Friday, 26 June 2015

Why Ms. Samia Nkrumah And Dr. Edward Mahama Must Work Together To Get Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom Selected As The Nkrumahist Alliance's 2016 Presidential Candidate

We have arrived at a juncture in our history, when a confluence of events from across the country, has led to the realisation amongst many ordinary Ghanaians, that their nation needs a new kind of politics - one free of elite-self-interest and nation-wrecking corruption.

Tired of the polarised nature of Ghanaian society, today, and outraged by the unfathomable greed that fuels high-level corruption, many ordinary people yearn to live in a nation in which there is unity of purpose amongst the country's ruling elites - all of whom Ghanaians want to be honest individuals, who show a commitment to protecting the national interest and promoting the welfare of ordinary people, at all material times.

Many people sense that whichever of the candidates of the two biggest political parties in Ghana, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the largest of the opposition parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), wins the 2016 presidential election, the kind of violence seen at the grounds of State House, when a rampaging mob from Old Fadama invaded that part of Ridge last weekend, will be repeated across the country - as hardliners from both parties instigate fighting at polling stations across the country.

It is that fear, which many have, of violence erupting in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, which makes many ordinary people in Ghana yearn for a credible third force in our nation's politics - one whose presidential candidate will unite the country, and run a meritocratic and transparent system, as President.

It presents Nkrumahists with a rare opportunity to return to power again.

That is why it is so important that the major figures amongst the followers of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, put aside ego and personal ambition, and work together to offer Ghanaians a government of national unity - in which individuals are appointed to positions in the public sector strictly on merit: not because they belong to the president's party.

If they fail to form an alliance of all the Nkrumahist parties soon, the vacuum in the centre of Ghanaian politics will be filled by fledgling parties, such as Kofi Akpaloo's newly-formed Independent People's Party (IPP).

They must also resolve the issue of selecting the candidate who will represent the Nkrumahist alliance, in the 2016 presidential election, quickly.

Although probably too late to do so, they must use the by-election for the Talensi constituency, as a testbed for trying out the Nkrumahist alliance's strategy for victory in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

A key point is to hammer home the commitment of Nkrumahists to making it possible for grassroots people to elect district chief executives of their choice, when their candidate wins the 2016 presidential election - and that electing an Nkrumahist alliance candidate as the member of Parliament for the Talensi constituency is the first step to that end.

Picking a candidate who can win the 2016 presidential election is crucial for the Nkrumahist alliance.

There was a time in the past, when some of us used to say that Dr. Edward Mahama of the People's National Convention (PNC), was the best candidate to stand for president, for a new Convention People's Party (CPP): made up of all the Nkrumahist parties.

However, Nduom's sterling record as a job creator,  and highly successful career as a world-class entrepreneur, with a far-flung business empire, make him the best presidential candidate by far, for an Nkrumahist alliance today.

Politically, he has built up momentum nationally, and has the resources to turn any alliance of all the Nkrumahist parties into a solid third force - able to take on and defeat the candidates of the NDC and NPP.

No Ghanaian politician since Ghana gained its independence in 1957, has been more forthcoming about his or her own personal finances, than Nduom has been.

And no politician has also been as transparent about the sources of funding for the party he or she leads, as Nduom has been. That is just the kind of transparent leader Ghana needs today.

We must force our leaders to follow Nigerian President Buhari's example - and publicly publish their assets (as well as that of their spouses) before assuming office: and immediately after their tenure ends.

Nduom is committed to that - which is why he was the only candidate who published his filed tax returns during the campaign for the 2012 presidential election.  He also publicly published the sources of funding, for the party he founded and leads, the Progressive People's Party.

For the sake of Mother Ghana, Samia Yaaba  Nkrumah and Dr. Edward Mahama, must rebuff attempts by some of their supporters to get them to run for president in 2016.

It will only divide Nkrumahists yet further if they vie for the presidency  - and thereby prevent an Nkrumahist alliance from sweeping to victory in the 2016 presidential election. The plain truth, is that none of them stands a chance of pulling off a surprise win, in that election.

To honour Nkrumah's memory, and ensure that Ghana develops into an industrial powerhouse for West Africa, Samia Yaaba Nkrumah and Dr. Edward Mahama  must work together, to get Nduom selected as the Nkrumahist alliance's 2016 presidential candidate.

That will enable a Paa Kwesi Nduom-Samia Yaaba Nkrumah ticket to start working early to win that all-important election - and lead a government of national unity: which will transform our country into an African equivalent of the egalitarian societies of Scandinavia.

We need to tap Ghana's best brains to transform our country - irrespective of the party affiliation and the ethnic background of such individuals.

That is an Nkrumahist nation-building philosophy that is still relevant today - and will underpin the administration of the next Nkrumahist president for our homeland Ghana.

