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Opinions of Sunday, 14 October 2018

Columnist: Chubua Muhamudu

After your anger against PFJ fertilizer thievery, what next Your Excellency?

President Nana Akufo-Addo on the 4th of September, 2018 indicated that all those who stole fertilizers to sabotage his government’s flagship agricultural initiative, Planting for Food and Jobs would be dealt with.

This he said whilst he was addressing the Ghanaian community in China during his working visit to the Asian country together with the Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Owusu Afriyie Akoto.

The president was reported to have said, "We are going to have a stop to that kind of behaviour and be serious about our own development… If people are caught in this exercise of smuggling, they will face the full rigours of the law.

There are no two ways about it. If we cannot catch them fair enough, but if they are caught, we have to make sure the law is applied in all spheres. We are still talking about the smuggling of Ghanaian fertilizers across the border.

I think those are the things that we Ghanaians have to think about and look ourselves in the mirror. How come we mobilize our resources and we are complacent in having those resources enjoyed by people who are not Ghanaians. We create policies which are meant to help our people and some people find it acceptable to be in cahoots with others who are not.”

Before the President's speech in China, the Minister of Agriculture also lamented about the thievery and smuggling of fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme in the Upper West Region.

He was also reported to have said on Saturday the 25th of August 2018 in Wa, the regional capital of the Upper West Region that, “Unfortunately, they are miscreants, criminals within us who are sabotaging the whole program of Planting for Food and Jobs by stealing or smuggling fertilizers and sending them across the borders to Togo and Burkina Faso and denying our farmers of the fertilizer.

My heart was bleeding yesterday when I heard that farmers along Tumu had to come and spend three nights in front of the ministry so that they could get the coupons to go and get fertilizer.

This was not how I started this whole program, and is all because of selfish people, wicked people, people who are saboteurs of our economy, to the vision of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, are determined that they rather steal the fertilizer and give it to Burkinabe farmers instead of our farmers, isn’t that sad?”.

My thinking was that after this public pronouncements from the president and the Agric Minister, actions would have been taken by now. Names of culprits would have been mentioned and appropriate sanctions would have been applied.

Since that is not yet done, I will like to refresh our minds on the case of the stolen subsidised fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme in the Upper West Region especially my home municipality, the Sissala East Municipality since the Agric Minister mentioned Tumu in his statement.

The issue of fertilizer smuggling in the Sissala East Municipality is an old canker. Due to this, the MCE of the area, Hon. Karim Nanyua, on the 26th of May, 2017 pledged to work in collaboration with the security agencies and vigilante groups in the Sissala East Municipality to combat the smuggling of subsidized fertilizers to neighbouring country, Burkina Faso, during an interview on a local radio station, Radford FM (Radford FM is the only Radio Station in the Sissala East and West Districts and it's affiliated to GBC Radio Ghana).

He again stated on the same platform that he had no reason to fail to combat the smuggling of subsidized fertilizers and ensuring their even distribution. He indicated that his failure to protect the subsidized fertilizers provided by government would mean he had failed the president who appointed him and the people of his municipality especially the poor farmers.

He added that the coupons provided by government were to be used to help farmers buy subsidised fertilizers were not meant for sale. Hence, anyone caught selling them would be prosecuted.

This show of commitment by the MCE, Honourable Karimu Nanyua, was welcomed by the people in the municipality and all hoped that he could keep to his words. His public pronouncements encouraged the youth to, on the 20th of June,2017, form a vigilante group led by one Jawol Borsutie Suraj to help combat the fertilizer smuggling in the Sissala East Municipality.



Around this same period, rumours started coming that the MP of the Sissala East constituency, honourable Ridwan Abass Dauda, in collaboration with the MCE, honourable Karimu Nanyua, and the workers at the District Agric Office had stolen some fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs programme and were sharing some "to their people" in preparation towards the coming of the 2017 polling station and constituency elections.

Some stolen government subsidised fertilizers were also sent to neighbouring Burkina Faso to sell and raise money to prosecute the campaign of some of the persons asked by the MP and MCE to contest the polling station and constituency elections.

This raised tensions among the NPP rank and file in the Sissala East Municipality especially the then incumbent polling station and constituency executives who suffered to bring the party to power in 2016. They felt that the failure of the MP and MCE to remain neutral in the then elections and also their stealing and smuggling of fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Job was an attempt by these two people to bring down the president Nana Addo government or make it unpopular for reasons best known to they themselves alone.

