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Opinions Mon, 14 Apr 2014

Gilbert Iddi, Dan Saaka Ahmed and ghc2.7m SADA rot

The infamous audit report that has exposed the stinking corruption and sleaze in the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) being serialized currently by Joy Fm and other patriotic-minded media houses also revealed that the management of the beleaguered SADA led by the embattled Mr. Gilbert Iddi has transferred an amount of GHC2.7m (GHC2.7m) to Plus One Investment Limited for the purposes of investment in butternut squash.

The investment is supposed to alleviate poverty in the three northern regions and other areas within the Savanna Enclave.

According to the masterminds of this huge investment, farmers are supposed to get busy producing butter nut squash especially in the dry season for export in some European markets.

However, according to the audit report, almost two years after the transfer of this whopping amount, nothing has come out of the investment from the Plus One Investment Limited.

The company has consequently been asked by the auditors to repay the whopping GHc 2.7m (c27bn) with interest to SADA.

However, this aspect of the audit report on the shady deals of the Plus One Investment Limited seems to have been ignored by the media in their reportage of the rot that has engulfed SADA.

As a patriotic Ghanaian and a son of the North and also some-one conversant with the operations of the Plus One Investment Limited and its owners at the lakeside estate in Accra, the capital city and also in Tamale, I see it as a duty to reveal what I know about the daylight robbery of the national kitty in the name of investment by the Plus One Investment Limited.

The company is owned and managed by a group of young men with very little or no experience in this area and one finds it disgusting for SADA to transfer such huge amount of money to this company without doing a thorough due diligence.

Beyond what the company had told them, the Gilbert Iddi-led administration should have found out whether the company had the track record or the competence to handle investment of such magnitude and what was going to be the rate of returns for SADA as an entity, in the venture.

As a responsible entity, SADA should have been interested in how and when it would recoup its investments before transferring such huge sums to a company that has no iota of experience in the said field.

A news report on the website of the Plus One Investment Limited dated 20th December, 2012 is captioned “SADA Launches GH¢2.7m Dry Season Farming Project At Yapei.”

According to the report, the “Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is investing GH¢2.7 Million into a dry season vegetable farming project at Yapei in the Central Gonja District of the Northern Region of Ghana for export into the European market.

The project, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Northern Rural Growth Project (NRGP) among others with funding from SADA, would engage hundreds of kayayei (head porters) returnees and other potential kayayeis who will work on a 250 acre farm as labourers.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Chief Executive Officer of SADA, Alhaji Gilbert Seidu Iddi, said it was intended to make good use of the seven-month long dry season period so that the young men and women who formed a greater percentage of smallholder farmers in that part of the country, could make some better income for themselves.

The first to be cultivated, butternut squash is one of several types of vegetables on high demand in the European market, says Nyamekye Boamah, an Agronomist with Plus One Investment Limited, a private service provider to the project.

Mr. Boamah explained that the choice of Yapei, one of many locations in Northern Ghana where similar projects were ongoing, was due to the good climatic conditions prevailing there and the areas’ proximity to the White Volta River which will serve as a source of irrigating the commercial farm.

Aside butternut squash, other crops that would be planted include watermelon, seedless melon, cabbage, lettuce, sweet potato and among others.

Thus, as a patriotic citizen of Ghana and a son of the North who has seen real poverty before, I take it as a duty to bring to fore the calumny and the day-light robbery of the tax payers’ money by SADA and its shady partners in the so-called Plus One Investment Limited.

The Project Co-ordinator of the Plus One Investment Limited, Mr Dan Saaka Ahmed and Mr Gilbert Seidu Iddi, the embattled former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SADA should be quickly arrested and investigated for this wonton dissipation of the tax payers’ money in this era of fiscal austerity.

We need to know the agreement between SADA and Plus One Investment Limited that warranted the transfer of this huge amount of tax-payers’ money to that company.

Was the money a gift from SADA to Plus One Limited? Was it a loan? And if yes, then what are the terms, especially the repayment plan? Again, if it is a joint project between Plus One Investment Limited and SADA, what is SADA supposed to get in terms of returns to expand its operations elsewhere in the poverty-stricken Savanna Zones? What was the track record of Plus One Investment Limited in this area?

