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Police arrest UNIPASS protesters at Nima

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey

The police have arrested 13 members of a group for embarking on a demonstration at Nima in Accra without authorisation.

The group, known as the Coalition of National Zongo Political Groupings, was also accused of flouting the ban on social gatherings and the physical distancing protocol aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The demonstrators were protesting against the replacement of the paperless port and electronic clearance systems, spearheaded by West Blue and GCNET, with a new system, the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS), also known as Uni-pass.

Blocked

Led by the Chairman of the coalition, Alhaji Yahaya Alhassan, the demonstrators carried placards with various inscriptions expressing their views against the Unipass.

Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: "Zongo unite for West Blue", "Declining West Blue is an attack on womanhood" and "Corruption".

They were blocked by the police from marching from the Nima Roundabout through the Nima Highway to the private residence of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

A team of policemen drawn from the Accra Regional Police Command Operations Unit and the Nima Divisional Command, led by the Accra Regional Police Operations Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Kwesi Ofori, mounted roadblocks on the Nima Highway as early as 5 a.m. last Tuesday when it had a hint about the demonstration.

Hot chase


When attempts to persuade the group to rescind its decision failed, the police attempted to arrest the members, leading to many of them taking to their heels and abandoning their placards.

After a hot chase, 13 of them, including the chairman, were arrested, while some journalists who did not have any proper form of identification were also picked up during the melee.

Charge

ACP Ofori told journalists that those arrested would be charged for defying the Public Order Law and the ban on social gathering, since the demonstration led to a mass gathering and attracted a number of onlookers.

"The police will not countenance any public demonstration and other activities that may call for mass gathering," he said.

Statement

A copy of a statement signed by the chairman of the coalition, which was made available to the media, said the gains of the paperless port system had made a positive impact on revenue generation over the years through the work of West Blue Consulting Limited and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), and that was what the country needed.

It said the new system, which had proved to be inferior and unable to operate the paperless port system under the current reforms, was a selfish agenda being executed to satisfy the specific political and ethnic business interests of the orchestrators, who were key government appointees.