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General News Mon, 30 Apr 2001

Ejection of Ex-Ministers Went Smoothly

AN ejection exercise mounted at the weekend by a task force from the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Ministry of Works and Housing against some former deputy ministers of state and NDC party functionaries went on smoothly without any confrontational stance by either parties.

When the 13-member task force, assisted by five armed policemen from the Panthers Unit, arrived at the premises of the affected persons on Saturday, some of them were already packing out, while others had already left. Some also pleaded for limited time to enable them to vacate the premises.

The co-operative attitude adopted by both the task force and the affected former government officials was such that what initially promised to be confrontational as evidenced by the verbal war that preceeded the run-up to the exercise gave way to co-operation and understanding.

The affected persons include Mr Asiedu Nketia, a former Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture; Mr Moses Asaga, former Deputy Minister of Finance; Mrs Ama Benyiwa-Doe, former Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Welfare; Mr Nayon Billijo, former Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry and Mr Mike Hammah, former Minister of Roads and Transport.

Others are Mr Asuoko Attakora, former presidential staffer; Lt. Gen. Arnold Quainoo, former member of the Council of State; Mr James Amissah, former Secretary to the ex-President; Alhaji M. A. Seidu, a former Minister of State; Dr S. B. Arthur, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Mr Quaynor Mettle, NDC Propaganda Secretary.

Mr Asiedu Nketia, whose bungalow was the first point of call by the force, had packed out.

According to Mr Ebenezer Anim, who claimed to be a driver with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and who was weeding the compound at the time the task force arrived, the deputy minister left at 4 p.m. on Friday and later surrendered the keys to the house to the task force.

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Mrs Benyiwa-Doe, who refreshed some members of the task force, had only her documents, books and a few cooking utensils to pack out. The force assisted her in doing so after which she cheerfully handed over the keys to the force.

Mr Mettle was not at home when the force got to his residence. However, it was observed that he had already packed out most of his belongings with the remaining being sorted out by some volunteers who said they were under instructions to hand over the keys to the task force.

The situation was not different when the team arrived at Mr Bilijo’s bungalow. The task force, having satisfied itself that a pick-up which was carting his things was left with the last trip to complete the process, granted him some few hours’ grace to complete the evacuation. The force later returned at noon to collect the keys.

When the team got to the bungalow of Mr Moses Asaga, former Deputy Minister of Finance, he was about to move out of the premises. He pleaded with the force to allow him up to today to hand over the keys to the PWD.

Mr Hammah, who claimed he was waiting for the task force to hand over the keys, also pleaded with the force to allow him up to 4 p.m. that day since the vehicle which was to pick his remaining items had not come.

When the task force attempted to eject Dr Arthur, he told the team that he had not been served with any ejection notice. He said he was occupying the bungalow in his capacity as a consultant to Parliament.

When the force insisted on carrying out its mandate, Dr Arthur called the sector minister, Mr Kwamena Bartels, on phone who asked the team to allow him two more weeks to pack out.

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Lt. General Quainoo also pleaded with the team to allow him up to today to comply with the directive.

He told reporters that even though he was aware of the ultimatum, he needed more time to leave since he was faced with some problems with the vehicle he intended to use to convey his belongings, a request the force granted.

The force then moved to the residence of Mr Amissah where it came to light that Mr Amissah had no immediate plans whatsoever of leaving the premises.

He told the force that he had entered into a gentleman agreement with the next occupant to allow him some few weeks to enable him to sort himself out. He, however, tried in vain to contact the supposed new occupant whose name he failed to disclose.

Not convinced, the task force went into action but was restrained by Mr William Gyimah Danso, Chief Engineer of the ministry, who granted him a two-week dispensation.

Alhaji Seidu had already packed out when the task force got to his bungalow, whilst in the case of Mr Attakora, the task force had to assist him to pack out his things after which the doors were locked and he was left behind on the compound awaiting the arrival of a pick-up to cart his belongings.

He was, however, ordered by one of the policemen in the team to show documents granting him permit to his pistol which he did. This was after the policeman had found a pistol sack on one of the coffee tables in the living room.

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Commenting on the exercise in separate interviews, the consensus among the affected officails was that the exercise was unfortunate, with those still serving as MPs laying the blame at the doorsteps of Parliament, which, they said, should have provided them with accommodation.

Some maintained that it was a calculated attempt to embarrass ministers in the former regime.

Observers, however, expressed mixed feelings about the exercise and insisted that the occupants could have pleaded for extension of time before the expiry of the ultimatum if they genuinely had problems with alternative accommodation.

They wondered why in the case of some of the occupants, notably Asiedu Nketia, Alhaji Seidu and others who benefited from the sale of SSNIT flats at Sakumono to Parliamentarians in the first Parliament of the Fourth Republic should rent out the premises and turn round to tell the whole nation that they had no place to move to if they were to comply with the April 7 ultimatum.

It will be recalled that late last Friday, eight former ministers and deputy ministers of state who failed to comply with the directive of the Works and Housing Minister, Mr Kwamena Bartels, to vacate their official residence by 5 p.m. that day were to be ejected by a special task force on Saturday.

In all, 24 ministers and deputy ministers were affected by the directive. But as at the expiry of the deadline on Friday, 13 of them had complied with the ultimatum.

Three of the former ministers were, however, given special dispensation by Mr Bartels. They include Mr Cletus Avoka, former Minister of Environment, Science and Technology and serving MP for Bawku West whose family was involved in a recent motor accident.

The rest are Prof Kwaku Danso-Boafo, former Minister of Health who went with the former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, on a special mission to Abuja and Mr Amadu Seidu, former Deputy Minister of Works and Housing and currently MP for Yapei/Kusawgu, who has asked to be given up to Monday to quit.

The joint transitional team of the NPP and NDC earlier agreed on April 7 as the deadline for all the former ministers and deputy ministers to leave their official residence.

Their failure to comply with the agreement three more weeks after the deadline compelled the minister to issue the directive, which he has pledged to enforce on that day.

Source: Graphic -By Charles Benoni Okine