A group bearing the name “Upper East Youth Movement” has issued a warning to politicians, traditional authorities and religious leaders that their statuses as ‘public figures’ will change into ‘public enemies’ if they interfere in an ongoing criminal case involving three members of the Upper East Regional Hospital’s staff.
The three accused persons— Fasilat Raheem, the hospital’s drug storekeeper, Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy, and Raymond Asoke, a driver at the same facility— are standing trial at a Circuit Court in the region’s capital, Bolgatanga, for massive thefts of government drugs at the hospital.
The warning, issued strongly by the group during a demonstration, did not happen in a vacuum.
It was prompted by “intelligence” that some public figures, led by politicians, were scheming to get the accused persons exonerated.
“We wish to state that we are fully aware that our society is full of people whose direct and indirect actions willfully contribute to the promotion of crimes. These individuals and groups exert their power and influence on the police to compromise you to lower the hand of proper investigation and prosecution of suspects just to promote their self-seeking agenda which, in most cases, is very detrimental to the general well-being of society as effective law enforcement and justice delivery get drowned.
“For this reason, we wish to appeal with all humility to all these powerful and influential men and women in society especially our politicians, traditional and religious leaders who are fond of meddling and peddling influence to bend the curves of true and proper investigations and prosecution of cases to, in the name of the development of our deprived region, stay away from this serious case,” said the group in a statement read at the end of the demonstration by one of its leading members, Bismark Adongo Ayorogo.
Continuing, the group affirmed: “We must be quick to add that this Movement will not hesitate to publicly name and shame any politician, traditional or religious leader that interferes in this stolen medication case.”
A Media Without Borders investigation, conducted by the author of this report, exposed a drug- shoplifting cartel, leading to the arrests of the three hospital personnel by the Ghana Police Service in the Upper East Region in August, 2023.
It was observed during the months-long investigation that stolen drugs were often packed at night from the hospital’s stores into private vehicles, then taken to a near-abandoned building outside the hospital premises and hidden there before they were transported to Tamale, about two hours’ drive from Bolgatanga, for resale in the Northern Region’s capital.
Dubbed “A Peaceful Solidarity Walk”, the demonstration saw members of the group, some of whom were leaders of civil society organisations, carry placards aloft through the main streets of the region’s capital, Bolgatanga, on Friday, 18 August 2023.
The placards— printed in black, red and bold letters— conveyed three themes: anger, appreciation and appeal.
Anger against the ‘peddlers’ (the accused persons) and the ‘meddlers’ (the interfering public figures). Appreciation to Media Without Borders, for undertaking the investigation, and the Ghana Police Service, for arresting the culprits. Appeal to both agencies to help save more lives— and more millions belonging to the state— by doing more.
The weather was pretty good. The sun was kept waiting behind the clouds as a cold wind, which came to lodge in the region the previous day in the company of a heavy downpour, was not due to hand in its ‘room key’ and check out until noon.
“They must rot in jail”, fumed one placard.
Another one screamed: “Stop the self-destruction now”.
“Women are mothers, not thieves” emphasised yet another.
One of the boards seethed: “The rot in our regional hospital is too much”.
And this one: “Stealing from the sick is murder”.
Some other placards read: “Bravo! Media Without Borders”; “Bravo! Ghana Police in Bolga”; “We appreciate and celebrate Media Without Borders”; “Ghana Police do your work without fear of favour” and “Widen your investigative net to cover all drug stores” among others.
Find other members of the cartel— Upper East Youth Movement urges police
The peaceful rally ended at the regional police headquarters in the capital, where the group also demanded that the police go after the other persons suspected to be involved in the shoplifting of the hospital’s medications and prosecute them.
“We are also here to urge you, the police, to cast the net of your investigations widely and dig deeper to cover all persons suspected to be accomplices and, of course, aiding and abetting both the demand and supply sides of this suspected criminal enterprise and network.
“Management team of the hospital and drug stores in and outside the region, especially those issuing invoices and official receipts to aid this illicit medication business, should all be properly investigated and prosecuted,” said the statement.
The group also highlighted the impact of drug shortages on healthcare delivery at the hospital, saying thefts of medications had led to “avoidable and preventable deaths” at the facility.
Wrapping up, the group said: We wish to conclude by sending a message to the good people of the Upper East Region, that the era of our perception that the police cannot be trusted to do a good job in cases like this is gone. The swift action of the police in this hospital medication theft has really rekindled and renewed ours hopes, trust and confidence in them. Therefore, let us support and partner them to fight crimes at all levels including our communities and other public institutions for a crime-free society and the betterment of our beloved region.”
The statement was signed by five leading members of the movement: Gbenga Solomon George, Timothy Aposiyine Nsoh, Amoah Moses Baba, Asigri Cynthia Vera, Rebecca Abegama Avoole and Bismark Adongo Ayorogo.
Below is a signed copy of the 4-page statement:
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org