Thursday, 19 May 2016

Quality Of Water Produced By GWCL

It is not in doubt that the quality of life of human beings all over the world has a direct correlation with the quality of water they consume. It is against this background that the saying goes, water is life. It is therefore not surprising the level of apprehension among Ghanaians after the media published a report on a research conducted by the Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The report shows that the current treatment regime operated by the Ghana Water Company Limited at its Weija Dam site is incapable of removing algae toxins in the fresh water sources. The Researcher, Dr Gloria Addico stressed that the Weija Water is increasing in blue-green algae. This is serious because algae toxins have devastating effects on the lives of consumers. Of course, the algae toxins can cause problems to the kidney, liver, heart and the nervous systems of animals including humans. It is therefore premature on the part of the Ghana Water Company Limited and the Ghana Standards Authority to just dismiss the report. These two bodies should not focus on protecting their image at the expense of the lives of thousands if not millions of people who depend on water produced from the Weija Dam. Yes, it is true that Ghana Water Company Limited operates quite a number of treatment plants. Gracefully, the current problem is attributed to just one of the treatment plants, specifically, the one at Weija. However, this does not imply that there are no issues with the other plants as there are no studies to that effect. Until and unless, there is a research into these other plants, consumers can only thread with caution.

In rejecting the findings of the CSIR research, the Ghana Water Company Limited argued strongly that the researcher was not aware of all the chemicals the company uses in the treatment of its Weija water. In fact, the Chief Manager in charge of Water Quality Assurance at the Company, Jonas Jabulo, indicated that they use nine different chemicals, including alum and chlorine. On the contentious issue of algae toxins, Mr Jabulo indicated that the company uses granulated activated carbon which is capable of absorbing such toxins. Whereas it is true that the activated carbon can absorb the algae toxins, its efficacy depends largely on how it is applied. In the absence of an activated carbon filter plant, one wonders if by merely sprinkling the powder in the water, it will work to perfection. The Ghana Standards Authority has also insisted that GWCL has met all national and international standards. This may be true, but it is an undeniable fact that these standards are simply guidelines which spell out the minimum levels. So any level just above the minimum can be deemed to have met the standards. Instead of treating this report as damaging to the corporate image of GWCL, with the potential of affecting its profit margins, the Ghana Water Company Limited must see this as a wakeup call to review and possibly upgrade its treatment regime. One point which is clear is that several thousands of people depend on the Weija water for one use or the other. It will be self-denial for some people to think that they do no drink pipe water and for that matter cannot be affected if indeed there are toxins in the Weija water. What they have forgotten is that all these pure and bottle water companies and breweries take their water from Ghana Water Company. What is unclear is whether these companies are able to cure the defect with the water they get from GWCL.

The CSIR research has come at an opportune time. It re-echoes the need to protect fresh water bodies by stopping improper waste disposal, illegal mining, and farming along river banks. This also calls for the Water Resources Commission to be more proactive in the discharge of its responsibilities. Going forward, the Water Research Institute and the Ghana Water Company Limited must cease these current open hostilities and collaborate with the Water Resources Commission, so that together they can fashion out effective ways of protecting our water bodies, and ensuring the production of clean and safe potable water.

BY BUBU KLINOGO A JOURNALIST

Monday, 16 May 2016

Intended IEA Presidential Debate

The Institute of Economic Affairs, which is a renowned Public Policy Institute, has announced its intention to organize three Presidential debates in a segregated format. The first will be for parties with representation in parliament, followed by parties without representation in parliament and finally a two horse race between President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress and Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo of the New Patriotic Party. The decision was taken without consulting the political parties concerned. The IEA would like Ghanaians to believe it is committed to deepening and consolidating multi-party democracy, and the promotion of issue-based elections in Ghana; yet they find nothing wrong with segregating Presidential debates. Why has the IEA not consulted the Electoral Commission of Ghana to determine which of the political parties has fulfilled the requirement of the Political Parties law, Act 574? The introduction of “political parties with representation in Parliament” to legitimize a political party is alien and an affront to the Constitution of Ghana.

