Nearly two-thirds of a year has passed since it was first reported that some unidentified persons had seized a young lady in Takoradi in exchange for a ransom. No sooner had the shocked inhabitants of the historic port city come to terms with the unusual disappearance, than they had to contend with more worrying news of the kidnapping of two teens by the same as yet unidentified clique.
It had been thought at the time, that this was an open and shut law and order situation, fitting perfectly into the purview of the Western Regional Police Command, who surely possessed the know-how and capacity to unravel it within reasonable time.
Alas, the holders of that view were wrong. Instead of a swift, laser-guided resolution of the crime, we have been served a cocktail of inefficiency, insensitivity and an overall lack of appreciation of the enormity of the problem.
Three teenage girls belonging to three families have thus been held captive for the greater part of a year to the anguish and pain of their loved ones.
A pronouncement that the Police have treated this matter with non-charlance would pass for the understatement of the year.
After an inexplicable period of delay, a suspect in the shape of Nigerian, Samuel Udoetuk, was taken into custody to assist with investigations. Udoetuk has, according to the same Police, done anything but assist them since his arrest. He has reportedly only provided wrong leads on many occasions and sent them running in circles most of the time.
This only followed his re-arrest after escaping from Police custody under unexplained circumstances. Only today, a Takoradi Court sentenced him to a total of 36 months imprisonment on charges completely unrelated to the substantive case of the kidnapping of the three girls. The Police officers who were alleged to have aided his escape effort, are yet to face any disciplinary measure, or at least there is no word on that for now.
The dismal showing of the Western Regional Police prompted calls for intervention from higher levels of the Police Service. The Police Administration in turn responded by placing the case under the control of its elite investigative division, the Criminal Investigations Department.
If the CID’s takeover of the case had quickly instilled confidence in the public that the saga was near its end, that expectation has long given way to deep skepticism and doubt as more drama and less action has followed since.
Barely a month ago, COP Tiwaa Addo Danquah, Director General of the Police CID, whose meteoric rise through the Police hierarchy has raised a few eye brows, boldly declared that her outfit had zeroed in on the whereabouts of the kidnapped girls and were preparing to rescue them.
Approximately zero action has been seen in the intervening period, leaving many to wonder whether the CID Chief, was merely playing on the emotions of the girls’ families and that of the Ghanaian public. The question has inevitably arisen as to why a senior Police officer of Mrs. Addo Danquah’s standing , would speak so clearly on a matter and yet fail to deliver so spectacularly?
The drama surrounding this case took yet another turn, when the Daily Guide newspaper published early last week, that the girls had in fact been rescued and kept safely at an undisclosed medical facility for treatment. The proximity of the Kokomlemle-based daily to the corridors of power, would have convinced many a skeptic that it was on to something.
The Police however moved to disperse any semblance of hope that could be invested in that bit of news, when they issued a statement distancing themselves from any such rescue. There was of course no word on whether they still had the girls in their line of sight and were in the know about their location.
Having to endure yet another round of roller coaster emotion proved too much for the family of the unfortunate girls to bear. They descended on the Police headquarters last week,demanding answers to the many nagging questions surrounding this case. Beyond lame assurances of efforts to retrieve the girls, no concrete outcome could emanate from the end of the Police. A May 2nd demonstration scheduled by the affected families and their sympathizers appears set to take place in Accra even as it remains doubtful that it would have any bearing on the case.
The problem with this index case is not so much the length of time it is taking to unravel, as it is about the seeming ineptitude that has attended its handling. In the period following the abduction of Ruth Love Quayson, Priscilla Blessing Bentum and Priscilla Mantebea Korankye, there has been something of an explosion in kidnapping cases with three of such cases cracked within a space of a month alone by the police including one involving an Indian business man in Kumasi only last week.
The same Police Service that has acted with dispatch and achieved success in recent cases appears unwilling to attach similar importance to this one which predates them all. It is known that every case is different even if parallels can be drawn in some instances. A cold case spanning many years may be deeply troubling for affected parties, but it is not unusual.
The real agony here lies in the feet dragging, false hopes, misleading claims and unprofessionalism that is written all over the Takoradi case. The Ghana Police Service remains our best hope for the maintenance of law and order and deserve our support. That support is not to be taken for granted as it must be earned through measurable performance and a clear appreciation of their brief.
These key ingredients have been missing in the case of the Takoradi girls and public confidence is fast waning in their ability or willingness to solve it. It would help if they considered the suffering and pain of the victims’ families as well as the disappointment they feel and acted in a way that gives real assurance to these families that their very best personnel and resources have been deployed to find the girls.
The families await news of the rescue of the girls with bated breath, but until that news filters in, they ought to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Updates on progress made in the case must reach them in a timely manner, in so far as it does not compromise the safety of the girls or undermine any operation that may be mounted to achieve same. The plight of the girls and the anxiety of their families must not become the subject of Police PR spectacles that yield no tangible results.
This is the least that can be demanded of an institution in whose hands we have placed our peace and security. At the moment, they are making heavy weather of the situation.