As president, Nduom (who, like Nelson Mandela, should only serve one term and hand over the baton of leadership to Samia Nkrumah to head the next generation of Ghanaian leaders) will ensure that that philosophy guides our nation's development.  So, as we say in local parlance: "Samia Nkrumah and Edward Mahama, over to you, Joe Lartey!".

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Is The Real Scandal Not The Fact That Bankswitch Was To Be Paid For A Service That Could Be Provided Free Of Charge By Other IT Companies?

Most patriotic Ghanaians would be horrified to learn a few facts about Bankswitch - the company to which the International Court of Permanent Arbitration at The Hague, awarded  the judgement debt in favour of, against Ghana,  which has generated such controversy here.

Incredibly, just before Bankswitch had its contract with Ghana abrogated by the regime of President Mills, the company that eventually replaced it, Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCnet), actually offered to provide a service  that Bankswitch had been contracted for, and was to recieve payment for, from the Kufuor regime,  for free. Imagine that.

Clearly, being informed that a service for which  Bankswitch was to recieve payment from the predecessor regime to theirs, was actually a service that GCnet was proposing to provide Ghana free of charge, must have provoked a sense of  outrage amongst many senior members of President Mills' government.

Consequently, many of them must have felt that  to protect Ghana from such fraud, it was their patriotic duty to do everything possible, to end the Bankswitch contract with Ghana - especially when the Kufuor regime ended a contract that Ghana had with GCnet when it came to power: and decided to replace it with one with Bankswitch instead.

Alas, it is that good intention that has now led to the hellish nightmare of our nation  having to find GHC197 million or thereabouts, to pay for what is so clearly an unjust judgement debt awarded against it, by the International Court of Permanent Arbitration at The Hague. That judgement was unfair and unjust - and is disgraceful.

Any fair-minded  Ghanaian, upon discovering that a service, which Bankswitch was contracted to perform for Ghana by the Kufuor regime, for handsome compensation, could actually have been performed free of charge,  by GCnet, would equally  feel outraged by such perfidy - especially when Bankswitch is now going to be paid so much  money as judgement debt for doing zilch for Ghana.

In a nation whose people have such short memories, we must point out the fact that GCnet was actually the rival company  that Bankswitch  replaced - after the Kufuor regime abrogated GCnet's  contract with Ghana on a technicality: in the halcyon days of the golden age of business for the greed-filled Kufuor & Co.

If Professor Mills had had the political nous that President Rawlings had, Bankswitch would never have had the gall to take Ghana to the International Court of Permanent Arbitration at The Hague - as the deal that Hon. Anthony Akoto Osei signed with Bankswitch would have been investigated, and he would have had to provide an answer to the simple question: "Why was Ghana to pay vast sums to Bankswitch for a service that some IT companies could have provided Ghana free of charge, during the tenure of President Kufuor?"

Rawlings would have had the hypocritical Anthony Akoto Osei prosecuted for conspiring to cause financial loss to Ghana.

President Mills did a great disservice to Ghana by allowing the crooks of the Kufuor-era who gang-raped Mother Ghana to get away with their many crimes. Now Ghana is paying a price for that misplaced kindness on Mills' part.

But to be fair, should we not also ask who the attorney general was at the time the Bankswitch contract with Ghana was abrogated by the Mills regime - and what  role  he or she played in  this sorry saga?

And who represented Ghana at the International Court of Permanent Arbitration at The Hague? Did he or she do a good job - and if so, why did Ghana end up having to pay the carpetbaggers Bankswitch was fronting for, a judgement debt awarded against our nation?

Naturally, what the super-clever Dr. Anthony Akoto Oseis will not divulge to Ghanaians, is who exactly were the powerful and well-connected individuals who profited from the abrogation of the contract with GCnet -  and probably  engineered its award to Bankswitch.

Those who profited from Bankswitch replacing GCnet, were probably the same crooks, who gave away Ghana's oil deposits - whiles dancing exuberantly to their favourite song: "1 percent of billions of dollars is better than 100 percent of peanuts".

That selfsame group of selfish and ruthless individuals,  once tried to sell Valco, to a nonexistent International Aluminium Partners (IAP) - and succeeded in having that fraud railroaded through Parliament: despite the loud protestations and denials by Norske Hydro and VALE, the purported joint-venture partners in IAP, said to be seeking to 'purchase' Valco. No doubt they will also be profiting from Bankswift's judgement-debt jackpot.

Another question that needs answering is:  why, in light of all the above, are members of the same ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) - who felt a sense of outrage that Bankswitch was proposing to charge Ghana for a service GCnet could provide free of charge - now seeking to award a contract for an electronic equivalent of a one-stop-shop for data on the import/export trade's shipping documentation, which is already in existence, and provided by GCnet  (the National Single Window And Risk Management System project),  to West Blue Ghana Limited to develop?

Far too many Ghanaian politicians fail to learn from past mistakes, alas - and in the long run it is our nation and its hard-pressed people who suffer from that particular failing of our leaders.