Some members from these old NPP Sissala East constituency executives led by the then second vice-chairman, Chairman Yakubu, and the then Nasara coordinator, Ibrahim, then also formed their own monitoring team to secretly track down the movement of vehicles that go to convey the stolen subsidised fertilizers from the warehouse at the Tumu cotton ginnery.

On the 5th of November, 2017, these two NPP constituency executives had a hint that the MP with the support of the MCE and the municipal agric department were about to convey some unknown quantity of stolen subsidised fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme from the warehouse at the Tumu Cotton Ginnery and smuggle them to Burkina Faso.

They raised alarm, gathered their evidence and spoke to local media about the issue. There was a huge public hue and cry and the Sissala people could not believe their own people could steal and destroy them that much. Others disbelieved the story due to its closeness to the NPP internal constituency and polling station elections. Those who did not believe thought it was a propaganda against the MP and the MCE.

On the 10th of November, 2017, www.mynewsgh.com, carried the headline *_Exclusive: 4,000 bags of fertilizer for gov't planting for food and jobs smuggled in Sissala East_*. This story was also found on www.ghanaweb.com and confirmed the alleged stealing and smuggling of fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Job programme.

Radford FM then asked the MP, Hon. Abass Ridwan Dauda, to speak to the issue as captured by the media. He called for full investigation into the issue and the culprits be dealt with. However, the MCE and the police commander of the area, ASP Abanga, both denied knowledge of the issue even though the 2nd Vice Chair and the Nasara coordinator of the NPP for the area had confirmed the story to Radford FM and still stood by their evidence.

Due to this thievery of the fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, majority of farmers from the Sissala East Municipality refused to pay their outstanding balances to the Ministry of Agriculture.



They had the fear that either their monies would also be stolen by the MP, MCE and their collaborators at the Agric Department or that their monies would be used to offset that of the stolen and smuggled out fertilizers. Some also felt that why should they pay when those people the MP and MCE gave some of they stolen subsidised fertilizers were not paying anything.

This issue then delayed the distribution of subsidized fertilizers to the area this year. The people in the Sissala East Municipality still did not know what happened to the investigations conducted on the stolen subsidised fertilizers. Questions were being asked ahead of the 2018 farming season.

These questions and pressure from the people in the Sissala East Municipality, made Radford FM to conduct an interview with Dr. Nurah Gyiele, the Minister of State in Charge of Agric, on July 13th, 2018, to find out the reasons for the delay in supplying the Sissala East Municipality with coupons for subsidised fertilizers and also the results of investigations of the stolen fertilizers saga.

Dr. Gyiele for the first time admitted the issue of the stolen subsidised fertilizers and also revealed that out of the total 108,000 quantity of subsidized fertilizers that were supplied to the Sissala East Municipality in 2017, 21,000 bags were missing and that the government was still investigating the issue.

This public admission of the thievery of fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme is in sharp contrast to the denial of the thievery by the MCE, Honourable Karimu Nanyua, and the municipal police commander, ASP Abanga.

The confession of the Agric Ministry that 21,000 bags of subsidised fertilizers meant for the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme were stolen has raised serious questions on the actions and involvement of the MCE, Honourable Karimu Nanyua, and also the commitment of the government to fight corruption and thievery especially when its own appointees are deeply involved.

Firstly, from what Dr. Gyiele said, it was clear that 21, 000 bags of fertilizers were stolen and smuggled out to Burkina Faso. This was capable of supporting thousands of farmers. Who did the Agric Ministry find to be culpable of the thievery now that they had finally admitted it? Why did the MCE and municipal police commander deny the smuggling at the initial stages? What were they collaborating and hiding? What were the findings of the BNI and EOCO investigations on the fertilizer thievery issue in the Upper West Region especially my home municipality, the Sissala East Municipality?

Secondly, both the president and the Agric Minister are expressing anger on the issue, what next after their anger? What actions are they to take against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against the government and against the poor farmers of the Upper West Region?



Or do they fear to take actions against the MCE, Honourable Karimu Nanyua, and his collaborators at the Municipal Department of Agric because he is a party person, a darling boy to the MP and by extension the president?

Can the president ask for the MP of the Sissala East constituency to be investigated for his alleged role in collaborating with the MCE to steal these thousands of fertilizers?

If the president cannot take actions against the MCE, Karimu Nanyua, and also ask for his own NPP MP of my constituency, Honourable Ridwan Abass Dauda, to be investigated and possibly prosecuted, what does that make of his commitment to fight thievery and corruption? Are his fight against thievery and corruption mere lip-service or he can act and bite even if it is against his own party members?

Chubua Muhamudu

A son of the Sissala East Municipality

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