In 2000, when the so-called “Parties with Representation in Parliament” snubbed the debate, was it not the likes of Goozie Tanoh of the National Reform Party, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby of the United Ghana Movement and the late Dan Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party, who saved the IEA from that embarrassment? Did they have “representation in Parliament” when they were invited to save the day? It is important to have all qualified Presidential Candidates on a single platform to dialogue and discuss policies and programmes and answer questions from the electorate. The 2000 Presidential debate was quite useful and healthy because each Candidate who participated was able to deliver their message on a massive public stage; which provided opportunity for committed and undecided voters to get to know the candidates on an in-depth level. If the IEA believes that “those who wish to govern must subject themselves to probing questions by the people, to ensure that they understand their concerns, and have the capacity to address them” then where from this blatant discrimination and obvious disregard to the Constitution of Ghana and the Political Parties Law? Some have argued that the IEA is a private organization and can therefore do anything as it pleases. Well, that argument can be upheld in a despotic absolute monarchy and not under a constitutional order as exists in Ghana. The IEA believes that the creation of an environment in which economic, social, political and legal institutions function openly and freely is key to sustainable economic growth and human development”. If this is the mission of IEA, why has it veered off this “free and fair market” path and is rather promoting apartheid programmes in Ghana?

If the IEA is serious about organizing Presidential debates, why has it decided to organize a segregated debate with emphasis on promoting NDC and NPP? The interest of the IEA should not be about promoting NDC and NPP whose policies over the years are perceived to have redistributed wealth to rich owners of capital, reproducing inequality and apartheid geographies in Ghana. Perhaps, the IEA is not aware that these two parties seemed to have failed the nation and that there is a huge call from the masses to change this borrowed “by force” two-party system of governance. Does the IEA know that discrimination, and its social ramifications have the potential of damaging the morale of a political party’s supporters and consequently causing such supporters to react with feelings of inferiority and a sense of personal humiliation? Segregation in all its forms does not only perpetuate rigid stereotypes and reinforces negative attitudes towards members of the other group, but also leads to the development of a socio-political climate within which violent outbreaks of tensions are likely to occur. It is the view of some connoisseurs that substantial discrimination by the IEA is likely to push Ghana further down the path of chaos and destruction, because an “invisible hand” has decided that the voice of the impoverished, weak, marginalized and disenfranchised should rather be heard on a cut off platform. The IEA cannot use the guise of “this is how we have always done it and political parties have participated in such debates before”. The Institute cannot use its subjective view to create an objective reality of Ghana. It must stop imposing upon voters a distorted sense of political reality because Ghanaians are wide awake.

BY PAA KOW ACKON, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS OF THE PPP


David Cameron's 'Corrupt' Countries Remarks

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron reportedly made the remarks in a conversation with the Queen. He was caught on camera and a spokesperson told the press that Mr Cameron was aware. That make it clearest that the British Prime Minister had thought well of it previously. It is all about this week's anti-corruption summit in London. According to the report, Mr Cameron said substantively we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain. Nigeria and Afghanistan, possible the two most corrupt countries in the world. Next the responses said he apologized to the Queen for the remarks but the same spokesman said that the Presidents of Nigeria and Afghanistan had ‘acknowledged the scale of the corruption challenge they face in their countries.’ The latter is an obvious diplomatic fudge to blunt the British Prime Minister's insult on the two countries.

First, the error, No country is corrupt. It could be some people in any particular country that would be corrupt, if proven. That is why the sweeping label on countries in that charge is false. It becomes rude where Prime Minister Cameron is hosting the leaders he knows among clean and unclean for a summit he had said in advance that he and them will push the fight against corruption to the top of the international agenda where it belongs. Externally, that is diplomatically, the one word description for Mr. Cameron is he has been indiscreet. However, given the other pertinent consideration that he fully know what he had planned to say, nullifies indiscretion for other implications including racist, a most unpleasant stuff from a leader of a party whose past government had been booted out of office partly for holding retrograde views on race. An inference to why he only apologized to the queen is regrettably an uncomforting but compelling pointer. By some related history Conservative and Labor governments in Britain had been sleaze or corrupt-prone and similarly had been British cabinet Ministers and members of Parliament in which instance it is common knowledge that a British MP would survive only on the extra cash. That is bribery. There are too many instances of corruption. British governments dating back form Suez through Profumo via political party funding payment of the Chinese Company's access to contract scandal that listed Jack Straw and Malcolm Riff-kind, both of whom had been British Foreign Secretaries. The record across Africa and developing countries is full with British companies involved in corruption.

At the time of Abbot Pharmaceutical scandal here in Ghana, late 60s and after into early 70s of Col Kutu Acheampong's YENTUA, we won't pay era there were cases of the same. Whereas those would indicate that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron has a dim recollection of his ancestry history, a brief example with reference to say that the British have a lot to answer for using the brown envelop alongside alcohol for access to African traditional authorities and usurp their power as part of subjugating their people into colonial rule. All that is to rebut Prime Minister Cameron to remember you do not unplug termites standing in a queue of them. However it is at the same time right to acknowledge that he means good in his effort put into his words to tackle corruption which he suggests has for too long been a taboo head-on. It is worthwhile for the world and he might make history, not for himself and or Britain in Europe which is uncertain now but his own to join with former US President George Bush internationalizing the war against terrorism and Tony Blair, his Labour Predecessor who declared describing the state of poverty in Africa as scar on the consciences of the developed countries who like him would always like to point to developing countries as corrupt though corruption, by definition is infinitely universal and ancient all countries and all cultures.

