General News of Fri, 9 May 20030
Fear Grips Kpone Industrial Hub
Fear and anxiety have engulfed residents and workers at the light industrial area of Kpone, near Tema, as the flexing of muscles between two groups, Ghana National Association of Garages (GNAG) and Tema-Kpone Garages and Artisans Association (TKGAA) over the running of the 130 acre site which was allocated by TDC for the resettlement of mechanics and artisans in the Tema township reaches alarming proportions.
Both parties are trading accusations and counter-accusations. While GNAG is accusing TKGAA of having incited the denizens against it, TKGAA, on the other hand, has levelled a financial malfeasance charge against GNAG.
But Chronicle investigations on the ground have revealed that the greatest desire of the residents who were going about discharging their duties normally, is for the two parties to come together with a common understanding to resolve their own issue to tend off the situation where factions from the two parties engage in fierce fighting, resulting in the injuries of some people. However, both executives are sticking to their guns.
In an interview, the chairman of GNAG, Mr. Fynn Williams told the Chronicle that in 1992, the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) gave GNAG the option to purchase the land demarcated as the Kpone light industrial estate on which members of GNAG were operating.
According to him, GNAG accepted the proposal of which an amount of ?422 million was involved and a deal was clinched in which each member was to pay a specific amount of money ranging between ?600,000 and ?1.9 million, depending on the dimension of one's parcel of land.
Mr. Williams stated that somewhere in 1999, during an election period to elect new executives, cross-purposes erupted among the rank and file of the association, which brought proceeding to an abrupt end.
Consequently, the regional executives of GNAG were invited to settle the rift within the lute, but to no avail, and so another was sent to court whereupon an injunction was placed on the election.
He further stated that at a meeting held in 2000 at the Kpone light industrial area, some members who cited discontentment at the way the executives run the affairs of the association broke away to form a new association which they called Tema (Kpone) Garages and Artisans Association.
The GNAG chairman disclosed that ever since TKGAA was formed, it had consistently organised the inhabitants to display apathy towards all its GNAG programmes and also succeeded in inciting them not to pay their part of the contribution to GNAG.
The retired Navy officer said because the residents refused to pay the money over a period of 8 years, the fee for the ground rent shot up considerably due to the accumulation
. "This, coupled with the fees for the provision of other services such as road development and TDC land rate, it became necessary that the fees be inflated form ?600,000 and ?1.9 million to ?4 million and ?7.5 million respectively so as to be able to get the place properly organised for our members," he added.
As the ding-dong affair between the two groups slogged on, TDC in February this year sent GNAG a letter reminding it of its financial obligation towards it (TDC) and so GNAG informed the members, but managed to get them to kick against the action, he said.
"As a result of their action, we were compelled to drag the defaulting residents to court to pressurize them to settle their indebtedness to the association."
Mr. Williams also alleged that TKGAA executives collected ?130,000 each from its members with the promise of paying the money to TDC and arrange with it to approve of the sale of the portions of land on which they are squatting, but the monies were instead, paid to some unauthorized TDC officials who have not been able to account for it.
But, Mr. Felix Kofi Teye Okra, popularly known as Master Toff who is the vice chairman of TKGAA debunked the allegations and counter alleged that they broke away due to financial embezzlement on the part of the GNAG executives.
According to him, GNAG between 1999 and 2001 collected monies to the tune of ?70million from the members as part payment to TDC, but refused to do so, a claim GNAG executives have denied, claiming they collected ?10million from them and paid it to the GNAG regional office in Accra for onward transmission to TDC.
Regarding the money they collected from the residents, Master Toff explained that the money was used for the purpose for which it was intended. "As we speak now, the layout for the entire area is presently with the TDC.
We still have some money to pay after which we will go and collect it. But what we can't understand is why GNAG is still insisting to collect money to do a new layout when it has already been done."
The chief mechanic quizzed, "How can we pay money to someone who had earlier on collected monies from us and couldn't pay to the right office. We would only want to deal with either TDC or TMA, and not GNAG.
Besides, the new rates between ?4million and ?7.5milion which GNAG has slapped on us cannot be true because the offer made by TDC many years ago has not been reviewed, he stressed.
He contended that GNAG has sent many of its members to court for non-payment of the "so-called' new rates when TDC has not decided that. Master Toff also accused the executives of GNAG for selling the pieces of land which they had already demarcated to some of their members to some non-mechanics, thereby throwing the residents into a state of perplexity over their safety and security.
However, the GNAG chairman told the Chronicle that his outfit has been mandated by the TDC to make a better offer to re-allocate any piece of land, which has not been developed after a specified period of time.
Continuing, Master Toff unmasked that their headache is that none of the residents in the area has a document covering the piece of land on which they occupy and which makes them the bonafide owner, and this is what they have all along hoped that the GNAG executives would see eye with them to fight for.
Meanwhile, investigations conducted by the paper at the TMA have revealed that series of meetings have taken place between the two parties and the TMA. In one such meeting, the TMA boss, Mr. Evans Ashong Narh, who presided was said to have advised the two parties to co-exist and form a common front to push their grievances forward.
We gathered that TDC intended to increase the offer fee of the area because of the protracted time frame, but TMA stepped un and pleaded on their behalf to enable them continue to pay the old fee.
However, because TDC made GNAG to understand, from the initial stages that they were to provide all the infrastructure including roads, gutters etc., our source hinted that GNAG decided to add some more money to it so that they could generate enough funds for those projects, hence the inflation in the figures of the rates.
Further investigations have unravelled that GNAG has started paying some money to TDC through the National Investment Bank (NIB).