The three suspects arrested so far in connection with thefts of government drugs at the Upper East Regional Hospital stood before the presiding judge of the Circuit Court in Bolgatanga on Monday, 7 August 2023.
Each of them pleaded not guilty.
Their lawyers fought hard to secure bail for them.
But the argument waged on the other side by the police prosecution team, on the grounds that their release would obstruct further state investigations needed to track the buyers of the stolen drugs, prevailed.
Consequently, His Honour Sumaila Amadu remanded all three suspects into police custody for two weeks.
And the case was adjourned to Tuesday, 22 August 2023.
They are standing criminal trial for stealing, conspiracy and abetment of stealing.
Public complaints about chronic drug shortages at the Upper East Regional Hospital had prompted Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti to investigate the cause of the shortages.
After a year of monitoring that started in 2022, he finally uncovered a hiding place where a cartel was keeping tons of assorted medicines stolen from the hospital.
The drugs are supplied by Ghana’s Ministry of Health (MoH). And boldly inscribed on their boxes is a warning: NOT FOR SALE.
He observed that the drugs were normally moved from the hospital at night to that location and taken by road before dawn to the Northern Region, about two hours’ drive away, for resale.
On Thursday, 4 August 2023, Adeti gained access into the hiding place. He found 34 boxes placed on one another inside the building.
The boxes contained all kinds of medicines produced in March 2023 and were due to expire in 2025.
The following day, he involved the Divisional Police Command in Bolgatanga to effect the arrests of the perpetrators.
The perpetrators had sensed they were being monitored. And to avoid being found out, they had decided to relocate the latest stolen batch of drugs.
Their next move was known to Adeti.
He went ahead of them to lurk inside a deserted chalet, close to the unclean structure where the stolen drugs were kept.
Before Adeti left for the place, it was arranged that a police team would stand by at their headquarters and he would call the team when the perpetrators had started moving the boxes out of the structure.
When the sun had set and the skies had become so dark that there was not enough light to see properly, a driver, who would be identified shortly as Raymond Asoke and employee of the hospital, drove onto the weedy premises of the hiding place.
Upon arrival, he opened the boot of the car, went into the building and started packing the medicines into the car.
He did not know he was being watched and filmed.
But a female dog, wild because she had a litter of puppies inside the chalet where Adeti was, knew.
A few minutes later, the police hit the road, racing to the place as pre-arranged.
The dog was standing in front of a doorpost which had lost its door, staring at Adeti. Wild because of its puppies, it began to growl and wag its tail in a growing rage.
In an attempt to get closer for a clearer filming, Adeti unknowingly stepped on a piece of wood in the dark. The wood must have long fallen from the rotten ceiling of the abandoned structure.
The wood got broken under Adeti’s foot. And out of the chalet came a dry sound of crackling from the broken wood. The dog heard it and reacted immediately with an outburst of a ceaseless, deafening bark.
The frightened puppies joined their mother, yapping and moving backwards.
The bark in the dark reached the other dogs in the vicinity and incited them. Without knowing the cause of the original bark, they, too, joined in solidarity and passed it on to the other dogs in the next territory.
But the noise did not distract the busy driver. It did not seem to prompt him, either, until the police arrived and Adeti came out of the chalet.
As if by design, the driver was wearing a red shirt. The car he brought to the scene was red. And he was caught red-handed.
His arrest led to the capture of Fasilat Raheem, the hospital’s storekeeper who owns the red car and sent him to withdraw the drugs from the hiding place and relocate them.
The following day, the police also arrested Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy and wife of an administrator of a Ghana Health Service (GHS) regional health directorate, for her role in the scandal.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org