And such is the fact stubbornly stuck at the bottom of impediments stopping the resolution of corruption everywhere neither just Nigeria nor Afghanistan as the British Prime Minister Cameron would have it.

BY PROF NANA ESSILFIE-CONDUAH, A POLITICAL HISTORIAN AND CHAIR OF JOURNALISM AT THE AFRICAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATIONS IN ACCRA.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Ghanaian Workers Vis A Vis Labour Day Celebrations

The May Day celebrations are over. The speeches have been made. The workers have been celebrated for contributing to the development of mother Ghana even as they continue to wallow in poverty while the country marches towards HIPC once again. The minimum wage is GH¢8 per day! With the smallest ball of Kenkey at one Ghana cedi, a man with a wife and two kids can afford barely one round meal of Kenkey and fried fishlets with pepper. The problem is even worse if he went to work that day and paid for ‘trotro.’ A basic school teacher takes home about GH¢830 - barely a tenth of the GH¢7000.00 his MP takes home, which is more than twice what a Doctor takes home. This is in sharp contrast with the situation in the United States of America where most Doctors make more than their lawmakers. It is baffling that in Ghana, what an MP gets as his or her end of service benefit, after serving one term of four years, is outrageously higher than that of a teacher who has worked for 40 years. It is ridiculous listening one MP recently suggest that MPs are poor and underpaid. Really? This is incredible. It is disturbing the kind of difficulties Ghanaian workers go through on daily basis. Sadly not much attention is paid to their plight.

In fact, there are no laws and infrastructure to support workers who get injured on the job. It was shocking to see that, a nurse who had a motor cycle accident during work was given nothing. And can also talk of the fire-fighter who died and had no benefit paid to survivors! The least said about military and police officers who die or sustain serious injuries in their line of duty, the better. In any case, one finds it a bit strange that in all the speeches to mark May Day, there was not a single mention of the unemployment rate. This is ample demonstration that even those at the helm of affairs do not have any idea about it. Elsewhere, this will constitute a strong basis for labour agitations. But wonderfully enough, there is peace on Ghana's labour front.

It is not far fetched to think that, it is in acknowledgement of this notorious fact that, President Mahama at this year's National May Day durbar in Wa, had this to say to organized labour, quote" Accept my commendation for your part in growing a formidable constituency needed for consensus building towards peaceful co-existence and national development." unquote Indeed. The only effective Trade Union is that of the governing classes. The idea that a worker can support a family on GH¢8 a day is outrageous to say the least. The fact that politicians are paid more than doctors and teachers is evidence of white-collar pillaging of national resources for the benefit of the few.

Again, the fact that newly qualified nurses and teachers wait for more than a year to be paid is a scandal. While these outrages continue, the nation dishonors its motto of "Freedom and Justice". For there is no justice in the current situation. Let the nation together, work for the day when the working people can be truly celebrated. God bless the working people of Ghana.

BY DR KOBINA ARTHUR KENNEDY, A PHYSICIAN INVOLVED IN POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT

Commentary on Just Ended Limited Voters’ Registration

The Electoral Commission brought its ten day limited voters' registration exercise to a close May 8. The exercise gave people who have just turned 18 years or those older but could not register previously, the opportunity to register to enable them to exercise their voting rights during the upcoming general election. The exercise was marred with some incidents of violence most of which had to do with the eligibility of some registrants being challenged by the two major political parties, NDC and NPP. There were also issues of low turnout as a result of poor publicity, inadequate registration centres and length of the registration period.