Why, for example, when Ghana desperately needs to increase its tax revenues, to finance development projects across the nation, are our ruling elites awarding single-sourced contracts to private entities for services that the Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Ghana Revenue Authority, can perform efficiently for Ghana, if given the opportunity - and end what amounts to foreigners siphoning off taxes earned from the ports of Ghana, with the blessing of our leaders?

And, it now emerges that GCnet too, is apparently subtly hinting that it will have to sue Ghana - if its contract is abrogated in favour of West Blue Ghana Limited. God give some of us patience in our old age.

For such ingratitude, Ghana must end its contract with GCnet,  whenever it is legally possible to do so, without any repercussions. The Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Ghana Revenue Authority ought to take over that service when that particular contract ends. It is time such milking-Mother-Ghana-dry revenue-siphoning-off sole-sourced contracts  ended.

Perhaps the lesson we must learn from this controversy, is that as things currently stand, vested interests actually control the destiny of our homeland Ghana, whenever the two largest political parties govern Ghana. That cannot be good for our nation and its people in the long-term. It is intolerable and totally unacceptable.

That is why Ghanaians must vote for the Nkrumahist alliance's presidential candidate for the 2016 presidential election - to take Ghana along a path of self-reliance, import-substitution-industrialisation and the promotion of Ghanaian businesses using the purchasing power of the state.

(Hopefully, Paa Kwesi Nduom will be selectd as the Nkrumahist alliance's presidential candidate, with Samia Yaaba Nkrumah as his running mate. But I digress.)

Finally, perhaps one needs to make the point that, if this scandal were to have occurred in China, it will not be the Hannah Tettehs and the Spio Garbrahs who would be executed after a quick trial for this particular Bankswitch judgement debt.

On the contrary, it will be the sly and wily Dr. Anthony Akoto Oseis - who signed that agreement in which Ghana was to pay for a service that could be provided free of charge by other IT companies.

Are we therefore not right in saying that the real scandal, is that Bankswitch was to be paid for a service that other IT companies, at one stage, offered to provide for free? Only asking - not making any accusations.  No nation-wrecking politics-of-equalisation here, thank you.

Old Fadama Residents Have No Excuse For Damaging State Property And Attacking The Police

It is a matter of regret that as a result of the recent floods in Accra, the city authorities have had to finally take steps to remove the illegal settlement, at Old Fadama.

Sadly, however, if we are to reduce the damage caused by flooding in Accra,  it is necessary to remove that illegal settlement that is a hotbed of carcinogenicity, toxicity and egregious environmental pollution -  in order to comprehensively dredge that section of the Odaw River that runs through it.

The point also needs to be made that no matter how much one sympathises with the unfortunate plight of the residents of Old Fadama, nothing can justify the resort to violence by those of them who marched to the State House and rioted there, a few days ago.

There can be no excuse for such mindless and needless violence in our democracy. Ours is a nation of laws.

Clearly, as a people, we need to find a solution to the increasing number of slums in urban Ghana - an unfortunate consequence of the growing disparities in wealth in our country. But slum dwellers must be law abiding - and politicians must refrain from turning slum-clearance into a political football.

The police must study video footage shown on television news reports, of those who rioted,  destroyed public property and attacked the police, frame by frame - and ask the media to publish photographs of the perpetrators: as a means of identifying and subsequently arresting them. They must all be prosecuted and jailed.

There is no question that for the greater good, the Old Fadama settlement must be removed, as a necessary flood-control measure.

The time to do so has now come. What needs to be done is to ensure that it is done as humanely as possible. Those who live there are our fellow  humans - most of them  forced by circumstances to live and work at Old Fadama.

The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), must be tasked to provide the Old Fadama residents with emergency shelter,  and provide them with relief items for their sustenance for a reasonable period, whiles the rainy season lasts.

It is important, however, that those who rioted and damaged government property, when they converged at the State House a few days ago, and attacked the police, are not allowed to get away with their outrageous and disgraceful behaviour.

They must all be apprehended, prosecuted and jailed for their totally unacceptable and inexcusable behavior. There can be no excuse for such abominable and unspeakable acts of violence - resulting in the destruction of public property and the wounding of police officers maintaining law and order in our homeland Ghana.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

They Can Ignore All One's Ideas - But President Mahama's Regime Must Ensure That All Cocoa Area Roads Are Climate-Change-Proofed

For any patriot and nationalist, who cares about the enterprise Ghana, nothing can be more frustrating than offering sound advice freely to those in power - who ignore it: simply because those whose job it is to bring such ideas to the attention of the government of the day, are incompetent and clueless square-pegs-in-round-holes.

(Where in the world but Ghana, can geniuses like the Stan Dogbes, control access to the nation's President, I ask? And, who knows, were he to become president, perhaps Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo too will also bring his own geniuses in tow - in the shape of the garrullous Sammy Awukus and the narcissistic Asare Otchere-Darkos, who think they are God's gift to our nation. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o. But I digress.)

