Security Services (re-post from March 29, 2013 of private blog)

Ghana UN PeacekeepersMy friend broke down why the police in Ghana are not highly regarded.   He explained that most people who want to go into the security services follow this order:

1) Armed services (Army, Air Force, Navy): Ghana provide United Nations peacekeeping troops for foreign missions.  Turns out that an enlisted man earns $60 per day (110 cedi); thus, a 6 month tour of duty in some God-forsaken place can be quite lucrative to a Ghanaian soldier (21,6000 cedis).  (Recall that I pay my workers around 400-500 cedis per month.)  Furthermore, a higher ranking soldier would earn more.  Usually, these soldiers return from their missions, buy a taxi or tro tro then rent them out to locals.  This can provide much needed supplemental income for these families.

The armed services are mindful that many Ghanaians want this higher salary so they are quite selective in who they choose.

2) Customs/Immigration: If a man cannot earn a spot in the military, then the next best spot is Immigration or Customs.  Typically at the borders – Ghana/Togo, Ghana/Ivory Coast, Ghana/Burkina Faso – an Immigration officer can make the average vehicle delay for any number of reasons.  While you are trying somewhere as quickly as possible, these government workers have all the time in the world.

For instance, a friend of mine did not want to pay bribes on principle while driving his Range Rover from Lagos to Accra.  He became frustrated that he was being held at each checkpoint – there are three between Nigeria and Ghana – for 20 minutes to 2 hours.  Finally, he threw up his hands and discovered that the requisite handling fee was $2-$5.  Given the number of cars that pass at each checkpoint every hour, day, month, you can figure out that it adds up to a lot of dollars.

Similarly, customs officers can earn supplemental income while working with traders bringing in the odd 40′ container worth of merchandise.  Your goods can be understated and under-taxed for a handling fee.  Everyone in Ghana seems to know a guy who can help you clear goods.

3) Fire Services: First, uncontrolled fires are relatively uncommon in metropolitan Accra so the workload is light.  (Many locals burn their trash late at night by the side of the road.  They usually collect all their trash in a sandy area and light it up.  Someone is usually sitting nearby watching it.)

Second, additional income can be generated when the fire marshall visits your place of business and discovers, Hey you don’t have a fire permit to do… but if you pay me this I can expedite your process.

4) Police: If you can’t get a job in the military, customs/immigration, nor the fire services, then perhaps you will consider joining the police force.  Real or imagined traffic violations still additional income opportunities.  Furthermore, if you quickly need to get somewhere across town through traffic, then you can hire a motorbike police to open Red Sea traffic lanes for you.  This will cost you 50-100 cedis.

Unfortunately, the police force are under-funded.  This means that if your house has been burglarized, you will need to either provide a taxi or your own car to transport the investigating officers to your house.  Otherwise, they will have to dig into their own pockets to come to your house.

The bad side to having an under-funded police force is that they can be bought to cause mischief.

Despite an under-funded police force, Accra is much safer than most large American cities.  As I have detailed in previous posts, if someone catches you stealing in one of the large, open air markets, then may God help you prevent the mob from beating you death.

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