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Opinions of Monday, 28 September 2009

Columnist: Sayibu, Akilu

Was Boniface £500.00 Pounds A Gift Or A Bribe?

Since news broke out last Friday that, some officials of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) allegedly took some bribe from a British based construction company Mabey and Johnson in the 1980s and the 1990s, one thing has attracted my attention and I have been thinking about it.

It is alleged that, Alhaji Abubakar Saddik Boniface a former Member of Parliament for the Salaga constituency of northern Ghana and the immediate past minister of works and housing in Ghana under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) era, also received £500.00 from Mabey and Johnson when he was pursuing his masters education in the United Kingdom around 1995 to pay his fees.

Responding to the allegations of having received £500.00 to support his master’s education, Alhaji Saddiq Boniface in an interview on joyfm on the 25th September, 2009 had this to say “The £500.00, I took around 1995 was in support of my masters education as a student in the United Kingdom and not as a politician to influence any activity in Ghana” In the words of Alhaji Boniface it was a GIFT and not a BRIBE pure and simple!

For us to understand the issue very well there is the need to define what a GIFT is and also what a BRIBE is and to juxtapose it against Boniface status as a student in the United Kingdom around the time he took that gift and any probable influence he could have wield in the corporate business dealings of the republic of Ghana.

“A GIFT by all definitions is a voluntary act which does not require anything in return” By extension the term GIFT can also refer to anything that makes the other person happier or less sad. GIFTS could include forgiveness and kindness. Now what is a BRIBE? “A BRIBE is a form of corruption which involves the promise of money or a favour to someone in a position of power in return of something” From the definitions given above of a GIFT and a BRIBE, it would be very reasonable to conclude that, Alhaji Saddiq Boniface £500.00 could have been a GIFT and not a BRIBE for the following reasons;

Firstly, he was a student in the United Kingdom at the time it is alleged he took that £500.00 ‘BRIBE’ he couldn’t have acted on behalf of Ghana in such a high profile business.

Secondly, he was not a Minister or Secretary of state which could mean that, he occupied a powerful position that could make him susceptible to corruption or what I will call a ‘bribable’ subject.

Thirdly, the average tuition fees for a master’s level education in the United Kingdom in 1995 ranged between £3000.00 and £5000.00 a bribe should have been able to pay off such a tuition fee. £500.00 was not enough to pay even the fee not to talk of other living expenses like accommodation, transportation, books, feeding, clothing, food etc. My view with the help of hindsight is that, the £500.00, Boniface received could have been a GIFT by all specifications and qualifications and not a BRIBE.

When I started my master’s degree here in the United Kingdom in 2007 I was a recipient of some GIFTS from friends, family, and other benevolent persons towards my education. I definitely will be hugely and excessively angry if after 15years my name is mentioned in any part of the world as having received a ‘BRIBE’ when I was pursuing my master’s level education in the United Kingdom it is therefore understandable that Alhaji Saddiq Boniface is angry over the allegations.

The other persons whose names popped up at the Southwark Crown Court in London on the 25th September, 2009 as having received various sums of inducements from Mabey and Johnson must also tell Ghanaians in the same vein that Alhaji Boniface told the world that he received a £500.00 GIFT from persons he knew and who voluntarily gave him a GIFT when he was a student in the United Kingdom in 1995. So Dr Ato Quarshie, Dr Sipa Yankey, Mr Kwame Peprah and the rest we are waiting! What need to be explained here too is that, it is very wrong for President Mills to direct his Attorney General to conduct further investigations into the case rather than the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) or the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). At least we are all aware that, constitutionally these are the agencies that are mandated by the state to conduct such investigations. I thought the Attorney Generals office existed to advice government on prosecutions. Can somebody educate me on this, am I right?

Akilu Sayibu, UK