Whenever such free nation-building advice is ignored, an opportunity to move Ghana forward, is then lost. Unfortunately, it appears that if the personal interests of the powerful aren't served by an idea, no matter how innovative that idea might be, it will simply not get any traction in Ghana.

Perhaps that is why so many daft ideas that are not beneficial to our nation in the long-term - described by an old acquintance of mine as "Alice-in-wonderland fantasies" - are championed by some of those in power.

Examples include the US$40 billion project to build a bullet train railway line from Accra to Kumasi, and the proposed project to build a light rail line to the Accra international airport.  Critics say they are nothing more than sleight-of-hand schemes by a well-connected and greedy few to grab valuable land in Accra and Kumasi for development.

Sadly, what happens, whiles we waste precious time and valuable resources on such pipe dreams, is that other more serious nations in the West African sub-region, in the meantime busy themselves with implementing vital infrastructural projects. Yet we boast of being the gateway to West Africa.

And we are saddling future generations with debt needlessly - whiles allowing ruthless destination inspection companies with good political connections, for example, to siphon off billions of dollars in precious taxes: doing work that can and should be done by the Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Ghana Revenue Authority. Mad.

As we speak, for instance, the French logistics company, Bollore, is financing a railway line from Parakou (which already has a rail line to Cotonou that will be rehabilitated) to Niamey, for €1.07 billion, mostly from its own resources.

The railway line will be extended from Niamey  to Ouagadougou. Bollore will own 40 percent of the rail operator, BENI Rail, whiles Benin and Niger own 10 percent each. The rest of the 40 percent shares will be sold to private investors.

Our ruling elites must stop sole-sourcing important projects. Why do they not ask for proposals from around the world, for a modern drainage system for Accra, for example - instead of giving it out to Conti of the US on a silver platter so to speak?

If they invite proposals from around the world for large infrastructure projects, they will get deals as good as Bollore's BENI Rail project.

After all, there are many good and reputable infrastructure companies capable of executing the Accra drainage project for far less than the US$600 million it will apparently cost. Spain is a leader in the field of delivering large infrastructural projects, incidentally.

Alas, a few ideas of mine too, have been ignored over the years. They include an idea, which if adopted, will ensure that never again will our country be held to ransom  by so-called "bulk oil distribution companies" (BDC).

Some of them are dodgy entities which import substandard petrol and diesel from the Trafiguras of this world - which defend themselves by saying they produce petrol and diesel that meet the quality standards set for the Ghanaian  market for sale here.

Many BDC's use creative accounting to enable them rip-off our nation - in the mother of all create-loot-and-share scams labelled "under-recovery" and "forex losses". Hmm, Ghana - asem ebeba debi ankasa.

On Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, I wrote and posted an article entitled: "Why Not Merge TOR, GNPC & GOIL?", on this blog.

In that article, I outlined how, by merging the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL), and transferring the assets of that state-owned  financial basket-case, known as the Bulk Oil Storage and Distribution Company (BOST), to the newly-merged entity, we could create an energy industry behemoth in West Africa.

The new entity could earn our country substantial sums of hard currency annually in the process - selling millions of dollars worth of finished petroleum products in GOIL petrol filling stations across West Africa. That will help improve our balance of trade -  and strengthen our currency, will it not?

I am glad that finally, someone far more important than little old me, the Hon. Cletus Avoka, has now come round to the same view - and thinks that upstream and downstream state-owned entities ought to be merged. (Incidentally, I do hope the Hon. Avoka accepts my condolences on the tragic death of his son Maxwell. May his soul rest in peace.)

Hopefully, wearing his hat as chairperson of Parliament's Select Committee on Mines and Energy, the Hon. Avoka will point out the advantages of such a merger of state-owned upstream and downstream petroleum sector entities to President Mahama's administration.

However, his suggestion that the merged entity should also be allowed to regulate the oil and gas industry, is asking for trouble.

If such a regulator will never replicate the technical services agreement covering Iraq's Rumaila oilfield in Ghana - and get international oil companies to foot the bill for exploration and production activities off Ghana's shores, and be paid not with loaned money, but with barrels of oil at a discount - what hope is there that it will regulate the oil and gas industry in the national interest, ever?

Knowing how greedy so many members of our ruling elites are, as a regulator, will the merged entity not probably end up colluding with companies with cultures that permit them to put making money at the expense of their fellow humans, and therefore don't care if they rip-off Ghana through transfer pricing, to siphon off oil and gas revenues due Ghana?

If, as regulator, the merged entity opted for technical services agreements such as that governing Iraq's Rumaila oilfield,  with international oil companies, there would be absolutely no need, ever, for the GNPC to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars "for exploration"- not if those who run it were guided solely by national interest considerations.

