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Has the recent kidnapping story cast a slur on tourism? Part 1

By Philip Gebu

The country has again been over shadowed with news of some kidnappings in the Sekondi-Takoradi area. If my memory serves me right, this is the first time we are experiencing such a thing. However, The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK carried a story on the 13th January 2010 claiming that a Briton was kidnapped and held for ransom after travelling to Africa to meet someone they were friends with online. As usual they were not specific with their headline thus it becomes difficult to identify the specific country involved. To them West Africa seems to be a country.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said the British national travelled to West Africa to meet an online friend. But the friend was the ‘fictional creation of a criminal group whose sole aim was extorting money’, according to the agency. It was the first reported incident of a person being kidnapped as part of a so-called romance fraud where the victim was British, Soca said. ‘This is a very sensitive subject. People can feel embarrassed at being tricked, or even unwilling to believe that the person they have got to know remotely is a criminal who is after their money. ‘Criminals use the fear of legal repercussions to make victims feel unsafe in going to the authorities, or even to extort more money. It is a vicious and manipulative crime.’

Soca said its anti-kidnap and extortion unit was training local officers on the ground to help them deal with any kidnaps effectively, and work to tackle fraud was also under way in Nigeria and Ghana.

It’s obvious that these kinds of activities are the doings of criminals who end up tarnishing the image of a whole country, region or continent. The sad aspect is that all the good people tend to be associated with their crimes and as the old adage goes “One bad nut spoils the whole soup”.  It is alleged that some Nigerians are behind this latest kidnapping and some Nigerians are living in fear. This has brought fear and panic in the Sekondi/Takoradi Township and there is paranoia over the issue of kidnapping, as the least attempt by men to engage with women, especially where there are no third parties, causes the women to shout and scream for help. Strangers and tourists who ask for directions to places are assumed to be among kidnappers looking for victims. The police have so far documented cases of near lynching of innocent men and false alarms on kidnapping in some communities.

For instance, the timely intervention of the police early yesterday prevented a young man in his mid-20s from being lynched at Kojokrom, a suburb of Sekondi, after he was accused of kidnapping a lady. According to the police, apparently the two had been dating for some time and at the blind side of their families. Due to the panic situation in the region, particularly in Sekondi-Takoradi, some passengers are abandoning taxi cabs for commercial mini-buses (trotro) for fear of being kidnapped.

The police said even though they had increased patrols, members of the public who found suspicious persons around them raised alarm, accusing people they did not know of being kidnappers and those missing as kidnapped.

There were other reports of all edged kidnapping last weekend.  The police recorded what they described as false kidnapping alarms at Kansaworodo, Takoradi Market Central, Ajoa, Tarkwa Nsuaem and Elubo, particularly against Nigerians. The Western Regional Police Command said almost all district and divisional commands were inundated with cases of suspected kidnapping, even in situations where young ladies sneaked out of their homes to visit male friends without permission. In Takoradi, a lady who accepted a lift from a private vehicle driver to the city centre claimed she was being kidnapped because the driver was driving too fast and ordered him to stop.

After getting down, she called a radio station and claimed she had almost been kidnapped.
Again, a woman who claimed she was released after being kidnapped in Takoradi for ritual purposes had her husband send a voice recording to a Takoradi-based radio station to narrate the ordeal of the wife. Joy fm carried out a story on Tuesday where a lady confirmed that some men tried kidnaping her in Takoradi.

The Kwesimintsim District Police Command rescued three young men in a taxi cab from being lynched after they were accused by some young ladies at Ajoa, a community near Kwesimintsim, for attempting to kidnap them.  The Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Mr. Redeemer Vincent Dedjoe, told the Daily Graphic that the situation was not the best and that the command had put measures in place, as it took every report seriously.
“We have intensified patrols and if anybody suspects or sees some strangers in his community, he should report to the police. We have patrol teams that will be deployed immediately.

“If the community apprehends any suspect too, it should hand him over to the police and not take the law into its own hands,” DCOP Dedjoe said, warning that “if people can just shout and point at people, accusing them of kidnapping, then the entire society will not be safe”. The police commander appealed to the media not to be in a rush to be the first to report, saying: “You should try and verify; we are here to clarify issues to ensure public safety.”

A Nigerian evangelist resident in the Western Region, Pastor King James says he’s ashamed to be a Nigerian after a Nigerian man (Samuel Wilis) alleged to be the main person behind the kidnaping of the three ladies in Takoradi. Speaking to Empire FM’s Emmanuel Ohene Gyan, evangelist James bemoaned how the reputation of Nigerians in Ghana sunk low as a result of Wilis’ alleged involvement in the disappearance of the three girls.

“In fact, as I am talking to you psychologically I am confused and not myself. There’s a lot of things going through my mind right now. I was telling a friend…that I feel like leaving Ghana because it has come to the extent that wherever place you go they look at you with that bad eye even when you are not the person who has done it.“The shame that you are a Nigerian…that name Nigeria. That’s my problem”. The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection has also added her voice by charging the police to up the ante in unmasking the culprits behind the kidnapping. Madam Cynthia Morrison said she is in a “panic mood” and the onus lies on the security agencies to restore confidence in the public. Meanwhile fifteen persons suspected to be behind the kidnapping of the three young women in the Western Region have been rounded up and brought to Accra.

This kidnaping news is not the best news for the country following news of some high profile murders recently and it’s good news that a team of investigators from the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) are in the country, assisting the Ghana Police Service to search for the three girls kidnapped in the Sekondi/Takoradi metropolis.

The earlier this is resolved and the fear and panic vanishes the better it will be for our tourism for both domestic and international tourists. I believe no tourists will wish to take a tour in Sekondi/Takoradi metropolis at this time for fear of being kidnapped. Any tourists in that part of the country would have cut short his/her tour and left. This would also not help hoteliers since there was also news of some residents ransacking a hotel in search of some suspected Nigerian Kidnappers. These kinds of mob attack are not also helping the situation we find ourselves in. we must allow the police to handle the situation.

It is really a bad time to be a Nigerian living in Ghana and there seems to be some growing hatred towards Nigerians and at the mention of being a Nigerian, people begin being cautious. Some have called for the deportation of Nigerians. The Ghana Immigration Services says they will not hesitate to deport foreigners involved in criminal activities.  However, must we also conclude that the presence of Nigerians is bad for Ghana?  Can the activities of some few unscrupulous criminal lead to the conclusion that all Nigerians are alleged kidnappers? The answer is a big NO.

Ghana and Nigerian have enjoyed a very good relationship for many years now. In an interview with the finder, The Nigerian Ambassador Ademola Oluseyi Onafookan said that Nigerian investment in Ghana has now soared to well over US$2 billion, with a strong concentration in the banking, insurance, petroleum and real estate sectors. He said that investments in the informal trade sector could also be amounting to another few billions of dollars. He added that Ghana still remains Nigeria’s largest trade partner and favourite investment hub in the West African sub-region. Ghana imports the largest share of all Nigerian oil exports in the West African sub-region. Likewise, many Nigerian banks are now trading in Ghana, thereby making the Ghanaian banking sector more competitive. Currently, there are seven Nigerian banks operating in Ghana. These include United Bank of Africa (UBA), First Atlantic Bank, Zenith Bank, and Access Bank. In the insurance sector, Equity Assurance, Regency Alliance and NEM Insurance are all Nigerian firms operating strongly on the Ghanaian market. African Petroleum (AP), Oando and So Energy are other Nigerian companies operating in the Ghanaian petroleum sector.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to / Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901. Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.  Follow FoReal HR Services on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter for cutting edge HR solutions and your people management strategies. 

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