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Neo
24th June 2011, 05:53 PM
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The Lufthansa plane from Frankfurt arrived at the Kotoka International Airport on schedule at 7:30 in the evening. We got out of the plane and went through immigration and custom procedures. I headed immediately towards the exit door because my wife and my friend were waiting to take me home.

There were a lot of taxi drivers struggling aggressively for passengers. I neglected them because I knew there were people waiting for me. To my surprise they had not reached the airport. I was getting frustrated after waiting for thirty minutes. I told the driver who was pestering me to bring his taxi because I was eager to get to the transport yard and continue my journey to Kumasi.

He brought his taxi. Just as I was packing my bags into the booth of the taxi, my friend arrived with his vehicle. I therefore offloaded my bags. Another passenger took the chance. I recognised him because I talked briefly with him at Frankfurt Airport and I got to know that he was coming from the U.S.A, and we were all connecting the same flight to Accra. All his five bags went into the booth but he put the laptop and the video camera he was holding on the back seat and he left in the taxi. We waited a bit at the airport because I had a parcel for somebody who was on his way to the airport to collect it. Only goodness knows how many people come to the airport just to meet visitors with parcels for them from their loved ones abroad.

To the surprise of everyone, the man from the U.S. who had hired the taxi that should have taken me ran back to the airport weeping. According to him, the taxi stopped by the roadside and two men wielding guns forced themselves into the taxi. They took his bag containing his passport, money, keys, bank cards and very important documents and pushed him out of the taxi.

Many onlookers confirmed that this problem has persisted for a long time. At a point in time, taxi-related robbery centred on simple crimes where two men and a woman who are accomplices of the driver snatch mobile phones and money from the unlucky and unsuspecting person who joins the group in the taxi. The trend has changed considerably. Armed robbers posing as taxi drivers flock the airport to pick the newly-arrived and rob them big time.

Airport taxis worldwide are supposed to protect passengers and take them safely to their destinations. However, what certain taxi drivers do at Ghana's airport do not conform to internationally accepted standards and even standards of human behaviour. It is very easy to pose as a taxi driver at Ghana's airport. There are no security checks on the taxis that come to the airport. Any person who gets out of the airport is met by a swarm of taxi drivers while security officers look on. It is very difficult to determine who is a genuine taxi driver and who is not.

Each day, one or two persons fall victim to the evil machinations of such drivers. Some foreign visitors to Ghana have been victims of serious and violent crimes by robbers posing as taxi drivers. Some of these robberies have even resulted in deaths. Such unfortunate incidents undermine the fact that Ghana is a peaceful and problem-free country. Travellers are advised to keep a high level of vigilance outside the airport and at public places.

Armed robbery in general has persisted for a very long time. However, it almost disappeared when Rawlings PNDC came into power. They were able to stem the tide of armed robbery by instructing the myriad of policemen who went on day and night patrol to shoot suspected armed robbers on sight. It is believed that during and after the Rawlings regime, a lot of weapons went into the wrong hands. This partly explains the new wave of armed robbery in the country. There is also the general perception that Nigerian armed robbers are also involved and working with their Ghanaian counterparts.

There has been a security system in place where taxis operating at the airport are registered and allocated specific parking places. However, the security officers have completely neglected this precautionary measure. Consequently, taxis that are not registered at the airport enter the airport area, uncontrolled to pick passengers. There are also private car-hire services available at the airport, but their operations are not properly and strictly regulated. Many travellers don't even know they exist or are afraid to use them. There is no notice at the airport which points to particular security personnel to contact in the event of being robbed by a taxi driver.

It is the opinion of many Ghanaians that our country really needs a new airport. We have heard talk of this since the Acheampong regime. This need has even become greater now with our new status as an oil producing nation. A new airport will be built in such a way that security for travellers, workers, etc will be improved. There will be enough space for everybody. There will be enough space for clearly marked “airport taxis” so that it is not the taxi drivers haggling with you but officially approved taxis in a queue taking passengers in order as they come. This later suggestion can be employed even without a new airport. The taxi drivers' unions will work closely with the airport authorities so that they will know departure and arrival times and be prepared. At the drop down area, taxis shall not be allowed to mix with private cars and passengers shall not be allowed to board taxis from this area.

A system must be put in place to register all taxis operating at the airport again and be issued with identity cards. The drivers in question must be restricted to a particular place and overseen by at least two security officers. Anyone who needs a taxi must first contact a security officer who will in turn select a taxi driver for the newly-arrived. Dear reader, what do you also suggest?




Source: Stephen Atta Owusu