These and many more are some of the murky questions that need immediate answers from the management of both SADA and Plus One Investment Limited.

We are reliably informed that Plus One Investment Limited, led by Mr Dan Saaka Ahmed and his group of young and inexperienced people does not merit this huge amount of money.

Again, we are also informed that so far, very little has been done by the Plus One Investment Limited to help alleviate poverty in the Northern regions and other parts of the Savanna zone almost two years after the transfer of the almost GHC2.7m to that company.

The company has failed to pay back the whopping GHC2.7m advanced to it by SADA, neither has its shown any productive investment it has made in the name of SADA that comes close to such huge amount of money disbursed to it.

Instead, am reliably informed that Mr Dan Saaka is said to have used the money to support his spending spree and greed.

Apart from the brand new Ford explorer he has bought, am reliably informed that Mr. Saaka has fleet of cars and houses in Accra and in some parts of the Northern Region.

Mr Dan Saaka Ahmed, who once worked with Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) was said to have messed up the Mango project initiated by the NDC government through EDIF some three years back leading to the termination of his appointment.

He was also said to have been involved in some questionable deals at EDIF leading to an investigative committee making adverse findings against him, leading to his dismissal.

After hibernating for some time, he quickly metamorphosed and through the help of some friends joined the then infant SADA only to be caught in yet another questionable behavior by this new fresh audit report being serialized by Joy FM.

Again, on the same website of the Plus One Investment Limited, a news item said “a project undertaken by Plus One Investment Limited, in conjunction with the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), has started chalking successes by changing the fortunes of local sheanut farmers just a year into the program.”

“On the average, local farmers whose daily income used to be around GH¢2.00, has shot up to over GH¢20.00. One elated farmer, Afa Imoro, who chose to share his delight last week explained that “after sales from my 3 acres shea nut farm, I have seen a drastic increase in my daily earnings of GH¢2.00 which was inconsistent, to GH¢25.00”.

“In fact that sales are consistent now, as we have guaranteed sales from PlusOne”, Imoro added.

According to the publication on the website, “Plus One Investment Limited, established in 2005 is a consulting organization that provides agribusiness technical services in support of agricultural sector.”

“Using a market-driven, systems approach to identifying constraints, along agricultural value chains; Plus One investment limited researches, designs and implements interventions that empower market actors to invest in ways that sustainably improve the productivity and profitability of agricultural value chains.

“Butternut squash (cucurbita moschata), also known in Australia and New Zealand as butternut pumpkin, is a type of winter squash with a sweet and nutty taste, similar to that of a pumpkin. It has yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp.

“When ripe, the squash turns increasingly deep orange and becomes sweeter and richer growing on a vine.

“It is a good source of fibre, manganese, magnesium and potassium and also an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and E, and contains other important nutrients such as proteins and amino acids, carbohydrates, fats and fatty acids.

“According to information gathered, so far, about ten 40-feet containers of butternut squash have been harvested and processed for export to Birmingham, United Kingdom, from the project farms at Yapei, Buipe, Tamalgu and Dinga in the Northern Region and Bibeturi and Mettor in the Upper West Region.

“PlusOne Investment Limited which is a world acclaimed company, also operates in South Africa and has collaborated with Export Development Investment Fund (EDIF).

Despite these seeming rosy picture painted on the website in self-glorification, my preliminary investigations on the operations of the Plus One Investment Limited point to a wasteful expenditure from SADA which has deprived the poverty-stricken people of the three northern regions and the Savanna areas a whopping GHC 2.7m (c27 billion).

SADA as an entity has not made any returns from this gargantuan investment of the tax-payers’ money as the audit report has said and am calling for the immediate arrest of Mr. Gilbert Iddi, the former CEO of SADA and Mr Dan Saaka Ahmed, the project coordinator of Plus One Limited and the mastermind of this day-light robbery of the national kitty under the guise of poverty reduction.

NURUDEEN MAHAMA

Nuru2014mahama@gmail.com

TAMALE

Columnist: Mahama, Nurudeen