Finally, speaking as someone whose family grows cocoa in Ghana's Eastern Region (and has done since 1921 from the days of the British occupation of our country), my prayer is that the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board will talk to the Indian conglomerate, Tata, and ask it to train all the road contractors selected for the cocoa roads programme, to use the simple technology of melting plastic waste and mixing it with bitumen to construct plastic roads.

Plastic roads bear much heavier loads than normal roads, last much much longer than ordinary roads, remain pothole-free throughout their lifespan, and, because plastic is impermeable to water, plastic roads aren't washed away by flash floods.

In short, Ghana will be climate-change-proofing the new cocoa roads, at virtually no extra cost - and they will last for yonks into the bargain too. Well, they can ignore all one's ideas, but this is the one idea that one hopes that President Mahama's administration will adopt this year: climate-change-proof all the new cocoa roads by using the simple technology of mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen to construct plastic roads.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Should Parliament Allow Well-Meaning Medical Researchers To Put Ghana At Risk From The Ebola Fever Virus?

Throughout history,  medical researchers have constantly pushed the frontiers of knowledge in medical science,  further forward.

It is the results of such cutting-edge research that has led to the improvement in  the health of billions of people around the world over the decades.

Many alive today, might suffer premature deaths, were it not for access to doctors in public healthcare facilities - who offer them the latest treatment and prescribe safe and well-tested drugs for them.

It is therefore not surprising  that medical doctors interested in research into the Ebola haemorrhagic fever virus are keen to have an Ebola vaccine tested in Ghana.

It is also understandable that members of Parliament, some of whose constituents could be selected to take part in any Ebola vaccine trials here, should seek further information from those who are conducting the trials in Ghana - to have an insight into just how safe the vaccines actually are.

Perhaps members of our political class should listen to those in our midst, who say that it is at precisely such moments, that our parliamentarians would be wise  to turn to the conspiracy theorists, who publish articles in alternative online media outlets - and some of whom often accuse bioweapons researchers of the military forces of the big powers, of deliberately infecting unsuspecting populations of poor nations,  with dangerous viruses.

The information our parliamentarians garner from such unorthodox sources online  will help them protect ordinary Ghanaians - from a fate similar to that which befell some inhabitants of northern Nigeria in 1996: when Pfizer tested its drug trovaflaxacin during a meningitis epidemic in that part of Nigeria.

In 2009,  the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, allowed the families of 11 children who died during the outbreak of the Kano meningitis epidemic, to sue Pfizer in the US under the Alien Torts Statute. Pfizer settled with them out of court - and paid Nigeria some US$72 millions as compensation.

We must not forget that there are some Ghanaians who  argue that we have, as a people, paid our dues, in combatting the west African Ebola fever epidemic.

They point to the fact that our nation agreed - at a time when many nations around the world closed their airspace to airlines flying from the three worst Ebola affected nations -  to have Ghana serve as a logistics hub for the global effort to contain the Ebola fever epidemic that spread from Guinea to Liberia and Sierra Leone last year. Do they have a point, one wonders?

In any case, it is important that parliamentarians, and the media, in Ghana, demand an urgent answer from the medical doctors responsible for the GSK Ebola vaccine trials here, to a simple question.

With respect, can they tell the good people of Ghana, why, in the midst of a move by the British government to make public, all UK-funded vaccine trial data, Prime Minister David Cameron, has excluded data from Ebola vaccine trials - on national security grounds? Food for thought.

A people who shake hands routinely many times daily, bathe and handle the dead out of respect for the traditional rituals and practices governing burial of the departed, across the nation, and who sweat freely in the humid climate we experience here yearly, after the dry  harmattan season,  will definitely die in their tens of thousands, were there to be an outbreak of Ebola fever in Ghana.

Who will travel by tro-tro to work if the Ebola fever virus  comes to Ghana, for example, I ask? The economic cost of such an outbreak will be incalculable - and our struggling economy might never recover from such a blow for many years. It just doesn't bear thinking.

One's humble advice (unsolicited and offered freely) to the overworked and underpaid members of Ghana's Parliament, is to google and read about Ebola vaccine trials from just the following two websites: Jon Rappoport's website and the Eugenics and Pandemics website.

Parliament should not allow President Mahama's beseiged administration to cave in to any behind-the-scenes pressure from foreign governments in this matter.

This is a better-safe-than-sorry situation for Ghana. Let our parliamentarians ask their counterparts in Sierra Leone, why their ministry of health and sanitation brought Ebola diagnostic kit tests, and virus research being carried out by Tulane University and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Kanema,  to an abrupt halt, in July 2014.

Surely,  our nation actually contributed to the global fight against the west African Ebola fever epidemic - when  Ghana sent volunteer healthcare professionals to parts of the affected area in 2014?

Above all, Parliament must be careful not to allow the desperation for funding, for their under-resourced labs, on the part of well-meaning but naive medical researchers in Ghana, to put our nation at risk from the Ebola fever virus.

If it is true that the combination of Ebola and cold viruses can cause Ebola fever, then is the GSK Ebola vaccine trial not clearly an unacceptable risk for our nation to take - especially when nothing stops brilliant Ghanaian researchers from travelling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to undertake such Ebola vaccine trials, if they so desire? Just enquiring - not condemning anyone. I shall rest my case, for now. Hmm, Ghana - enti omanyi ebeyeyie anaa?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Ghana's Military's Special Forces Must Be Deployed To Halt Illegal Logging In The Atewa Range Upland Evergreen Rainforest

If, as a people, we adopt the same only-going-through-the-motions approach to preserving the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest, which we have adopted, in supposedly instituting effective flood-control measures to save life and property  in urban Ghana during the rainy season, then a very bleak future awaits coming generations.

If  illegal logging syndicates are allowed to denude the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest to produce chainsaw lumber, future generations will not have sufficient water from the three river systems that southern urban Ghana relies on for its drinking-water supply - as the headwaters for the Densu, Ayensu and Birim lie in that part of our country.

Sadly, even as Ghana celebrated its fourth Forestry Week - between May 23-29, 2015 - a ruthless illegal logging syndicate fronted by a businesswoman, one Obaa Yaa,   was busy at work cutting trees in the area in the Atewa Range in which the  Atewa Forest Reserve lies.

The said syndicate operates in the area covering forest reserve boundary pillars (FRBP) 92, 93, 94 and 95, which local people in Akyem Saamang and Akyem Juaso refer to as "Thompson" and "Fran├žois".

That a criminal syndicate can cut trees from dusk to dawn on a regular basis in the Atewa Range with impunity, and succeed in carting chainsaw lumber from there to Ofankor Muss, Taifa junction, on the Accra-Kumasi highway, to sell without any hindrance, is astonishing. What exactly do our nation's secret services do, one wonders?

It shows just how daunting the task faced by Ghana's Forestry Commission is - as it tries, against great odds, to preserve the remainder of our nation's forests.

Incidentally, I  called the Ghana Police headquarters telephone line (0302773900 on 4/6/2015 at 22:02 GMT) when I was tipped off by an informant, on the evening of June 4, 2015, that chainsaw operators were illegally felling trees in the Thompson and Fran├žois properties.

I had hoped to get the police headquarters switchboard operators to alert the Anyinam District Police Command to intercept the chainsaw lumber - as it was being evacuated from the forest at Akyem Juaso that night. Alas, it was an exercise in futility - as no one answered my phone call.

In the end, I called the Weija District Police Command (0302850023 on 4/6/2015 at 22:05 GMT) - and spoke to a policeman who said his name was Corporal Awuku. Unfortunately, there has been no feedback since then. Hmm, Ghana - enti omanyi ebeyeyie anaa?

I subsequently emailed the headquarters of the Forestry Commission ( on 5/6/2015)  - but as is usual with officialdom in Ghana in such matters, it has not been acknowledged to date: and probably never will either. Pity.

I also went as far as giving out the telephone numbers of Obaa Yaa, her chainsaw gang leader, Kwesi, and her local Mr-Fix-It, Yaw Obeng, to - which did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of my message. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.

From my personal knowledge of the scale of the illegal logging now going on in the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest at Akyem Juaso, I can boldly predict that if it is not halted in time,  20 years hence, there will be a significant reduction in the quantity of water from the Densu, Ayensu and Birim river systems, which will negatively impact the quality of life of Accra's residents then.

That 20-year time-frame might seem like an eternity to some - but it will come in the twinkling of an eye: if you are a 6 or 10-year old primary schoolchild attending school in Accra, today.

Clearly, an under-resourced Forestry Commission, cannot possibly be expected to deal effectively with the illegal logging syndicates, which are destroying the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest, all on its own.

That is unfair and unrealistic - if we are actually serious about halting illegal logging in Ghana.

The criminal syndicates engaged in illegal logging, illegal gold mining and illegal sand-winning, operate with the same degree of ruthlessness, with which the rebel groups that destroyed Liberia and Sierra Leone, used to carry out their military operations -  to enable them to plunder gold, diamonds and timber during the civil wars in those two nations.

Many Forestry Service guards have been murdered by illegal chainsaw gangs across the forest-belt in Ghana.

The  task of halting the gang-rape of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest at the Akyem Juaso section, must be handed over to a combined task force made up of Forestry Service guards, men from the Ghana Army's  Special Forces Unit and the Special Forces Unit of the Ghana Air Force.

Daytime surveillance of the area using  aerial drones with high resolution cameras, as well as by helicopter, and  analysing satellite images of the area from the Urthecast satellite video streaming service, will provide the intelligence needed  to pinpoint the areas where the illegal chainsaw gangs operate in, and arrest them.

