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Opinions of Thursday, 11 June 2020

Columnist: Anonomsahene

Are the laws of Ghana stupid?

Adadiem market mall at Anomangye, Suame, Kumasi has crime written all over it. Even though the government has easement rights for economic and social infrastructures, it appears that the Government did not exercise that right under any agreement with the individual owners of the Adadiem Market. The market store owners were given an ultimatum to vacate before January 7th, 2019, with no compensatory agreement, support for displacement, or funds for inconveniences. Someone from the Suame Municipal Assembly (SMA) initially spread “falsehood” that the Government has budgeted and allocated funds for the rebuilding of the market mall gratis as part of Ghana’s infrastructural developments. No one knows where the funds went and if it was even true that the Government was funding such a project.

Alhaji and Madina Company Limited (A&M Co. Ltd.) put up a signboard with the commencement date of 7th January 2019, the completion date of June 2019, and a picture of the finished project. The store owners put up resistance and wanted some agreement. Subsequently, they were labelled as obstructionists to progress and development of Ghana. In the end, they were assured that there will be no cost to them because it was funded by the Government and that everything would be smooth. In all this, there was no agreement between the owners and anyone but maybe between SMA and A&M Co. Ltd. if at all. Thus, an undocumented, nontransparent transaction that smelt fishy was indeed brewing up.

Problems started cropping up soon after the shops were demolished. Everything became a secret, the contractor and SMA would not own up to anything. Even a temporary relocation was a problem and in desperation, the owners elected Mr. Charles O. Agyemang as Market Representative. After demolition of the market, the contractor took charge and started claiming ownership and selling the allocations of the market to the highest bidders. The crux of the issue is the amount of money the Contractor allegedly proposed to charge the owners (between GHc50,000.00 and Ghc100,000.00) once the project was completed. The Contractor’s decision to sell the stores was that he was funding the market from his own resources and therefore has every right to sell the stores. It became apparent that the Government was not funding the project at all but a ploy to get the owners to relinquish their property without recourse to them. Could this be a ploy by SMA and the Contractor to defraud people under the auspices of the NPP Government?

Everything was by word of mouth and hearsay between the owners, the contractor, and SMA sometimes refuting each other’s statements (hearsays). By the end of June, 2019, the contractor has not completed the work. By August 2019, the contractor had allegedly sold almost half of the shops to prospective buyers leaving the original owners to seek the help of the following people.

Hon. J. O Bobie (SMA Chief Executive) who proved to be the executive brain behind the project was all but a leader. He was not ready for any discussions; it was my way or the highway. Well, “the buck stops with the chief”, he bears all the blame for the chaos, fraud, lack of agreement, coordination of the project and not enforcing the building code recommended by the Fire Department and National Disaster Management Organization. In my view, leaders discover how to master five basic functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. On one occasion, I was present when Hon. Bobie walked into the store of Mr. Charles O Agyemang (the market Representative) and warned/advised him to depose himself from the position as a Representative. His intentions were obvious, either to silence him, bribe him, or threaten him.

Hon. Kyei Mensah MP for the area was approached 3 times. At the third meeting, he was made aware of illegalities surrounding the construction of the market. The owners wanted to know if it was right to be asked to pay any money let alone Ghc50,000.00 since it was gratis. Hon. Kyei Mensah had no knowledge of the construction, it’s size, cost, or agreements made between the owners, SMA and/or the contractor if any. In his response and solution, he made inferences and allusions to the fact that apples and oranges are similar. It is like saying my wife’s store cost more than what you have been asked to pay. Of course, both apples and oranges are considered fruits but never similar. Hon. Kyei Mensah was always pressed for time even under his own scheduled appointments with the owners. Often, he had to go to Accra or had another business on hand to take care of. He didn’t show any concern, in my view he had no time for his constituents who voted and continue to vote him into power since the late 90’s. Who do MPs represent?

“Nkofiehene”, a local sub chief, was approached a couple of times. It became apparent after an altercation ensued between a store owner whose allocation has been sold for allegedly GHc100,000 that the chief would have no violence or bloodshed on his land. The issue was that, the new owner had contracted with Floor Tilers to lay some tiles in the store which she had purchased from the contractor. When the would-be original owner questioned the workers, shovels and axes were flying ready to maim or kill him on the authority given by the contractor to his workers. On hearing the confrontation, the Chief decided to accompany the owners to the regional ministry. I commend the chief for standing up and deciding to settle the case at the Regional Minister’s office. That is leadership.

Finally, a report and an appointment were made with the Regional Minister (RM) who stepped up to resolve the issue between all parties (SMA, owners, and contractor). The RM stipulated and was agreed by all parties at the general resolution meeting that; the original owners should all have their shops back as was the original allocation with no loss or exchange; and further ruled that there has to be safety entrances/exits to the market story building which were missing. The RM requested the Fire Department and NADMO to evaluate the safety issues.

Both agencies recommended more than 3 entrances /exits for the storied market mall. At minimum, 3 entrances and safety exits were to be constructed, one at the center and at the ends of the building. An agreement was later made for the owners to pay Ghc40,000.00 and Ghc35,000.00 for the front and rear ground shops and Ghc35,000 and Ghc30,000.00 for the second floors front and rear shops respectively. Since there was no contractual agreement with the owners in the beginning, the owners were obligated to pay or lose their stores. Someone stands to pocket billions of Cedis.

