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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Will Mustapha Hamid face Bugri Naabu bribery allegations at his vetting?

Mustapha Hamid, Information Minister-designate Mustapha Hamid, Information Minister-designate

By Kofi Ata

Allegations of bribery and corruption abounds in Ghanaian socio-economic and political life. Ghanaians often accuse public officers of bribery and corruption whilst politicians throw wild allegations against their opponents. With the exception of the 2015 judicial corruption scandal, which resulted in the dismissal of some judges after investigations and the ford gift from a contractor to ex-president Mahama, most bribery and corruption allegations in Ghana remain a hearsay.

The parliamentary Appointments Committee that is vetting ministerial appointees has been engulfed in bribery allegation which is to be investigations by a three member internal committees.

What is also interesting about the work of the committee so far is how the minority members are using the committee to solicit withdrawal and apology from ministers designate who had made unsubstantiated allegations against ex-president Mahama.

This article is a brief discussion on such allegations and the minority’s tactics with reference to the Bugri-Naabu bribery allegation against ex-president and the impending appearance before the committee by Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, the information minister designate.

From what happened to Yaw Osafo Marfo, Boakye Agyarko and Otiko Djaba at their vetting appearance before the committee, it is obvious that the minority will seek to solicit from Mustapha Hamid the veracity or otherwise of the bribery allegations he made against the then president Mahama and his brother in late 2016.

On November 29, 2016, Mustapha Hamid, then Spokesperson for Nana Akufo-Addo called a press conference and made an emotional but serious bribery allegations against president Mahama and his brother (see, “Mahama and his brother bribed Bugri Naabu with GHC3.3m and a V8 - Mustapha Hamid”, Ghanaweb, November 29, 2016).

Despite the seriousness of the allegations nothing has been done to establish the truth or otherwise of the said allegations. In the light of the investigations into the parliamentary bribery allegations, is it not time to investigate the Bugri Naabu bribery allegations against Mahama and his brother?

For the sake of this article, I reproduced here the coverage on the press conference and the allegations as reported on Ghanaweb,

According to Mustapha Hamid, president John Mahama and his brother, Ibrahim in October 2016 attempted bribing the NPP Northern Regional Chairman, Daniel Bugri Naabu with two SUVs, Ghc3.3 million, an additional Ghc500,000 and other mouth-watering goodies so that he would resign from the party and launch an acerbic tribal campaign against flag bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo by painting him as a hater of northerners. Addressing journalists at a press conference in Accra, Mr Hamid said the bribe was intended to entice Mr Naabu to fall out with the NPP and help the NDC prosecute its tribal agenda against Nana Akufp-Addo.

“He was supposed to resign from the NPP, damage Akufo-Addo as an anti-northern person, a rabid hater of northerners and in turn, they were going to give him: a brand new V6 Mitsubishi vehicle, a brand new V8 Land Cruiser, Ghc3.3 million. Bugri Naabu is owed by government to the tune of Ghc247,000 from road contracts that he has done which government has not been paying for several years. They promised to pay that money instantly and then on the spot, they brought him Ghc500,000 cash in Ghc 50 notes. Ibrahim Mahama dropped it right in front of him, Bugri-Naabu. It’s terribly sad. This country is in series trouble, we need to rescue this country from serious trouble.

The presidency has been so depraved, so muddied, so dirty that I tell you in all sincerity as a Ghanaian that I feel terribly sad as a Ghanaian. Then they gave the money to Bugri Naabu and he took the money and left, it was a Friday, 28th of October 2016, so the very next day was a Saturday and Bugri Naabu found the one Prudential Bank that he knew would be opened at that time; that Abossey Okai branch of Prudential Bank and then he went and deposited the money in his account. His account number is 0090985590013, account name is Daniel Bugri Naabu.”

Following the press conference, Kweku Baako claimed on Newsfile on Saturday December 2, 2016, that information available to him indicated that only Ghc400,000 of the alleged Ghc500,000 cash bribe was lodged at the bank. It was later reported that Bugri Naabu will donate the vehicle to charity. Up to the time of writing, there is no indication what has happened to the cash or the vehicle. The allegations if true could have led to Mahama’s impeachment had he won the December 7, 2016 presidential election. Strangely, NPP now in power have kept quiet over the allegations instead of investigating it.

Though some people close to ex-president Mahama denied the allegations and different explanations were given as to what the cash was for, he himself has been silent. What is revealing was what Kweku Baako said on Newsfile on Saturday December 9, 2016 (Mustapha Hamid was also guest on the programme).

According Kweku Baako, he was consulted by the then president Mahama for his opinion on a damaging campaign advertisement being broadcasted against Nana Akufo-Addo by his party (NDC) in the closing days of the 2016 election campaign. In the view of Mahama, he felt the allegations contained in the advert were uncalled for and wanted his boys to stop the advert. Kweku Baako concluded that the advert was subsequently taken off air and television.

If the privilege and confidential information shared on Newsfile by Kweku Baako is accurate, then it questions the Bugri Naabu allegations against Mahama because how can the same person (Mahama) be worried about false but damaging allegations against Nana Akufo-Addo to the extent that he sought advice on it and stopped it, yet wanted Bugri Naabu to make similar false but very damaging against Nana Akufo-Addo? Unless Mahama was being hypocritical, the advice was sought after the Bugri Naabu allegations were made public or Kweku Baako was being economical with the truth but I have no reason to doubt what he shared on Newsfile.

The failure by Mustapha Hamid and Bugri Naabu to report the allegations to the police and tender in the Ghc500,000 and the vehicle as evidence for investigations after the elections, has left the minority no option but to use the Appointments Committee to enquire from Mustapha Hamid the truth in the allegations and whether they were made purely for political propaganda?

In conclusion, though I disagree with the minority on questioning Otiko Djaba on her relationship with her mother as that is private family matter and should not be a reason to disqualify her from being a minister, I am of the view that Ghanaian politicians are fond of making cheap but very damaging allegations against public officers that cause damage not only to the individuals concerned but the country as a whole. Such allegations affect Ghana’s international image and her position on International Corruption Index. The country should not allow politicians to make frivolous but damaging allegations against any citizen for political expediency. I should add that both NPP and NDC are the main perpetrators and victims of such damaging allegations for political capital.

Mustapha Hamid should be ready to answer questions on his emotional press conference on November 29, 2016 and the allegations he made against ex-president Mahama. The question is, will the minority be allowed to use the committee as an inquisitorial trial of the information minister designate and if allowed, will Mustapha Hamid stand to his grounds as Otiko Djaba did or withdraw the allegations and apologise? We are watching with keen interest.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK