General News of Wednesday, 12 April 2006

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Press Statement of Prof JEA Mills


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Welcome to this Press Conference. Last weekend, Chairmen of political parties in Ghana and Cote d?Ivoire held a joint meeting in Accra on the theme, ?Consolidation of Democracy ? The Role of Political Parties?.

I am informed that the main focus of the meeting was really on conflict in the West African sub-region, with papers presented on the sub-themes of ?Political Tolerance and Power-Sharing?, ?Political Parties and National Security and Stability?, ?Causes of Conflict and Conflict Avoidance? and ?Political Parties and the Management of Conflicts?.

I am further informed that the very able resource persons, all from Ghana, and from both the NDC and the NPP, offered very sound advice to their Ivorien counterparts on how to manage the present conflict in their country and how to avoid conflict in the future.

It would be a sad day indeed if we, who are giving advice on conflict avoidance to others today, cannot seem to take the responsibility to prevent conflict breaking out in our own country.

But it is obvious to me that the direction in which the NPP Government is taking the country, unless it is called to order is bound to lead nowhere but directly into conflict.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, You will recall that within weeks of the NPP taking office in January 2001 for its first term of office, the political temperature of the country rose so high with the campaign of harassment, intimidation and general persecution of ex-NDC Ministers, officers and public officials reaching such dizzying heights that the then co-Chairman of the NDC, Mr. Issifu Ali, wrote to President Kufuor on 21st May 2001, advising him to take steps to ?lower the political temperature?.

When this letter did not elicit any response, our colleague Alhaji Mahama Iddrissu addressed a Press Conference four months later on Tuesday 25th September 2001 at which he announced a policy of ?positive non-cooperation? with the numerous inquisitions that were going on into the administration of the NDC.

The inquisitions nevertheless went on and reached their height with the conviction and sentencing to prison terms of the ?Quality Grain 3? ? Ibrahim Adam, Kwame Peprah and Dr. George Adja-Sipah Yankey.

The NPP government is currently reeling under a barrage and an avalanche of accusations, allegations and criticisms ranging from corruption to amassing wealth through illegal and dishonest acquisition of property, greed, incompetence, moral turpitude, drug dealing, and the President himself faces certain accusations even from within his own party

There is the accusation that President Kufuor is the real owner of what has become known as the ?Hotel Kufuor? and that his son, ?Chief? John Addo Kufuor, who has publicly claimed ownership, is a ?front man? for his father. A statement of a public relations agent of Chief Addo Kufuor at the time actually made it clear that the initiative for the purchase came from the President himself

The accusation was also given credence by Ms. Giselle Yazji, a self-confessed paramour of President Kufuor and who even claimed to be the mother of twin sons of the President. She insisted that she had negotiated for the purchase of the Hotel for the President on his instructions. Even in trying to cast doubt on her story, it was revealed that she and the president?s son had been in the meeting with the owner of the building and that she had done most of the talking.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, The scandals have continued one after another. Giselle Yazji further accused President Kufuor and his family of setting up offshore companies and opening bank accounts in some tax haven countries.

The Minister of Road Transport Dr. Richard Anane is currently appearing before CHRAJ on allegations about his abuse of office and corruption to finance, among other things his maintaining an American mistress with whom he has a child.

As the case of Dr. Anane is going on comes the allegation that young Charles Bintim, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, has deposited an amount of almost ?2 billion within 8 months in his personal bank account in Ghana.

There has been the ?mother of all accusations?. NPP National Chairman at the time Haruna Esseku has been heard on on tape ?confessing? to party faithfuls that President Kufuor himself collects kickbacks from contractors at the Castle and doles them out as if it was from his personal fortune. Haruna Esseku gave the example that President Kufuor once ordered for as much as ?10 billion to be stacked into the boot of his (Haruna Esseku?s) car at the Castle after he complained about lack of money for a voters? registration exercise.

There are credible allegations of NPP members and officials amassing wealth and illegally and dishonestly acquiring properties. First came the rumours that the NPP Government had sold the numerous in-filling plots in the plush areas of Accra namely Ridge, Cantonments, Switchback Road, Airport Residential Area and Roman Ridge as well as the old colonial buildings whose leases were about to expire, to themselves, their cronies and lackeys.

