Feature Article of Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Columnist: Ametor-Quarmyne, E. M. N.
We have read and listened to the NPP’s arguments delivered in two press conferences in quick succession on 25th September, and 2nd October, 2012, respectively on an issue that did not have to be in the public domain in the first place except for political mischief making. We mean the Engineers&Planners and Merchant Bank loan transaction.
It is clear from information available publicly that the only reason for the NPP ‘s antagonistic stand on this financial transaction between Engineers& Planners and Merchant Bank is the fact that the owner of the company, Mr. Ibrahim Mahama is the brother of the President of the Republic, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama. The NPP is trying very hard to smear the President when indeed there is nothing untoward in the said financial transaction in question, and the President had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Engineers&Planners obtained a financial facility of some US$43 million from a consortium of Ghanaian Banks that included Barclays Bank, Ghana Commercial Bank and Merchant Bank, with Merchant Bank as the Lead promoter in 2007, when the NPP was in power. The agreement for the loan repayment i9n 2007 was for a five(5) year period at monthly repayments of US$746,000. In less than a year, in 2008, in most bizarre unexplained circumstances, very queer in financial transactions, Merchant Bank unilaterally abrogated the original terms of the loan transaction and requested Engineers&Planners to redeem the facility within 23months at a repayment rate of US$2.3million per month. That was after Merchant Bank had taken steps to buy both Barclays and Ghana Commercial Banks out of the business.
Clearly, such a turn of events is most unusual in financial transactions involving banks. Even SHYLOCK himself would have been more considerate. Banks must and indeed do undertake very thorough assessment of projects for which a loan is sought, make their own assessments, projections of the returns, profitability as well as the risks involved before coming to terms with the client.
Such completely unprofessional behaviour of Merchant Bank could only to put down to outside interference in the professional management of the affairs of the Bank. In the case of this loan transaction between Merchant Bank and Engineers &Planners, it was political interference on the part of the NPP Government in 2008, which led to the difficulties imposed on the company. Banks exist to assist businesses to succeed not to put impediments in their way with the sole aim of making them fail as we have seen in this particular case.
Desirous of maintaining its reputation as a first class contracting firm, Engineers &Planners entered into terms with Merchant Bank for restructuring of the loan facility and final settlement of the remaining US$28million which is currently outstanding.
Why this purely private financial transaction should become a political issue to be championed by the New Patriotic Party can only be best explained by themselves.
It has become common knowledge now that the total exposure of Merchant Bank to its debtors is about US$330million of which only 28million is owed to it by Engineers&Planners. This amount is said to be only 19% of the total loan portfolio of Merchant Bank. Why is the NPP not interested in the remaining debts totalling 81% which is currently outstanding and due to Merchant Bank? NPP’s behaviour can only be explained by an inordinate desire to play political mischief by linking the name of the President of the Republic to a purely private transaction in which he was not involved in anyway.
It is most refreshing to note that Engineers&Planners is a very viable Ghanaian company which is not in distress in anyway and is therefore capable of redeeming the remaining amount of the loan as detailed above.
A cursory look at the company’s assert base reveals the following equipment holding, which list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you an idea of the company’s strength and standing.
1. Twenty dump trucks @US$2.5milliom each =US$50milliom
2. Five excavators @US$5milliom each =US$25milliom
3. Seventy small dump trucks @US$650,000 each =US$45.5million
4. Forty bull dozers @1.3milliom each =52milliom
5. One hundred and twenty tippers @ US$200,000 each =24million
6. A modern jet plane
In addition the company has the largest chicken farm in the country which currently produces 150,000 eggs per day and capable of processing 10,000 chickens in a day.
Engineers&Planners have contracts with Mittal steel company of UK, one of the largest steel companies in the United Kingdom, whose mine it is developing presently in Ghana. It is also working for a Canadian mining company, it has two contracts with Gold Fields of South Africa. It also has contracts in Liberia and is in the process of entering into another mining construction contract in Congo Brazzaville. This is the strength of Engineers&Planners.
What is intriguing about the NPP’s posture today is that Engineers&Planners owned by Mr. Ibrahim Mahama represents a Ghanaian business success story which must be celebrated by all well meaning Ghanaians, encouraged to achieve more and be a role model for young up-coming Ghanaian entrepreneurs. As a developing country, we certainly need more of such Ibrahims to propel our development to higher heights and not to pull them down as the NPP is doing. Even more distressing is the wrongly held notion that the NPP is a political party of businessmen and women and professionals which will do everything and anything to promote and protect genuine Ghanaian businesses such as Engineers&Planners. Has this not turned out to be a total fallacy?
a. Why is the NPP now doing everything in their power to destroy Engineers&Planners, a Ghanaian business success story?
b. Is the NPP not being vindictive because Ibrahim Mahama is not one of them.
c. Will the NPP not target and destroy Ghanaian businesses on political grounds if ever they come to power?
The NPP’s present posture brings to mind bitter memories of their concerted efforts soon after coming to power in 2001 when they haunted City and Country Waste Company into extinction on the mere grounds that Mr. Eddie Annan the owner of the Company is an NDC member. The same can also be said of Carridem of 31st December Women’s Movement which bought the former Nsawan Cannery. They put an embargo on the sale and Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings was dragged to court for the whole of the eight years that the NPP was in power. NPP withdrew the case in 2008 only when they saw defeat starring them in the face after losing the first round of the elections of that year.
Most often than not politicians, the NPP in particular would haunt Ghanaian businesses out of existence while shamelessly paying lip service to the saying, ‘the private sector is the engine of growth’ of the Ghanaian economy. They will give every assistance to foreigners who parade their corridors most often without a pesewa in their pockets to establish viable companies and repatriate huge amounts of our hard earned foreign currency out of our poor country to the detriment of Ghanaians.
Let the NPP realize the great harm they are doing this nation and our ability to grow our own businesses which then grows our economy.
We take this opportunity to salute and to congratulate the National Democratic Congress(NDC) on their continuing collaboration with Messrs RLG Communications and Zoom Lion Waste Management Company, two Ghanaian companies which are making huge strides providing employment to our youth and contributing enormously to our economic growth.
Let all of us stand up for the Ghanaian in whatever sphere of life we find him or her. That is the only way we can grow our economy, grow our nation and grow our democracy. Let us say no to this political witch hunt. Let us stand up for IBRAHIM Mahama and his Engineers&Planners in this most trying times.
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF :
INSTITUTE OF GHANA
E. M. N. AMETOR-QUARMYNE