly noticeable, there is a hidden but active ascendancy in the use of internet to facilitate human trafficking in the country.
“Apart from the normal hacking, keylogging attacks on the banks, 419, sakawa activities, the internet is also being used to recruit people to facilitate the criminal enterprise”, he revealed.
According to him the problem is compounded by Ghana’s lack of mechanisms to investigate and check the growing cyber fraud gradually building up in the country.
Mr. Antwi-Boasiako, who is also a Consultant to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID)’s e-Crime Project said one of the key targets of cyber fraud activities has been online banking and mobile banking.
He explained that through the use of advanced technologies, these cyber criminals have been able to hack into the systems of big banks.
Benjamin Akporh-Mensah, also a security expert and Fellow at CASA, suggested a re-design of Ghana’s borders, entry systems, airports, especially water ways and coastlines.
But importantly Ghana needs adequate tools of operation and personnel to ensure the boarders are not porous, he said.
According to him, the security loopholes that Ghana must check before the situation gets out of hand.
He intimated that Ghana needs a data on people entering and leaving the country just like the advanced countries.
He was cautious about clearly marking out the specific loopholes that criminals from neighbouring countries and even some Arab countries like Yemen exploit since it would be inure to Ghana’s national security.
Mr. Akporh-Mensah cautioned against trumpeting that Ghana is a beacon of peace and stability within the sub-region when in fact the country may be nursing a security crisis.