Wait a minute, who gets all the proceeds for the second floors stores and what is SMA or the contractors cost basis.? . With the agreed prices and the budgeted figures, the contractor and/or SMA stand to pocket between 250% and 500% profit from the project. If allowed to sell to the highest bidders they stand to make, “you guessed it.” (hush, it is a secret).

Here is a breakdown of what has transpired.

There are more stores than the original allocations (about 48 stores on each level)

Using the Original number of allocations = 22 stores at the front and 22 at the rear

Front ground level stores at Ghc40,000.00 each Total = Ghc880,000.00

Rear ground level stores at GHc35,000.00 each Total = Ghc770,000.00

Front second level stores at Ghc35,000.00 each Total = Ghc770,000.00

Rear second level stores at Ghc30,000.00 each Total = Ghc660,000.00

Grand Total = Ghc3,080,000.00

Note: This approximated calculation does not include the sale of the extra stores at the ends and the converted entrances/exits into stores.

The Proposed Budgeted cost was allegedly around Ghc1,000,000.00

The contractor has been able to seize most of the front ground level shops from the original owners and sold them for up to 3 times what the original owners were obligated to pay. This triple sale price to the highest bidders leaves no compensation for the original owners and their demolished properties. The proposed entrances/exits have been converted into stores and sold for Ghc60,000 .00 in defiance of safety rules. This contractor won’t budge and is lawless, belligerent, and condescending on the pretext that it was his own money and therefore he can do whatever he wants. Really? I think, he like most Chinese people in Ghana believes that our laws are corrupted and that most Ghanaians are stupid and lazy, we can even sell our children for money, all we care about is money and aphrodisiacs for sex. Of course, we have over 49 different types of bitters for sex in Ghana. With that ingenuity, we export all the lumber for China to make toothpicks and sell it back to us.

Allegedly, this contractor is not a natural born Ghanaian. He claims to have done contractual work for some presidents, vice presidents, affluent or prominent people in the NDC and NPP governments. As a result, he believes he has the clout, so he is above the law and can pull the plug, put anyone in jail and go scot free. To prove his point and influence, he has had people arrested and ceased peoples’ properties at the market and sold them to highest bidders. He is the government, a fascist autocrat to be exact…a very dangerous character with many market and government projects awarded him as of now, so he claims.

I am worried about the fact that he has converted the entrances/exits to the second floor into stores and sold them. The only entrance/exit remaining is in the middle leading to the second floor stores. In case of a safety hazard (fire), I can assure you that people will trample over from the story building to their death. Unexpectedly or coincidentally, it may happen the very day your relative, friend or someone you know happens to be there (no punts intended). The owners are tongue tied because the contractor uses intimidation, threats, and money to entice officials to do his bidding. So far, he has defied safety laws, and been able to silence, the owners, SMA, the Police, and many others to the point of slapping one Mr. Bernard Appiah, Chairman of the committee and SMA Engineer who dared and made an input into the numbering system as was originally allocated. Nothing was done for his assault. He continues his threats, arrests people and anyone who dare say anything about the market building or make recommendations to be arrested.

The Police in one case have even banned Mr. Charles O. Agyemang, the Market Representative from talking/dissuading any prospective buyer. The contractor orchestrated the arrest of Mr. Charles O Agyemang and had him charged with threat and assault on a high bidder who had purchased the converted end store where an entrance/exit should be located. The overseers (SMA) don’t even show up to inspect or see the progress of the market mall or confront him.

They are either scared of him, or are part of the scam. Completion of the market is almost a year past due. About 95% of owners at the front stores have paid their monies into this Contractors bank account, yet he would not give them access to the stores. New owners are moving in one at a time. I envision him trying to sell the stores to high bidders and refunding the owners monies. The market does not look close to the design at all… it’s a cheap substitute that in my estimation cost less than GHc1,000,000.00.

In another case, an original owner made a partial payment and before she could pay the balance remaining, the contractor had sold her store claiming that he only gave the owners one month to make full payment. This case went to a police station and there again, the contractor directed/ instructed the Police to do his bidding and not to accept any payments from the original owners. Of course, he has sold the store up to 3 times what the original owner would have paid in defiance of the signed agreement by SMA, the contractor himself, and the market Representative.

All these issues/incidents are not new in Ghana, thanks to most of the people in power who are so corrupt that they have become worse than covid-19 virus, unpatriotic, selfish, indirectly starving people to death, greedy, committing “white coloured” crimes, and controlling absolute power in a democracy. We only become concerned when a hungry man steals a bunch of plantain costing about Ghc100.00 yet a politician or a dubious contractor can dupe citizens of Ghc2,000,000.00 and go free. “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,” George Orwell (Animal Farm) and so are our laws, one untouchable elite law for them and one lower class blameworthy law for the rest of us.

The statements/allegations/facts are without prejudice and require an investigation by authorities concerned. The lack of agreement between the owners and all concerned parties before the demolition of the stores has caused a great deal of havoc and mistrust. These allegations or facts may be refuted but it is only by investigation that will validate and resolve this issue so that all parties can learn from this. Ghana is for all of us and if She goes down, we all go with Her. I am just tired and refuse to be a “shit-hole”

“Are the Laws of Ghana stupid?” I remain neutral until the laws work for all of us without favour. Stop this broad daylight crime under the cover of the Government, “the Kokofu ball system”, and the affluent influences on the system. Our Creator created us all in His own image and therefore are all equal, He gave us all inalienable rights, for the pursuit of happiness, freedom, property, and equal justice.

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