The Board of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons (NACSA), composed of the Chairman, Executive Secretary and a Board Member, paid a working visit to the Ashanti Region on the 21st of February, 2018. The delegation visited the Ashanti Regional Association of Blacksmiths (ASHRAB), Regional Police Command and the Regional Minister. The Board’s visit was a follow up to the Commission’s earlier engagement with the ASHRAB on 20th September, 2017 as part of its strategy to combat the illegal manufacture of small arms by some blacksmiths in the country.
The objective of the visit was to offer the Board the opportunity to appreciate the issue of local manufacture of artisanal small arms and the views of the Association on the activity, establish relations with the Association, strengthen the Commission’s collaboration with ASHRAB, and discuss the role of the Association in combating the illegal manufacture of arms and a possible viable alternative livelihood scheme.
The delegation of the Board met with the Ashanti Regional Association of Blacksmiths (ASHRAB) at the Cultural Centre with Sixty-Five (65) blacksmiths attending the meeting.
STATEMENT BY THE BOARD CHAIRMAN:
The Board Chairman in his statement commended the Association for their foresight and efforts to come together to form ASHRAB to promote their course. He noted with satisfaction that the Association was formed 15 years ago to serve as a self-regulatory mechanism to monitor activities of members and redeem the image of the blacksmithing industry. He told the members that the Board had been briefed of their activities over the years and expressed the new Board’s willingness to support the ASHRAB.
He said that small arms are a great danger to humanity considering the fact that they are used to commit all kinds of crimes and atrocities all over the world. They are used in armed robberies, chieftaincy disputes, land guards activities, tribal conflicts among others to cause mayhem in parts of the country. He added that their negative impact on society is enormous, resulting in loss of dignity and rights, deaths, injuries, displacement, insecurity, poverty, etc. He noted that Ghana has not been spared of the evils of small arms.
He informed the Association that the Commission would not condone the illicit manufacture of artisanal arms by any blacksmith. He expressed the hope in the Association that none of its members would be found guilty of the illegal manufacture of arms, but would be law abiding and promote the vision, goal, objectives and values of the Association. He entreated the ASHRAB to package itself well to catch the attention of policy makers, become more attractive and attract support. He assured them of the Commission’s willingness to assist them to showcase their activities and products to government and private institutions for support. He asked them to take advantage of the Ghana Trade Fair to exhibit their products and also plan a Blacksmiths Fair to showcase their products and skills.
The Board Chairman promised the ASHRAB of his personal commitment and readiness to organise skills enhancement training programme for the blacksmiths where he would personally teach them business management skills, customer relations and marketing strategies. He requested that the ASHRAB get an up-to-date membership list of Association members in good standing to the Commission for the purposes of monitoring and support. He added that in the situation where the ASHRAB would enjoy support in the near future, that list of registered members in good standing would serve as a guide on who benefits from the support.
REMARKS BY THE CHAIRMAN AND SECRETARY OF ASHRAB:
The Chairman of the ASHRAB in his remarks indicated that the main objective of establishing the Association was to help combat the illegal production of small arms considering the damage these weapons cause to innocent people as well as the image and trade of the blacksmiths. He said that the ASHRAB members do not produce arms but farming and household implements, auto parts among other things while those who have licence to repair arms do just that and nothing more.
He indicated that they had skills to produce hospital beds, student beds, hospital screens, drip stands, handcuffs, etc. He stated that blacksmiths needed recognition and support by Government and skills upgrade to ensure the manufacturing of numerous legal products used in the country. He reiterated their resolve not to entertain any member who tried to go contrary to the goals and objectives of the Association. He used the opportunity to reiterate his admonishment to members to refrain from the illegal production of arms and urged the members to report such activities to the leadership for action.
The Secretary to the ASHRAB indicated that the Association started with a membership of about two hundred (200) blacksmiths but were currently less than eighty (80) because members did not see any support from Government or any institution. He, therefore, reiterated their hope and expectations in the Commission to come to their aid to enable them to sustain the interest in members and get others to join them. He stated also that the Police should see them as their allies and collaborate with them to deal with the menace of artisanal arms production in the Region.
In responding to the issues raised by the blacksmiths, the Executive Secretary on behalf of the delegation assured the Association that their concerns would be considered and action would be taken on them. It was indicated that the Commission would discuss and collaborate with other Agencies and Ministries like Trade and Industries, Agriculture, Health, Education and National Security to explore opportunities for support for the blacksmiths.
A CALL ON THE REGIONAL POLICE COMMANDER
The delegation called on the Regional Police Commander after the meeting with the blacksmiths to ascertain the situation of small arms proliferation in the Region. In a briefing by the Regional Crime Officer, the delegation was informed that most arms seized at crime scenes or from people possessing without authority in the Ashanti Region were mostly locally-manufactured guns which the suspects alleged were from the Volta, Eastern and Northern regions. He cited an instance where thirteen (13) artisanal small arms were seized from a blacksmith at Mamponteng two (2) months earlier and the culprit had been arraigned before court for prosecution.
He told the delegation that the Police Command was aware of the existence of the Blacksmiths Association (ASHRAB) in the Region. He called for collaboration with the Association and requested the Police involvement in the Commission’s subsequent meetings with the blacksmiths Association. He told the delegation that there was collaboration among the Security Agencies in the Region in dealing with the crime situation including small arms related crimes.