Vast properties of the erstwhile GNTC, comprising offices, residential estates, factories and equipment have apparently been parcelled out and sold to NPP apparatchiks. Calls for an investigation have gone unheeded.

The President himself and other NPP officials are said to be acquiring vast and expensive properties at Atasomanso in Kumasi costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. A Government spokesperson has come out to deny the story which the sources insist is true.

Only today, there is a publication about another Minister putting up six mansions within one year in one area of Accra alone.

As for acts and omissions amounting to ?wilfully causing financial loss to the state? under the Kufuor administration, they are numerous. The NPP Government pays off the total amount owed on the Gulfstream Presidential Jet and yet the President abandons it on the tarmac of the Ghana Air Force Station for more than five years, unused even as he and his entourage travel first class on his numerous trips.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, Of all the accusations and the allegations made against the Kufuor Government, however, the one that tarnishes the image of the nation most is the accusation of drug-dealing. A few examples will suffice.

Three female executive members of the Dzorwulu Women?s Wing of the NPP were arrested at the Kotoka International Airport for attempting to smuggle heroin to the USA. The case was given wide media publicity and their pictures and party positions were splashed on the front page of the Daily Graphic. Then the story died. There were wild rumours that the ?death? of the story followed the intervention of the First Lady. Since then, Minister of Interior after Minister of Interior has tried in vain to explain the ?disappearance? of the case and the women.

The current Deputy Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Narcotics Control Board publicly undertook to let an Accra FM station know within three weeks what had happened to the case and the women. It is now three months since the promise was made, and the public is still waiting.

On another Accra FM station, the irate wife of a henpecked, self-acclaimed NPP financier who had allegedly been ?snatched? by a Deputy Minister publicly accused her ex-husband of dealing in narcotics. Calls upon the NPP Government to investigate the wife?s allegations were ignored.

Currently languishing in jail in the USA awaiting trial for trafficking in narcotics is Eric Amoateng, NPP MP for Nkoranza North.

Then came the USA State Department Report that Ghana had become a transit point for drug trafficking. The feeble explanation from the Deputy Minister of Interior who is also the Chairman of the Narcotics Control Board was that the more authentic Report of the International Narcotics Control Board had not similarly indicted Ghana.

There have also been pervasive and persistent rumours that judicially ordered confiscated properties of convicted narcotics dealers and drug barons who are related to leading NPP personalities have been clandestinely released to them. Specifically mentioned are a house behind ?Emmanuel Eye Clinic? at East Legon in Accra and an ice cream factory on the Spintex Road also in Accra. The NPP Government has maintained an undignified silence on the calls for official confirmation or denial and for explanations.

As if that was not bad enough, we recently heard the plan of the Foreign Minister that the Government is to sponsor a ?Transfer of Prisoners Bill? under which Ghanaian narcotics traffickers serving jail terms in Thailand would be repatriated to Ghana to serve out the remainder of their prison terms. What does the foreign minister and the government on behalf of whom he spoke think of the intelligence of Ghanaians? Are we supposed to see this as a humanitarian gesture of the government? Why does a government which is seeking to provide facilities for Ghanaians abroad to participate in elections not simply leave them in jail and register them?

Add all these to the NPP National Organiser?s tape-recorded ?confession? that the party has been utilising the services of a 1,000-strong armed private ?goon squad? of Action Troopers to rig elections, and you will realise that the first year of President Kufuor?s second term has not been the best or the most propitious for the President, his Government and his party.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, Reeling under the pressure of these accusations, allegations, rumours, confessions and self-inflicted political wounds, the NPP Government has decided to fight back by launching a new offensive against the NDC. Unfortunately, it has decided to fight back in a manner that threatens to revive all the old antagonisms and hatreds that raised the political temperature so high in the NPP Government?s first year in office.

The NPP Government?s decision to prosecute Mr. Kofi Totobi-Quakyi ? a young man who used the better part of his life to serve his country and is currently very sick and fighting for his life in a London Hospital; and Mr. Kwame Peprah, another young man who applied his financial engineering ingenuity to the benefit of his country and has served a prison term under this very Government ? for nothing other than roles they allegedly played in the divestiture of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation, is simply very sad.