In the first phase of the exercise for instance, there was error on the date in the setup of the registration machine. In fact, even though the exercise started on the 28th of April, the ID cards issued to registrants in two centres on the first day, recorded 27th of April. Though, the Commission explained that the irregularities were due to operators' errors, which were rectified as soon as they were detected, it could be a basis for someone to challenge as the date fell clearly out of the registration period. The biggest issue as far as the registration is concerned is whether or not the commission was able to register all eligible first time voters across the country. It is true that, generally, when there are exercises like this, most Ghanaians wait till the last moments before they rush to participate. While that was the case in a lot of registration centres throughout the country, the situation was different in the campuses of the various tertiary educational institutions. It is baffling that the EC having conducted this exercise for years, failed to take cognizance of the fact that universities and other such higher learning institutions have huge numbers of registrable candidates and make adequate provisions for their registration. It is mind boggling, for instance that the EC set up only one centre at the University of Ghana, Legon where there are at least 20,000 eligible citizens. Is it surprising therefore that the registration officials were overwhelmed by the huge numbers that came to register. Even though the Commission attempted to resolve the challenge by increasing the registration centres, it appeared it came too late in the day to enable all the qualified people to be registered.

Another major issue that came up undoubtedly has to do with alleged registration of non-Ghanaians and minors. There have been allegations and counter allegations and denials, of political parties actively orchestrating the registration of such ineligible persons. This is most regrettable, especially at this moment when there is hullabaloo about the credibility of the current register and calls for it to be validated or scrapped and a new one compiled. Thankfully, there are clear cut guidelines to challenge the registration of such unqualified persons. It may appeared that, some of the agents of the major parties attempted using the laid down procedure but others physically attempted to prevent people they perceived as unqualified from registering. In its report, at the end of the first phase of the exercise, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers accused some agents of the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party of abusing the challenge process, thus unduly delaying the registration process.

In the Western region, out of the 49,775 people who registered in the first phase, 415 were challenged. The Northern Region registered more than sixty thousand new voters in the first phase and more than nine hundred of the registrants have been challenged. While it was desirable for the agents to ensure that only eligible people registered, it appeared the two parties were in a competition as to who challenges more. Unfortunately, what they failed to understand is that, they cannot tell for a fact, who those people they challenged, will vote for eventually. After all, voting in Ghana is by secret balloting.

The registration exercise also brought to the fore the need to revamp the National Identification System as well House Numbering. Quite a number of the young applicants had difficulties, showing a proof of citizenship as they do not have the required ID cards. Going forward, the EC will have to analyze the entire exercise and see whether it met its expectations, and take the appropriate decision. In any case, the EC must bear in mind that the right to register and vote, is a fundamental one, and its actions or inactions should not in any way deny any citizen his or her right to vote.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Supreme Court Ruling On Non-bailable Offences

Ghana has chalked up another milestone in its criminal justice system when the apex court of the land, the Supreme Court in a five two majority decision, struck out section 96 sub-section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 30 of 1960. By the provisions of this Act, the courts shall refuse to grant bail to persons accused of treason, subversion, murder, robbery, hijacking, piracy, rape, defilement and escape from lawful custody. The law was later amended to include persons accused of dealing in narcotics and those being held for extradition to a foreign country. One key principle in the administration of justice is the presumption of innocence, where a person accused of any crime is presumed to be innocent, until proven guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction or when he or she pleads guilty. The concept of some offences being non-bailable is alien to the constitution and a flagrant violation of the fundamental Human Rights of accused persons. Why?

Even when police arrest people in the act of committing crime, they are still presumed innocent and the police are not supposed to keep them in detention for more than 48 hours. Sad to say though that, this law is not always respected. In any case, the courts have the discretionary power to grant or deny bail, safe to add that, that power is not to be exercised capriciously. In fact, under sub-sections three and four, of section 96, Act 30, the amount and conditions of bail shall be fixed with due regard to the circumstances of the case and shall not be excessive or harsh. And the court is barred from withholding or withdrawing bail merely as a punishment. For purposes of clarity, sub section 5 of the same section 96, Act 30, spells out the conditions under which a person may be denied bail. It states among others that, a court shall refuse to grant bail if it is satisfied that the defendant may not appear to stand trial; or may interfere with any witness or evidence, or in any way hamper police investigations; or may commit a further offence when on bail. It is therefore baffling that having made these elaborate provisions, the framers of the law would go to the extent of categorising certain offences as non-bailable. There is no doubt that the refusal to grant bail in those instances has contributed significantly to the overcrowding in the country's prisons, a situation the UN Special Rapporteur had cause to complain about on his last visit to Ghana. The sad aspect is that, it was just enough for someone to accuse you of any of those listed offences, and your liberties will be curtailed, sometimes for countless number of years. There have been regrettable instances where people were on remand during trial, for 10, 15, 20 years, and at the end found not guilty and were acquitted and discharged. What it meant was those people have wasted their productive lives in jail for no offence but simply on a basis of an oppressive and inhumane law. There was also the issue of investigators and State prosecutors unnecessarily delaying trials and further worsening the plight of the accused. The striking out of this law will therefore bring some seriousness and a sense of urgency on the part of those State actors. Such excuses as the docket is missing, the investigator is sick or has been transferred and the likes will be a thing of the past. Ghana prides itself as a model of democracy on the continent. And this must reflect in all spheres of life. You cannot claim to be democratic when you use repressive laws to oppress and suffocate your citizens. There are concerns about the likelihood of people accused of high crimes and granted bail, engaging in acts such as interference in the trial process, absconding or even revenging on people they suspect of letting them out. In the so called bailable offences, when the principal absconds, sometimes it is difficult getting the sureties. This is because there are people who have made themselves professional sureties standing surety in multiple cases and have devised means of outsmarting the police and are able to escape.

