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Scandal at kotoka international airport

Source: ghanaweb.com Columnist: Mends, Ebo

On November 22nd, 2013, I wrote a piece published on Ghanaweb titled=”Want to be a millionare in Ghana?

It was my contribution to the debate on corruption at various levels of the Ghanaian society. On the same day Kofi Ata, who writes from Cambridge, UK, also posted an article on Ghost names on the payroll of Ghana’s premier teaching hospital, Korle-Bu, titled Ghost Names at Korle-Bu, heads must roll, see that link here as well ( =”Link”) Both pieces attracted very few comments, in fact, one person who called himself “Mixed Breed” commented by saying he was looking forward to seeing how many people will comment on my piece. Although some readers forwarded my piece to various authorities at home – some to the education ministry and Kofi Ata promising to send one to the Presidency. On January 22nd 2014, one Henry Kpakpo Allotey had a piece captioned “Rot At the Kumasi Rent Control Office (see link =”click here to see ” target=”). The overall response to all these three articles, specifically portraying the corrupt nature of the institutions mentioned was minimal. I wonder why.

It should be obvious to most readers on Ghanaweb that, issues that attract most attention are those that are sensational, especially those from writers who clearly take one side of our nation’s political divide by unambiguously stating their political positions, criticizing one political persuasion and making a positive case for their side. The issues that get our juices flowing are the NPP-NDC debates on topics of corruption, mismanagement etc, debating who is more corrupt, who is the devil and who is the angel.

Without criticizing those who choose to see issues in Ghana through the political prism of NPP-NDC, and thus focusing on such polemics, important as that may be to them, I prefer to contribute my quota on specific corruption practices in our dear nation. I try to avoid apportioning political blame because I have concluded, rather sadly, that both NPP and NDC supporters and operatives have placed our nation in such unnecessary partisan mood that nothing can be discussed dispassionately. I only hope I am not missing something more important. I leave readers to make their own judgments.
I have one for you in this piece which I will describe as a scandal worthy of attention.

Recently, a colleague of mine, Ghana-born naturalized American, travelled to Ghana for a 2-week vacation. On her arrival at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), she was asked to produce her “yellow card”, as a proof that she was immunized against Yellow Fever. Of course, she did not have any such card that will attest to any vaccination, because when she applied for her entry visa at the Ghana Consulate here in New York, nobody told her she needed Yellow Fever vaccination as a condition for her entry into Ghana. So obviously she was shocked when the “official” at the airport asked for the aforementioned documentation. When my colleague said she did not have it, the airport officials demanded and got a payment of $20 (US) but issued no receipt to cover this transaction. This colleague of mine, normally a feisty lady, a nurse who brooks no nonsense, decided that having travelled for almost 12 hours to Accra and very tired, she was in no mood to create any scene at the airport.

While waiting for my colleague to return to the United States to show me the documentary proof of this sordid activity, I sought collaboration from another friend who had travelled several times to Ghana in the past few years to ascertain whether he had encountered such situation. My friend, also a naturalized US citizen, confirmed that he had seen it happen but never to him personally. He told me that these airport “officials” who do this, pick their targets. They mostly use facial expressions, body language and demeanor as clues for their nefarious activity.

My lady colleague returned to the US and I met her to see for myself (as they say in Ghana fii li fii li). I could not believe the extent of the corrupt and, without a doubt, criminal nature of this act. I yanked my smart phone and took pictures of the cover and the middle pages of the document.

Of course it is a Yellow card with the title “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis”. On page 2, in the column “Vaccination or Prophylaxis, which has 3 rows, Yellow is hand written in row 1 and Fever is written in row 2 (an immediate red flag, as if to say the person was being vaccinated against two separate diseases). Second column has the date of 10th January, 2014, (the date of my colleague’s arrival at the KIA); the third column is headed “Signature and Professional status of Supervising Clinician”. This column and all 3 rows had a stamp and signed. The stamp is that of “Director of Public Health”.

On page three, the first column is with the heading “Manufacturer and batch number of vaccine or prophylaxis.” In row one the name of the manufacturer is written as “STAMARIL” and batch number written as H5207 in row 2. Column three had “Certificate valid from: Until: and in the rows below the dates “20th Jan 2014 to 20th Jan 2024” were written. The fourth and final column had the heading “Official stamp of the administering centre”. Here in the rows below, stamped across is the following: PORT HEALTH CENTRE, KIA, ACCRA, GHANA.”
This is the issue; nowhere is the amount of $20.00 paid indicated. My colleague was never vaccinated. She was never asked to be vaccinated and no official receipt was issued as indicated earlier. No consent or declination forms were presented to her to sign.
The above act was committed by three individuals according to the narrative provided. An immigration officer, who was inspecting passports of foreign arrivals and asking the question whether one had a yellow fever vaccination. If one answered in the negative, the person was directed to two ladies – one standing by a booth and another inside the booth. When the traveler is ready to fork out the $20.00, the lady outside the booth then gives the money to one inside who prepares the this apparently fictitious document. The document, as written appears valid, except that no vaccination has been administered and the period indicated in it as the holder having immunity from yellow fever for 10 years is effectively false.

Whoever these officials are, just imagine the arrogance, the audacity and sheer impudence on the part of these public officials at our International Airport in extorting money from travelers without fear of any repercussions. Being an international airport, I am pretty sure KIA is crawling with all manner of security operatives. Are we to believe that all of these so-called eagle-eyed security operatives are oblivious to the happenings around them? Are they sleeping on the job? Or, like most corrupt practices in our society, they are part of this clique and therefore turning a proverbial blind eye?

If this was a legitimate undertaking, why did the Ghana Consulate in New York not state so officially as a requirement when the entry visa application was made? Why were receipts not issued so that we know for sure that money was going into public coffers?
I am sure some could argue that my colleague should have resisted and “fought” back by refusing to pay the money and when she paid should have insisted that the right things be done, including demanding receipts and insisting that the vaccination be given.
Folks this is our lot. This is just the tip of the corrupt iceberg lurking, this time not beneath the ocean, but staring us in our faces; hiding in plain sight. We all know public and private offices where official/formal/normal duties are performed only when monies are paid to such office staff. You refuse to pay and you will wait till thy kingdom come.

I have no way of knowing what political parties these airport officials belong to. And that is my point. We can continue to shout all we want about NPP this, NDC that. We, as a people, have become so corrupt that it does not matter which party is in power.
Please let me know after the debate as to which party is more corrupt than the other is settled. Until then, let me say this again: Look at yourself in the mirror, point an accusing finger and see how many fingers are pointing back at/to you. We are our own worst enemies!!!

I will be back at a later date with more.

Ebo Mends, New York

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