Sports Journalists Left Shock At Use Of Their Names….. As Number Of Smuggled Individuals Increase
The Herald’s continuous investigations into the visa racketeering and human trafficking issue by officials of the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC), suggest that, culprits gave out the names and other details of Ghanaian sports journalists to the travelers, before smuggling them to Australia under the guise of attending the Commonwealth Games.
The Herald since Monday, has been inundated with phone calls from several sports journalists, who denied being on the trip, although they were made to submit their names to GOC for visa and accreditations to Gold Coast – Australia, where the Commonwealth Games is taking place.
While, some said they were unaware their names had been submitted to the GOC, most of them said, they were made to submit their names for visa and accreditation, but were never called and told why they could not be granted entry into Australia to cover the games.
A lot of them were, however, aware of colleague sport journalists, who have made it to the games under the sponsorship of the GOC. There are reports that, Ghana smuggled more than 200 people to the games, with the aim having them live and work there illegally.
Most of the sport journalists who called in reaction to the publication of a list bearing their names by this paper on Monday, agreed the GOC officials might have gotten people to impersonate them by forging birth certificates, letterheads from their media institutions and acquired passports and visa for the trip.
Nathaniel Obeng, Alex Affum and Listowell Amposah of Atinka Media Village, told The Herald they have always been in Accra and have not travelled to Australia, let alone deported. Benedict Dankwa Owusu and Modestus Zame; journalist and Camera Technician respectively at the Multimedia Group Limited, also denied travelling to Australia.
Raymond Yeboah of MoonLite FM and Aristo Dotse of Soccernet, also denied making the trip, although they had applied to the GOC for accreditation and visa. Aristo Dotse in particular, thought it was impossible for anyone to assume his identity and be smuggled to Australia under the cloak of journalist.
Romeo Oduro of UTV; part of the Despite Group of Companies owners of Peace FM, is also in Ghana, yet his name has been captured as one of the sports journalists on the trip.
So far, it has been confirmed that two journalists; Isaac Ofori and Francis Aggrey of Angel Broadcasting Network and Sports Fila Newspaper respectively, are in Australia to cover the games.
Interestingly, they are said to be in detention camp awaiting deportation to Ghana, having been arrested together with the non-journalists smuggled into that country.
Meanwhile, the GOC, has suspended two of its officials; Hussein Addy and Christine Ashley, for allegedly masterminding the inputting of names of the 50 fake journalists who travelled to Gold Coast, Australia.
The two are said to be staff of the National Sports Authority. They have been sent back to Accra according to media report. While Hussein Addy is said to have been arrested, Christine Ashley is walking free, although she is reported to have smuggled five persons into Australia.
Interestingly, a letter written by the President of GOC, Ben Nunoo Mensah, in which he specifically implicated Hussein Addy and Christine Ashley, as having tempered with the accreditation process and sneaking individuals, who were not eligible to be in Australia for the Commonwealth Games, also claimed that “five other officials, who have been mentioned in the preliminary investigation, will also be interrogated and handled through their various organizations’’.
This implies that, aside the GOC officers; other organizations, also have their officials involve in causing Ghana, this international embarrassment.
Strangely, Ben Nunoo Mensah’s letter, did not mention the names of those officials and the institutions they belong to.
But the minority in Parliament, has rejected a move by the government to refer the matter to the National Security for investigation.
According to the Minority, the incident has tarnished the image of Ghana globally, and must be looked into by an independent commission of enquiry pursuant to article 278 of the Constitution of Ghana.
In a statement signed by a Ranking Member of the Communications Committee of Parliament, Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini, they insisted that an investigation by the National security will not be deemed credible by both the international and local community.
They further stated that the individuals involved in the matter must be named and the full extent of the matter ascertained.
The statement reads: “the Minority in Parliament strongly rejects Government’s attempt to use National Security to engage in yet another cover up over the Commonwealth Games Visa Scandal”.
It said “we reiterate our demand that the Commonwealth Games Visa Scandal which has lowered Ghana’s image abroad and brought considerable shame to our good name as widely reported by the international press must be investigated by an independent commission of enquiry pursuant to Article 278 of the Constitution of Ghana”.
“This is the only process by which the Akufo-Addo Government can be accorded any credit by the local and international community to be genuinely concerned about fighting the numerous cases of corruption in his Government”, the statement released yesterday, said adding “Ghanaians have not and cannot forget how the National Security was used in a clumsy effort to cover up the “BOST Contaminated Fuel Saga” only a few months back”.
“Our demand and that of many Ghanaians is that President Akufo-Addo must immediately halt this National Security charade and appoint credible persons with the requisite expertise to conduct a public enquiry into this matter”.
According to the Minority group, “the overwhelming expectations following this scandal that has dented Ghana’s image and the reputation of Ghanaian journalists are that: we need to know who the public officials involved in this are. Who are their collaborators? How deep is the rot? Is there any Ministerial complicity especially at the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration? What will be the recommendations needed to forestall this in the future as there are quite a number of international tournaments on the horizon”.
It said “we take note of Ghana’s abysmal performance so far at the games which reveals what the priority of our officials were ahead of the games. Clearly, while other countries were focused on preparing their athletes to lift high the flags of their respective countries, our officials were busily recruiting fake journalists in a shameful unpatriotic moneymaking scam”.
The Minority appealed to “President Akufo-Addo to exercise good leadership and salvage what is left of Ghana’s sinking image abroad. A national security report on this matter would be discredited and shall not be well received by the local and international community. We must also not lose sight of the effect this would have on genuine visa applicants to tournaments of this nature in the future”, adding the world is watching us. Let’s do the right thing, Mr. President”.