The NPP Government might think it is part of its strategy of fighting back and diverting attention from the regime?s run of ill-luck and negative image. On the contrary, it is winning the former NDC officials a lot of public sympathy.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, Tomorrow, Wednesday 12th April 2006, eight top-ranking NDC personalities sympathisers and persons who served in the NDC administration are to appear before an Accra Fast Track High Court on charges of ?wilfully causing financial loss to the state? in connection with roles they allegedly played in the divestiture of Nsawam Cannery. The 30-count charges against them include a ridiculous one of converting into a separate count each time interest on a loan was supposed to be paid and was not paid. The accused persons are: 1. 1st Accused ? Mr. Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary, Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) 2. 2nd Accused ? Thomas Benson Owusu, former Accountant, DIC 3. 3rd Accused ? Mr. Kwame Peprah, former Minister of Finance and Chairman, DIC 4. 4th Accused ? Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, President of the 31st December Women?s Movement and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Caridem Development Company Limited (Caridem) 5. 5th Accused ? Ms. Sherry Ayittey, Managing Director, Caridem 6. 6th Accused ? Ms. Georgina Okaiteye, Director/General Manager, Caridem 7. 7th Accused ? Mr. George Mould, Director, Caridem 8. 8th Accused ? Mr. Larry Adjetey, Director/Secretary, Caridem 9. 9th Accused ? Caridem Development Company Limited

It is significant to note that of the list of persons to be prosecuted, Mr. Emmanuel Agbodo and Ms. Sherry Ayittey were tried and acquitted and discharged in the ?GREL Divestiture Case?; Ms. Georgina Okaiteye was the NPP Government?s star witness in the ?GREL Divestiture Case? against Mr. Agbodo and Ms. Ayittey. Mr. Kwame Peprah was tried and served a prison term in the ?Quality Grain Case?.

We have in our possession also a long list of NDC personalities whom the NPP Government plans to prosecute between now and the 2008 elections as a way of fighting back on the accusations against their party. The NPP Government wishes to paint the NDC as black or blacker than the NPP. They also intend to keep the NDC personalities so busy that they will have no time to organise for or campaign during the 2008 elections.

We are also privy to private admissions within the NPP Government itself that the cases against these persons are without merit, but what the NPP Government is counting on is the embarrassment that the prosecutions will cause the NDC, the low morale that it will induce in the NDC faithful and NDC supporters, and the propaganda coups that the NPP believes it will be scoring. The NPP Government is also hoping the strategy will divert attention from the mountain of scandals facing the NPP itself. This was the very same strategy that at the beginning of its first term in office the NPP government used to malign the NDC.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, All this is very sad indeed. It shows how the NPP Government is toying with the destiny of this country, playing games with the institutions of this country and engaging the Judiciary to play the political hatchet men and women on behalf of the NPP Government against the opposition NDC.

The main objective of the government is to give front page coverage to the announcement of charges having been laid against these NDC officials. What happens afterwards with the conduct of the cases themselves is not so important to the government.

Mr. Ato Ahwoi has been in court for almost four years over a simple matter of a Hearts of Oak player transfer case. Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata has been in court for over five years over the Valley Farms Case. Hon. Dan Abodakpi has been in court for almost five years over the Technology Theme Park Case and in the process, his co-accused Mr. Victor Selormey, who was already serving a prison term in an unrelated case, has died.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, I have a number of important messages for the government of the NPP, the NPP as a political party, the president and the judiciary. The NPP Government should not think that we are going to sit down for them to use the facade of the legal process to destroy the rule of law and to create disorder in this country. Tomorrow, at the trial of Kwame Peprah, Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and the others, we intend individually to come and see for ourselves what is going to happen at this trial and to send a message to the NPP government that our leaders are not alone. I call on members of the NDC, individual members of the 31st December Women?s Movement, the June 4th Movement and individual members of other progressive organisations to be present at the precincts of the Fast Track High Court to show solidarity with our colleagues. This show of solidarity will continue every day of the trial until the case is finally disposed of or until the NPP Government sees wisdom in withdrawing the charges. We will do so in all the other cases the Government intends to bring up

