Yesterday’s Parliamentary vetting of President Kufuor’s nominees for various ministerial portfolios revived the serial murder issue which rocked the nation before the 2000 elections. This was when Nana Akomea, nominee for the position of Minister of Manpower and Employment, appeared before the Appointments Committee.
The Minority Leader and member of the committee, Hon Alban Bagbin, asked Nana Akomea why he had failed to produce a report he claimed implicated one Charles Quansah, as being responsible for the mysterious murder of a number of women, which came to be known as “the serial killings”.
Minority Leader jumped onto another minefield after his faus pax on hot-heads, an expression he used to describe Nana Obiri-Boahen, President’s nominee for Minister of State at the Interior Ministry.
Hon Bagbin stated at the vetting that the convicted serial killer, Charles Ebow Quansah, was arrested during the National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime- a claim which was found to be false. D. Guide found from Police records that the killer, who is waiting to hang at the Nsawam Prisons, was arrested on February 21, 2001 under the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.
Bagbin raised the issue when he challenged Nana Akomea, to claims the latter made when he served as Minister of Information that a plot had been hatched at the Nsawam prison, between Quansah and the jailed former Finance Minister, Kwame Peprah, to smear serving ministers of state. He also challenged the minister-designate to produce a film documentary made by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on the Quansah debacle. It would be recalled that after the NDC lost the 2000 elections, former President Rawlings alleged that he knew the serial killers and that 15 of them were senior ministers in Kufuor’s cabinet.
An attempt by the CID of the Ghana Police, led by David Asante-Appeatu, who met the former President at his Ridge residence to name the persons, was rebuffed.
Rawlings instead asked for chemical interrogation or lie detector from the Federal Bureau of Investigations as well as a visit to Antoa Nyama, a shrine in the Ashanti region to ascertain the facts.
The then Minister of Information, Nana Akomea, at a press conference announced that the security agencies had conducted interim investigations into alleged meetings between Quansah, the late Victor Selormey, a deputy Finance Minister under the NDC administration, and the Quality Grain convicts, then in jail at the Nsawam Prison, in order to coach him to implicate functionaries of the present government as partners in the heinous crime.
At the said press conference, Nana Akomea exhibited what he claimed was an interim report into the investigation and promised to make available a fuller and detailed report when the investigation into the matter was completed. It was on this claim that Bagbin was challenging him, since Peprah had vehemently denied the allegations. The 36-year-old driver mechanic, Charles Quansah, alias Paapa Kwabena Ebow, according to CID sources, confessed to killing eight women across the country on May 8, 2001, after his arrest in February 2001 at his Adenta residence.
It was believed that yesterday’s claims and counter-claims, which were described by the Chairman of the Vetting Committee, Freddie Blay, as “a give-and-take” would impel the Police to show the 45-minute documentary on National Television, which the Director of CID, Asante- Apeatu, said would explain how one man, Charles Quansah, killed about 31 women between 1999 and 2000 and littered the environs of Accra with the corpses.
According to the Minority Leader, available evidence indicated that Quansah was serving a prison term for the murder of his girlfriend and not the ‘serial killing’ between 1999 and 2000.
Nana Akomea, a former deputy and later substantive Minister of Information, said his statement at that time was based on the intelligence report he had. He therefore maintained that evidence gathered with reference to the time and circumstances of the serial murders clearly showed that Quansah was the murderer.
Akomea, who answered a mixed bag of questions for an hour and seven minutes, disclosed that the police CID had finished the serial murders investigations and would soon come out with a video footage on it. The nominee, who was blamed by Bagbin for his inability to produce the report as promised, in turn, criticised former President Jerry Rawlings for accusing Kufuor’s cabinet of the murders.
Realising that the vetting had, at that juncture almost degenerated into a dialogue, the Committee Chairman, Hon Freddie Blay, stopped the two and asked other committee members to question the nominee on other matters.
Nana Akomea told the committee, in the tightly packed Speaker’s conference room, that he was neither surprised nor disturbed that President Kufuor did not appoint him as a minister after the 2004 general elections although he performed creditably in his ministerial positions in the first term of the ruling NPP’s administration. The former chairman of the Trade and Industry Committee in Parliament said he saw his new designation as a challenge.
On other matters, the MP for Ningo Prampram, Hon E.T. Mensah complained that the minority NDC was not being given enough coverage by the state-owned media, especially Ghana Television (GTV). Ghana Akomea explained that reports he had from GTV indicated that the minority rather received more coverage than the majority NPP, adding that Hon. Mensah was probably confusing party functions with that of government. He refuted Hon Mensah’s claim that the NDC usually was allotted only about 2 or 3 minutes news footage as opposed to hours of live coverage for government programmes, which he called party functions.
“The problem was that political coverage of government was equated to party coverage. But government and party can’t be the same.”
According to Mrs Sai-Cofie, who was subjected to 23 questions in 52 minutes, comparing political party functions to that of government was akin to comparing apples and oranges, which was quite incongruous.
When Hon. Mensah expressed dissatisfaction with Mrs Sai-Cofie’s response, the latter said: “Hon Member, I’m sorry. Maybe, I should have said coconuts and mangoes”- a statement which quickly drew the MP’s sharp response that “Even if you say fufu and banku…”
Hardly had Hon Mensah’s comment ended than all in the room burst into laughter. The nominee assured the nation that despite the apparent delay in the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, Government was still committed to it. She hoped the National Media Commission (NMC) would be given some “teeth to bite”, as opposed to the current situation where it was almost powerless to sanction errant media institutions.
To achieve that aim, she hoped there would be a link between the NMC and the National Communications Authority for effective results.
Following her impressive showing, she received hugs from some MPs and Ministers such as Hajia Alima Mahama, Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, Frema Osei-Opare and Boniface Abubakar Saddique.