Residents of Bolgatanga were struck with a raw shock on Saturday when the Upper East Regional Storekeeper of the Ghana Education Service (GES) was allegedly caught shoplifting free uniforms meant for deprived school children.
The development coincided with a market day in the Upper East regional capital— a link that prompted some observers to conclude the storekeeper, whose name is not known yet to Starr News, was carting the items to market to sell.
He is said to have taken a motor tricycle rider to the premises of the Upper East Regional Education Directorate in the afternoon and was about to leave the grounds with one hundred packs of the stolen uniforms on board the hired vehicle when some young men accosted him.
When interrogated, he reportedly said the Pusiga District Director of Education, Duncan Nsoh, asked him to bring the uniforms for distribution to some pupils. But when Mr Nsoh, who was 15 kilometres away attending the Azambene Festival in the Bongo District, was called to the scene to ascertain the truth of the matter, he said he never requested any uniforms from the storekeeper.
The place was on fire for hours as a crowd of witnesses, after placing calls to the Bolgatanga Police Station, tried to hold him down and he fought them off to avoid an impeding arrest. And to dodge public attention as the scene became more crowded, he walked off towards his office inside a dilapidated single-storey building, spewing curse words with his hands in the air.
Some of the angry young men went after him, demanding he return to the spot where they caught him with the school uniforms. “We didn’t arrest you there!” one of the men yelled twice at him. “We arrested you over there with the items!”
The storekeeper turned back. “You took it there! You are a thief! You took it there!” he bawled back, pointing a finger at both the witness and the uniforms. Then, he continued to the office.
“We arrested you with those things over there! You will go to jail! Your time is up!” the witness seethed. And to assist journalists to identify him, he added: “Look at the criminal going inside!”
According to an eyewitness, Saturday was not the first time the storekeeper had come when nobody was around to take things away from the stores— in bulk.
“We were here to work on our vehicles. And we saw him packing these things (school uniforms) from the regional education stores into this tricycle. We apparently had information from some nearby people that he has been doing this and they are sets of uniforms.
“He sends them to the market to go and sell. We [intercepted] the vehicle and truly we saw that there was a sack of uniforms, hundred packs. And when we stopped them, they didn’t even want to stop. We had to force them to stop. And when we asked where the [items] were going to during this weekend— a weekend generally not a time when you do official distribution of commodities— he said that he was sending them to Mr. Duncan, the Director for Pusiga, Ghana Education Service,” narrated Urban Akagwire.
Urban continued: “Fortunately, Mr. Duncan rushed here upon a call. And Mr. Duncan is confirming that he does not know of any distribution during the weekend. Although he attested there were some shortages that he needed to take, for this particular one, he does not know anything about it.”
“What it goes to confirm is that the regional storekeeper is stealing these uniforms and selling in the market to the deprivation of our small children. Where government is suffering to give uniform to small children, you have people like this who come to steal them. Where can Ghana develop to? How can we say we want to be on our own— grow beyond aid? How can we do this?” he added, vigorously flapping one of the stolen pairs of school shorts in the air near the impounded yellow motor tricycle for the world to see.
The incident is much similar to what happened in 2012 at the Bolgatanga Nurses’ Training College where some students and an anti-corruption tutor caught a taxi driver loading bags of rice, sacks of maize and kegs of cooking oil meant for students from the school’s food store into his boot on a weekend night.
When grilled as to where he was transporting the items to, he said the school’s matron directed him to take them to a mill.
“Are you going to grind rice at the mill?” some asked. “And are you going to grind cooking oil at the mill?” others probed him.
As answers were not forthcoming, some of the angry students deflated the tyres of the taxi. Then, suddenly he snatched himself from their grips and bolted through a nearby bush at the blind speed of a hunted antelope. To this day, the questions they asked him have not been answered.