Gladly sharing Francis Kwaku Egu's experience. Things could certainly be done better @ CEPS and it would be nice when the value of time is recognized. Thanks for sharing, Francis.
The Custom, Excise and Preventive Services (CEPS) have over the years contributed immensely for revenue generation into the national coffers. Officers of CEPS usually work under extremely dangerous conditions in attempts to curb smuggling. There were several occasions when this august organisation has exceeded its revenue collection targets for the year and the hard working officers must be hailed for good work done. This glowing feats notwithstanding this institution is been drawn into disrepute by some few bad elements within its rank and file. This is thus creating a very bad image for what could have been a glorious organisation.
Sending items through the unaccompanied luggage system ran by some airlines could be a cost effective way for Ghanaians abroad to send items home to their families. However few people who have tried this service had declared it a no-go-area thanks to the attitude of some Custom officers at AFGO warehouse at Kotoka. In fact CEPS operates a laborious luggage searching and releasing system at the AFGO that usually leave passengers with a lot of battering and that was exactly happened to me when I decided to use this noble service.
Going back home on holidays after some years in sub zero- temperatures could be quite exciting. The sun is always present to welcome you and make you feel like going bare. What about the smiley faces that great you at Kotoka and those of every one you meet on the street. These cheerful smiles are always with you till you bid everyone farewell and fly into the unknown. Till you fly to the more organised world where Custom officers regard you as a customer and treat you as such. Where there is only sign that says ‘nothing to declare’ and whim! Off you go without any harassment.
The family and friends will always expect some few shining things from you. In fact it soothes the heart to know that these smooth and exquisite things give them joy and inner glows that take away the gloom enveloping them as well as many others in the larger society. A gloom that brings distant looks in faces that are oblivion to life surrounding them. The shining things bring them joy that had eluded them all these years you were apart from them. The cherished ones wait and yearn for such home comings. In some homes kete and borbor dancers go into frenzy to herald the return of the voyager. The special ones usually waited and craved longer if they are unfortunate to have their kith and kin living in Obama’s country. You wonder what keep some of these guys so long there. Some people think it’s the food; others believe its meat- ham burgers, meat balls, steaks, Donna kebabs etc. Gluttons!
The desire of bringing some sunshine into the lives of the dear ones could motivate you to go the extra mile by taking excess luggage and that was what I did. In order not to waste the pound bills which they will need so much while I am with them, I decided to use the unaccompanied luggage system. My trauma began when I had to pick them up them from the AFGO warehouse. I was told I needed the services of a clearing agent in order to get the luggage. Obtaining the services of the self styled clearing agent added fuel to an already burning fire.
Apart from this vampire sucking my blood he lacked what it takes to move the inspection officer from his throne in the Customs office to the ware house for the inspection. When the inspection officer was finally cajoled to descend from his throne after some palm greasing and praise singing (nana o nana, ahoofe, abrantie etc) then hell broke loose. The nosy officer flipped and flipped and flipped and flipped through every single item I bought for the loved ones. Flipping hell!!!!! Just some few days ago these scavengers turned my luggage inside out on my arrival and so they did to every single passenger that arrived that day. Is that all they are paid to do, sniffing through travellers’ belongings? Human- sniffer -dogs.
The whole process of examining luggage at AFGO warehouse was a bit out of touch with the modern world. Not a single scanner was present in the warehouse. Officers virtually sifted through every individual luggage mechanically. Considering the volume of baggage and cargoes that pass through the cargo section, this task could be daunting. There were so much congestions and unnecessary delays which caused unnecessary human sufferings. The mechanical way of nosing through peoples’ personal effects and cargoes slows down every one - businessmen, investors, students, tourist, holiday makers etc.
I heard the situation is bleaker at Tema Harbour. Guys who shipped their cars and other items through this port sang dirges and songs of lamentations after clearing them. They sang dirges about untold hardship and human degradation going on at the harbour. Why do officers of CEPS take so much delight in visiting pains on people? Who knows? Perhaps all these man induced delays and deliberate tortoise pace of doing things are perfect smoke screens. Smoke screens some could hide behind to fill very deep pockets. All these persecution and abuse of citizen’s rights are going on at our ports of entry yet the politicians are not bothered. Anyway why will they be when these human woes serve as bigger smoke screens for some of them (the politician) to fill bottomless pockets?
Searching of bags
During the several trips I made to the AFGO yard I bumped into this Custom officer (name with held) who was a former next door room- mate at Legon. This guy read BSc Admin at Legon. I believe there are other scholars and talented guys working with CEPS. I hope CEPS is not wasting these talents by letting them bury their heads in ladies’ hand bags and suit cases at Kotoka, Elubo and Afloa. I hope these noble guys have not been turned into human sniffer dogs and sniffing through ladies’ hand bags on daily basis.
Its time CEPS outsource the duty of nosing through ladies’ hand bags to private companies and move these able bodied officers to areas where they are most needed. For instance they could be drafted into the police services to help combat the arm robbery menace. The police are finding that job quite challenging and needed assistance. These are strong men with muscles like that of Hulk Hogan and all they use that for is to attack the luggage of innocent travellers.
The seasoned smugglers are not so dumb to cart their goods through Customs manned posts because they know the flippers will always be there. The professional one use foot paths littered across the borders over night and always find a way of getting them to shops in Makola. In the same vain the Dubai and China traders will always find a way to out smart these officers. In the end it’s our loving mothers whose dignities are thrown to dogs by these scavengers who empty the contents of their baggage in the full glare of everyone. Why should majority of law abiding travellers suffer because of some few greedy minority?
Francis Kwaku Egu, UK