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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Government Seizing Property (and Selling to Officials)?

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We all hope for the best in life and some of us were hoping the NDC2 under Mills will be different from the NDC and PNDC, but somebody please tell me I am wrong in my perception as I read this story.

The story on Ghanaweb of Saturday Feb.6, 2010 titled “NDC Rape at Tema Harbor” presents very troubling reading for all citizens who work to acquire private property such as cars and ship through the ports in Ghana. This is not the first time such stories have emerged and this practice is not new.

The article read:

“Under the auspices of one Carl Wilson, Chairman of the Confiscated Vehicle Committee (CVC), who has the full and complete backing of Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia at the Castle, at least 158 vehicles confiscated to the state has been allocated at floor prices to functionaries and some media personnel of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC)!”

Whiles wondering under what circumstances a democratic government can exert police power and confiscate private property we read that:

“The vehicles which were confiscated and tagged as stolen cars have now been allocated to some persons believed to be bedmates of the Atta Mills led social democrats government.”

QUESTION one asks are: Do the people of Ghana understand this democracy at all? Do the peole of Ghana have any legal means of stopping government take-over or confiscation of private property? If the vehicles were stolen, is the right action to take to simply sell them to government officials? Under what democratic laws? Where are the owners of these vehicles? Where are the members of Ghana parliament and who made such laws and gives such orders for confiscation of public private property?

PRESIDENT MILLS - The administration of President Mills, a man with the credential of a Law Professor, seems to be running in directions that is making many Ghanaians legally nervous. Some of us gave the Mills administration a honeymoon, but it seems the time is long overdue. For a man who claims to have part of his education at the elite Stanford University, even if for one year Fulbright Fellowship in the late 1960s, many are surprised and disappointed. President Mills has been virtually hiding in the slave castle, and his “silent–trade” communication style with the public does not help either in such social situations. Ghana is not a Chieftaincy, and under an executive democracy the President is the sole or main communicator to the people, and not through a series of Linguists and Communication Ministers and deputies, Presidential Spokespersons and deputies! For God’s sake when are we Africans going to learn!

Let us remember this practice of seizing private property was one of the first things engaged in during the early phase of the Dec.31, 1981 Rawlings illegal coup called a revolution. Since then many PNDC officials are reported to have acquired massive amounts of wealth and property without public disclosure of source of funds or gainful employment.

PRESIDENT KUFUOR - The Kufuor administration had the best opportunity to probe these illegal acquisition of wealth by the so-called revolutionaries, and bring social justice and equity. Instead, the officials and party honchos in the Kufuor administration, Ministers like Edumadze, PV Obeng, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, and even President Kufuor and his brothers and son, were reported involved in property acquisition through backdoor techniques, i.e. illegal or unethical acquisition that could be classified as corruption. The Kufuor administration never took corruption serious, but sang the song of Zero-Tolerance for Corruption which was admired by the international community as Ghana went begging for grants and borrowing money.

Massive amounts of grants and loans totaling $603 million meant for rural and urban water development in Ghana by the World Bank reported in January 2005 and January 2006 could not be accounted for, and neither the water projects developed. In 2008, of the total grant of $295 million from foreign donors, according to the news report and the Auditor Generals report, only about $30,000 could be accounted for.

PRESIDENT RAWLINGS - If we go back to 2000, one can recall that in the 1989/90 budget Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, master loan negotiator under the illegal military regime of the PNDC, reported an amount of $4.2 Billion allocated for road construction in Ghana, most of which were loans. By 1992, major road networks such as the Accra –Kumasi road that had been nicely done in 1990 were found to be simply bitumen “coal tar on sand”, and potholes the size of all latrine pits had developed on the roads!

As of the time of writing, Ghana has had 5 constitutions in a period of half a century; and yet water is denied to about 80% of the population; electricity delivery is very sporadic and the power fluctuations cost citizens an estimated $1-2 Billion per year in damages to appliances and computer equipment due to electrical overstress. No President seems to care! Why do these men deceive the public in Ghana to attain the Presidency and then forget the people!

This writer has questioned the lack of open disclosure in the collection of moneys at our ports and on purchased retail goods in Ghana for NHIL – national health insurance levy, and what the moneys are used for. Duties and Taxes on imported vehicles are still from 45% to 200% of purchase prices and yet Ghana does not have any decent Highway except what was built some 45-50 years ago by Kwame Nkrumah’s government.

Educated Ghanaians must find a way to stop this police power assumed by a constitutionally mandated democratic government. The President of the nation as well the Ministers are as human as any in the nation and are not above the laws of Ghana. Citizens have a right to hold them responsible and the earlier we started the better. Ghanaians have tried in the last 8 to 16 years radio and other means of complaining and showing their social dissatisfaction. Officials do not seem to respond well. The Presidents do not seem to be concerned much. This writer can share some of the strategies for social justice in a democratic society as seen in American in his 41 years of study and living in the USA.

1. One way of doing this is for Ghanaians to team up together in small groups and file class action law suits in the courts of Ghana.

2. A Second strategy that is effective is a group of educated citizens making an appointment and holding a mini conference or what I call “creative confrontation” meeting with the Directors and Ministers responsible for certain projects or areas in our society. Our mid-November 2009 CC meeting with the Director and deputies of Urban Roads was very cordial, and we saw some improvements, but only in East Legon and perhaps Spintex Road (that was a start).

3. The third method is what is called Physical Confrontation or PC meeting with the officials who are in charge of areas and projects for delivery of utilities and services. A group of citizens can gather at the offices of the Director or Minister responsible for say Water, Sanitation, or Electricity, or the Police, for example, and demand certain performance. The concept of a citizen’s arrest is even a possibility that has been used in some democratic societies at the beginning. The people have a right, when they are being taxed to pay officials, to demand services and performance.

What is going on in Ghana in sectors of society must stop! It is advisable for the President to show leadership and give directions on the ethical way of handling certain issues instead of have citizens purchase vehicles overseas with their sweat money and be levied with huge arbitrary duties, taxes, port fees, levies, which some people are unable to pay and hence are confiscated by the state and sold at give-away prices to government officials. If the vehicles are stolen, then one expects public disclosure and report to Interpol and the right things done. Failing that the selling of other peoples’ vehicles to officials, as done in the first few years of the PNDC, constitutes public theft. It must stop and stop now!
Source: Dr. Kwaku A. Danso (k.danso@comcast.net) East Legon, Accra, Ghana

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