About 20 years ago, some of us used to regularly risk our lives confronting the illegal chainsaw gangs which then operated in the area. At the time, we warned in our writing, that if urgent steps were not taken to halt their activities, Ghana would have to import timber from elsewhere in the not too distant future. That has now come to pass, unfortunately.

Sadly, now that we are in our sixties, and no longer as physically strong as we once were, alas, we can no longer physically confront the illegal loggers who operate in the area.

However, we can, and will, predict through our writing,  that if drastic measures are not taken immediately to deal with the criminal syndicates engaged in illegal logging, illegal gold mining and illegal sand-winning across the country, we will wake up to find one day that they have all been transformed into powerful rebel groups.

That could happen as early as next year - should  law and order break down after the 2016 elections. Judging by the intensity of the rivalry  between Ghana's two major political parties, we cannot rule out the possibility that there could, for example,  be post-election violence in areas where the results are disputed.

And post-election fighting could also break out between members of the small groups of violence-prone and amoral hardliners in the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party - the corrupt duopoly that has ruled Ghana since 1992 - if the presidential election's results are disputed. But I digress.

Parliament needs to pass tough new laws that will make it mandatory for illegal loggers to be tried and imprisoned for at least 10 years with hard labour if found guilty of felling trees unlawfully by the law courts.

Those new laws must also stipulate that all vehicles, chainsaws and other accoutrements used by illegal loggers should  be seized and forfeited to the state - which should auction them to the highest bidders: in transparent auctions that are widely publicised.

As an emergency measure, the present government must get the Special Forces units of our military's three armed services, to tackle the menace of illegal logging in the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest - and it must do so now. Not tomorrow - when it will be way too late to save an important ecosystem services provider, and globally significant biodiversity area, from total destruction by nation-wrecking criminal syndicates.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Is A 'Legal Permit' To Build Within A Waterway Not A Contradiction In Terms?

The recent demolition of two structures in the jurisdiction of the Ga East Municipal Assembly, following the June 3, 2015, floods in Accra, raises a number of issues.

For example, the difference in the way the Ga East Municipal Assembly dealt with a vehicle washing business owned by an ordinary citizen, and a petrol filling station owned by the member of Parliament for Ayawaso East, the Hon. Nasser Mahama Toure, speaks volumes about the way ordinary people in Ghana are often marginalised by some public officials.

Why were all the structures at the petrol filling station not demolished - just as those at the vehicle washing business were?

Both businesses are said to have been built within a waterway in the Mile 7 area - yet still the owners of both businesses apparently possess permits from the Ga East Municipal Assembly.

It is important that all illegally sited structures earmarked for demolition in Ghana are dealt with in exactly the same fashion by District and Municipal  Assembly planning officials - whether they belong to ordinary people or to members of our ruling elites.

No one in our democracy is above the law. Not even the President of the Republic of Ghana is above the law. That is why the social standing of the owners of structures earmarked for demolition should not influence the actions of District and Municipal Assembly officials.

Another issue the said recent demolitions carried out by the Ga East Municipal Assembly raises, is the question of the legality of issuing permits tp build in unapproved places in Ghana.

In light of the widespread destruction and tragic loss of life caused by the recent floods in Accra,  and elsewhere in the country, perhaps the question we ought to pose is: can a permit be lawfully issued to build within a waterway in Ghana - particularly in an area where the location of such structures will lead to flooding of other properties after prolonged rainfall?

In a nation in which there is widespread public-sector corruption, should the assumption not always be that permits to build in unapproved places, such as within waterways, are obtained only by bribing planning officials in District and Municipal Assemblies - and  therefore cannot possibly have been lawfully obtained?

The time has come for all sides in Parliament to come together, to pass a new law to ensure that building permits to build within waterways,  are never issued by planning officials in municipal  and district assemblies anywhere in Ghana - and that when that happens all such permits are regarded as having been unlawfully obtained.

 Whenever flood-control measures are being discussed, there ought to be a national consensus that the safety and well-being of the majority will always override the self-interest of the well-connected and selfish few, who build within waterways in Ghana - and put so many innocent lives at risk during the rainy season.

In any case, even as things currently stand, surely, referring to a 'legal permit' to build within a waterway,  anywhere in Ghana, is a contradiction in terms, is it not?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Those Who Died In Accra's Floods Yesterday Must Not Die In Vain

It is hard to find words to describe the feelings evoked in one, by some of the harrowing eyewitness accounts, of the horrific events that occurred during the flash floods in Accra yesterday, broadcast by Peace FM early today.

Those flash floods show how vulnerable our country has become in an era of extreme weather occasioned by global climate change. It also shows how fragile human existence actually is.

What cruel fate led so many innocent people to take shelter from the rains, at the GOIL petrol filling station adjacent to the GCB Towers building near the Kwame Nkrumah circle, only to end up being engulfed and burnt alive by a raging inferno - when the petrol filling station apparently caught fire after an explosion?

