General News of Saturday, 3 May 2014
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s presence at the recent rebranding of Merchant Bank to Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) is not an endorsement of the controversial sale of the hitherto state-owned bank to private equity fund Fortiz, the Executive Director of civil society group Centre for Freedom and Accuracy, has said.
According to Andrew Awuni, who was once Mr Kufuor’s press secretary, any attempt to use his former boss’ presence to legitimise the transaction will be disingenuous.
Universal Merchant Bank, as the rebranded bank is now known, was acquired by Fortiz amidst a wave of opposition and uproar from the main opposition New Patriotic Party, on whose ticket Mr Kufuor became president. The Minority NPP petitioned Parliament to probe the sale. The Centre for Freedom and Accuracy also resisted the transaction in court. Mr Awuni described it as a dash. The transaction went through nonetheless.
Fortiz acquired 90% of Merchant Bank for Ghc90 million. Erstwhile majority shareholder, Social Security and National Insurance Trust, (SSNIT), offloaded the shares to the private investor and now retains the minority shares. The Minority, at the time, wondered why the government turned down ‘better’ deals in favour of Fortiz. They suspected fraud in the whole transaction.
Mr Awuni told Accra-based Asempa FM’s political programme Ekosii sen on Friday that those behind the “fraudulent” transaction have a lot of questions to answer.
Meanwhile a founder-member of the NPP, Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe has also told Asempa FM that Mr Kufuor’s presence at the event was in his individual capacity and there was therefore nothing wrong with it. Deputy Minority Leader Dominic Nitiwul is on the same page with both Mr Awuni and Dr Nyaho-Tamakloe.