In view of the Supreme Court ruling, both the Registrars and investigators must be very vigilant and meticulous to ensure that persons who stand surety for accused persons fully satisfy the bail conditions. Their places of abode and documents presented as form of justification must be thoroughly verified. This is to ensure that when the principal escapes or absconds the surety can be held responsible. In everything, let the nation be guided that a person is not guilty until proven guilty and it is always better to free 99 criminals than to imprison one innocent person. Long live the judiciary, long live Ghana.

BY GEORGE DARLINGTON, A STUDENT OF POLITICS AND HISTORY.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Tribal And Religious Bigotry In Ghana's Politics

The Former Minister of Transport, Mrs. Dzifa Attivor has re-opened the door to one of Ghana's enduring challenges; ethnic politics, and the reactions have been something to behold. In all sincerity, Mrs Ativor cannot be right in suggesting that the erstwhile Kufour regime targeted only Voltarians for prosecution. However, to be fair to her, she was only following a well-trodden path in Ghana's politics. The hypocrisy on both sides of the NPP ---NDC divide in reaction to Mrs. Ativor's outburst to say the least, has been disgusting. The NPP that is so outraged about Mrs. Ativor, for the most part found nothing wrong when Ken Agyapong urged that Ewes and Gas be chased or when Osafo Marfo said people from some ethnic groups did not deserve to rule Ghana. Of course, those throwing rocks or defending blindly never read about Jesus'dare for whoever was sinless to cast the first stone against the woman in the Bible. Indeed, while the NPP is praising Rawlings for condemning Mrs Ativor, imagine what would happen if Kennedy Agyapong said a similar thing and former President Kufuor condemned him. The hypocritical vigilantes in the NPP would be baying for his blood and calling him a traitor! Amidst the cacophony of hypocrites, former President Rawlings broke ranks to condemn Mrs. Ativor. He went a step further to deplore those urging Voltarians to support the NDC because he, Rawlings hails from there. Again, Mr. Rawlings backed the non-tribalistic credentials of the NPP flag-bearer. No matter, how one looks at it, it is commendable. But in the interest of historical accuracy Mr. Rawlings has questionable credentials on the issue.
And for Mr. Rawlings to vouch for Nana Addo's non-tribalistic credentials is tantamount to a bank robber vouching for the credit-worthiness of someone. This is hilarious. Over the last few days, too many have spoken for partisanship and ethnic bigotry. Let all stand for a nation where all citizens, including leaders, will be judged by the content of their character, and not their ethnic origin. Ghanaians have given ample evidence of their desire for this: In 1951, the people of Accra Central chose Dr. Kwame Nkrumah over native son Obetsebi Lamptey in a vote that sent Nkrumah to the Premiership and greatness. In 2004, the Central Region decisively picked Kufuor over Native son Atta Mills. Sam Okudzeto led the fight against the Ewe-dominated PNDC and was labeled a traitor by many Ewes. It is unfortunate that the NPP running mate, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumiah has joined the ranks of those dividing the country. Dr. Bawumiah is reported to have claimed that there are not enough Muslims at Flagstaff House. Ironically, he did not tell the nation whether there are enough of those who are neither Christians nor Muslims. Dr. Bawumiah needs to be condemned for the same reasons Mrs Ativor was condemned, for the two are joined in spirit. Dr. Bawumia has a fine mind on economics. But his decent into intolerance must give everyone a cause to worry. Maybe, it is not power that corrupts but politics. It seems that even when good people join politics, instead of making it better, they are corrupted by it. Let every Ghanaian stand up for Ghana and against the ethnic and religious bigots who are dividing the nation. Let all join and work to restore control of the two major parties to people of tolerance and good temperament so Ghana shall, for many generations, know and have peace. God bless mother Ghana.

BY: DR ARTHUR KENNEDY, A PHYSICIAN INVOLVED IN POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT.