ACCRA, November 27- Ghana’s opposition has demanded an investigation into how a woman allegedly brought 13 kilos (28 pounds) of cocaine into an executive lounge at Accra airport before boarding a flight to London.
The alleged trafficker, Nayeli Ametefeh, was listed to appear for a preliminary hearing at a court in London on Thursday after she was arrested at Heathrow Airport on November 9 after she arrived on a British Airways flight in which she was travelling first class.
The details of her alleged smuggling operation have caused an uproar in Ghana and three foreign ministry officials have been arrested on suspicion of aiding Ametefeh.
President John Dramani Mahama has sacked the entire leadership of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).
The dismissed head of NACOB, Baffour Assasie Gyimah, said his staff were being used as scapegoats by a government trying to contain the latest trafficking scandal in the west African nation which has become a major narcotics hub.
The former head of security at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Solomon Adelaquaye, was arrested last year by US drug agents and charged with trafficking heroin.
“This Nayeli Ametefeh saga is causing such huge haemorrhage to this blessed nation of ours,” said Osei Kyei Mensah, parliament leader for the opposition New Patriotic Party.
He called for a bi-partisan committee to investigate the case.
A total of 12 people have been arrested in connection with the case in both Ghana and Britain.
The facts of the case remain unclear but the opposition alleges that Ametefeh was admitted to the VVIP lounge at Kotoka, possibly with the help of the detained foreign ministry officials.
Mahama’s government has aggressively tried to distance itself from the scandal, with some unconfirmed media reports linking Ametefeh to the president’s own family.
The sacked NACOB boss lashed out at those trying to blame his staff for any lapses that allowed the woman to board the flight.
NACOB staff “were never implicated in any way in this drug scandal saga. This is a fact”, he said in a statement. “NACOB is not in charge of airport security. NACOB is not in charge of the VIP lounge.”
He suggested the dismissal of his entire board was “a case of sacrificing a weak and innocent lamb”.
Ghana’s growing reputation as a transit hub for narcotics headed to both Europe and North America has chipped away at the country’s reputation as a west African success story.
Experts say successive governments in Ghana have ignored the severity of the drug trade, including through its main international airport, with senior security officials repeatedly implicated in smuggling rings.