A summit on marine policing aimed at establishing a Volta Regional Command has been held in Kete Krachi in the Oti Region.
The summit, on the theme "Proactive Lake Patrol", brought together stakeholders from the Ghana Police Service, the Attorney General's Department, the Judiciary, chiefs, district assemblies and social welfare workers.
The establishment of a third Marine Police Command in the Volta Region after the Western and Eastern commands in Sekondi-Takoradi and Tema, respectively, is currently at the pilot stage.
The summit was held with sponsorship from International Justice for Mission (IJM), a global organisation that protects people in poverty from violence, which has been working with the government since 2015 and has made huge strides in the area of the prevention of human and especially child trafficking on the Volta Lake.
The Director of Operations for IJM, Madam Anita Budu, said the organisation went into the area of child trafficking when it first came into Ghana because at the time the mission felt that it was a big problem.
She indicated that even though there had been other interventions, the law enforcement piece was needed to see to a more sustainable change.
She emphasised that there was the need to strengthen the justice system to deter criminals in the area of human and child trafficking.
"For human trafficking to come to an end, there is the need to enforce the Human Trafficking Act," she stated, adding that people continued to engage in the crime because they knew they could get away with it.
She further explained that the IJM focused on victim rescue with the police and in collaboration with the media, to ensure that such crimes were brought to the public to serve as a deterrent.
She said from 2015, the IJM in collaboration with the government had rescued over 300 victims, while 189 suspects had been arrested, with 38 convictions.
The Oti Regional Police Commander, DCOP Charles Domanban, said there had been collaboration between the police in the region and the IJM, where the police had assisted in the handling of child trafficking cases.
He disclosed that for 2021 alone, 36 rescues were recorded, while eight child trafficking cases were recorded. Out of the number, four suspects were sent to court for prosecution and one person was convicted. He said four of the cases were still under investigation.
"With the coming in of the Marine Police, they will be assisting the IJM in a very professional way, because they are going to patrol the Volta Lake to handle criminal cases such as human and child trafficking, as well as issues concerning drugs and other crimes committed within the Volta Lake," he gave an assurance.
He also disclosed that the IJM had assisted the police with training programmes and materials such as computers. The mission, he said, also renovated the Kete Krachi Police Barracks.
He, therefore, appealed to the IJM for continued support in the new area of marine policing.
The Officer in charge of Operations, Western Regional Marine Police, DSP Foster Komla Kotoku, stressed on the importance of the establishment of the Volta Lake Command of the Marine Police, which would have its headquarters at Akosombo.
That, he said, was because there was currently zero policing on the Volta Lake and the situation had contributed to the crime of human and child trafficking on the Volta Lake.
He said the marine police would engage in proactive lake patrols, which would be done on pilot basis, which could not be achieved by one agency. "We need to collaborate with all agencies," he stressed.
A State Attorney, Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice, also a Focal Person for the Prosecution of Human Trafficking in Volta/Oti Region, Mr Andrews Dodzi Adugu, emphasised the important role of the media in the fight against human and child trafficking.
He, however, reminded the media not to publish the names and locations of survivors or victims of human and child trafficking, as that would be against the law. He called on all stakeholders to rather expose and not to protect criminals and offenders of human and child trafficking.
Marine policing has existed in Ghana from as far back as 1916 when it was called the Ghana Water Police and established in Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region to give support to maritime operations against external aggression and piracy.
In 2010, when Ghana discovered oil and gas on the western coast of the country, there arose the need to set up a system to protect the facility.
So the existing Marine Police was established in June 2013 to perform that task and to also provide maritime intelligence for the Ghana Police Service.