I have a message for the NPP as a party. As the organisation that put the government in power, it should be clear that the Kufuor administration is leading the party to doom. The Government and its security advisors can put the entire leadership of the NDC in jail; if it does not do anything about the policies and activities that are causing the masses to lose hope and confidence in the NPP, there is very little the NPP party can do to salvage its image. This is a lesson that the NPP should have learnt from its successive defeats in the Asawase, Odododiodoo and Tamale Central bye-elections. This is the message I believe former NPP Chairman Haruna Esseku was trying to get to President Kufuor when on the infamous ?Esseku-gate? tape, he is heard telling his party faithful (talking about President Kufuor): ?wode, woreko o, na aden na woreye ma nnooma aye den ama w?akyidifoo?; literally and plaintively crying to President Kufuor: ?As for you, you are going. Why are you making things difficult for those who will come after you?? And clearly too, President Kufuor is pushing the nation to the brink of disaster.

I also have a message for President Kufuor himself. Mr. President, did you exercise your prerogative of mercy to have Kwame Peprah reprieved and released from prison before he finishes his term, only because you wanted him to be re-tried and possibly sent back to prison? Do you and your advisors realise that as Minister of Finance, he was bound to be involved in every financial transaction that the NDC Government was involved in so that if you have decided to prosecute 100 cases relating to NDC financial transactions, he is going to be prosecuted 100 times? Do you not realise that your Ministers of Finance, past and present, must really be having nightmares looking at what is happening to their predecessor, considering the roles that they may have been compelled to play in some of your Government?s infamous financial scandals such as Sahara Energy Resources, the Strategic Reserve Plant, IFC, CNTCI, United Rail and the looming Ghana International Airlines scandal?

Finally, I have a message also for the Judiciary. It is also a simple one. I am a lawyer by profession. I have a very high regard for the law and legal institutions; I have also sworn an oath to defend, protect and uphold the good name of the profession at all times. I cannot keep quiet when I see the executive trying to misuse the judiciary for political ends. We have seen the manipulation of the judicial process for political purposes. The African Peer Review Mechanism criticised the government for the way it manipulated the judicial process in relation to the Fast Track court case of Mr Tsikata and got a decision in favour of Mr Tsikata reversed. We all saw how the late Mr Justice Afreh was appointed specifically to add to the numbers in the Supreme Court to reverse an earlier decision. We all saw how at the swearing in of Justice Afreh, the president literally told him what he expected him to do in the case that was pending.

There comes a time when even Judges must stand up and be counted and be bold enough to tell the executive that they will not allow themselves to be used to fight the Government?s political battles. That time, for Ghanaian judges, it seems to me, is now. How to handle these clear cases of political vendetta, or whether to handle them at all, will be a determinant of whether Ghana goes the route of conflict or the route of stability and reconciliation

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, Already, President Kufuor and his NPP Government have so thoroughly polarised the country with their ?Representation of the People (Amendment) Act (ROPAA) with which they clearly intend to rig the 2008 elections that the stage is set for a major confrontation any time from now. What they are going to do with these ridiculous prosecutions will be like pouring petrol on fire.

These are difficult times for our country. It was my expectation that the NPP and the NDC, having both experienced periods in government and opposition would be working towards political accommodation so that the next political transition will be better handled and managed and that we will be putting behind us the politics of vengeance, vendetta and vindictiveness.

I would have thought that at a time when the Government has seen fit to ?restore? the privileges of former President Jerry John Rawlings, which were unconstitutionally withdrawn in the first place, thus probably signalling its intention to embark on the path of genuine reconciliation; that this would be the worst of times to put the former President?s wife, his working colleagues and his friends before court on trumped-up charges of ?wilfully causing financial loss to the state?.

I hope that this time, our religious leaders, our traditional authorities, civil society and men and women of goodwill are not going to stand idly by and do nothing but wait for us to do something and only for them to call on us to apologise for doing something.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, Let me reiterate our regular appeal to you to use your media to defend what is right and point out what is wrong. You have done it before; you must do it again. I want to thank all of you for attending this Press Conference and invite you to the precincts of the Fast Track High Court tomorrow. I also invite you to join me in praying for the peace and stability of this country.

Thank you and God bless you.