It is a fate one would not wish to befall even one's worst enemy. With the proliferation of petrol and LPG gas filling stations in residential areas in towns and cities across Ghana,  should we not be questioning the wisdom of regulatory bodies  issuing permits for building petrol and LPG gas filling stations in such areas?

If eyewitnesses spoke of smelling petrol in the flood waters before the explosion at that GOIL petrol station, where so many people lost their lives so tragically, the possibility that underground tanks in some of the many petrol filling stations in that part of Accra could be leaching petrol into the underground water table, cannot be ruled out.

In addition to any investigations carried out by the Ghana National Fire Service, at the very least - and in memory of all those who lost their lives so tragically in the fire after the explosion - there ought to be thorough inspections of all the petrol and LPG gas filling stations sited in residential areas in towns and cities countrywide.

They must all be made to strictly conform with required standards. Perhaps a law ought to be passed to make it mandatory for underground tanks in all petrol filling stations in Ghana to be double-hulled - and coated with paint, which will ensure that  they neither rust nor corrode.

The time has also come for the professionals whose job it is to ensure that people do not build on watercourses in towns and cities, to be sanctioned when they allow that to happen. Parliament must pass draconian laws to make that possible now.

The suffering caused to many families and individuals whose lives are disrupted by flooding is unbearable and everything possible must be done to prevent it.

Above all, politicians must stop playing politics with the issue of demolishing buildings blocking watercourses in our  major cities. Such demolitions of unlawfully sited buildings are flood-control measures necessary to prevent future loss of lives and destruction of  properties during heavy downpours.

We mourn all those who lost their lives as a result of the flooding in Accra and elsewhere in the country yesterday, and pray for their souls.

We share the grief of their loved ones left so painfully behind - and our hearts and prayers go out to all of them. The deaths of our departed compatriots who died in the flash floods in Accra (and elsewhere in Ghana) must not be in vain. We must all learn lessons from this painful national tragedy.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Leadership Of The CPP And PNC Must Initiate Talks With The PPP & GCPP

The leadership of the Convention People's Party (CPP), and the People's National Convention (PNC), deserve to be commended for putting the well-being of our nation, and the welfare of ordinary people, above personal ambition and party advantage - by opting for an Nkrumahist alliance for the 2016 elections.

Entering into an alliance-of-equals (in which each party retains its identity), with the view to eventually selecting a common 2016 presidential candidate for all the Nkrumahist parties, will demonstrate to ordinary people that a government of national unity, which oversees a meritocratic system in which the brightest and best amongst the Ghanaian people, are appointed to manage and oversee public-sector entities, irrespective of party affiliation and ethnic background, will be formed, when that Nkrumahist alliance's presidential candidate is elected president in 2016.

The task before the leadership of the CPP and PNC now, is to initiate talks with the leadership of the Progressive People's Party (PPP) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), to bring them into the alliance of Nkrumahist parties.

It is vital that Samia Yaabah Nkrumah display's the same tactical genius, which her late father, President Nkrumah,  had in such abundance, in dealing with the PPP's founder and leader, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom.

She must make a fresh start in her relationship with Nduom. They must both put the unpleasantness of past personal disagreements between them, behind them - for the sake of our nation and its hard-pressed people.

Strategically, it is Nduom who holds the key to an Nkrumahist alliance's victory, in the 2016 presidential election.

As a result of his record in creating wealth and jobs, he dwarfs both President Mahama, and the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, in terms of personal achievement.

With a radical agenda (including passing the right to information bill, making publicly publishing the assets of public officials and their spouses before and at the end of their tenures mandatory, abolishing personal income tax, making Ghana a nation with Africa's lowest corporate tax rate, changing the constitution to reserve half the seats in Parliament for women, as well as electing district assembly members and district chief executives), an Nduom-Samiah Nkrumah presidential ticket, can beat both President Mahama and Nana Addo Daquah Akufo-Addo in the 2016 presidential election.

Nduom is precisely the kind of honest and incorruptible world-class technocrat, who has abundant self-belief, and has consistently shown faith in the enterprise Ghana, over the years, by investing his own money in it, that today's young generation of Ghanaians want to lead Nkrumah's Ghana.

The narrative of his rise from humble beginnings to great wealth, through his own efforts, will resonate with millions across the nation - many of whom will identify with someone from a background similar to theirs: unlike the privileged backgrounds of President Mahama and Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo.

Above all, Nduom has the money and resources, which will enable the Nkrumahist alliance to show Ghanaians, the difference between politicians and political parties that are transparent about their sources of funding, and the opaquenes of the NDC/NPP duopoly that is completely dependant on the vested interests responsible for high-level corruption in our country, and the erosion of the moral fabric of Ghanaian society, for funding their election campaigns.

The leadership of the CPP and PNC must initiate talks with the PPP and GCPP, with a view to getting those two Nkrumahist parties to join the Nkrumahist alliance-of-equals to fight the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections - and they must move quickly to do so.