Opinions of Wed, 7 Jul 20040
Gov't Must Act On Adum-Banso-BOPP Shares Saga
For the past weeks, Adum-Banso in the Mpohor Wassa East district of the Western region has been in the news for two reasons.
Foremost, the government announced that it was divesting itself of the 40 per cent shares in the Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) at a well-attended ceremony in Takoradi.
For the records, the 26.54 square mile land for BOPP was acquired from the people of Adum-Banso.
I wish the government announcement ceremony took place at Adum-Banso to enable government delegation and all the dignitaries to go through a bone-shaking experience due to the poor nature of the 16-mile road from Apowa to Adum-Banso. I do not blame the NPP government alone, past governments should take a bigger portion of the mess.
Also in the news - the chief and people of Adum-Banso cautioned that those who have bought shares in BOPP as advertised should return them, charging that it was a deliberate act by Finance Minister, Osafo Maafo, to trample on their fundamental human rights, thus violating the spirit of the 1992 constitution.
Freedom of expression at work, the people of Adum-Banso desirous to seek further interpretation of the law in the acquisition of their land , representing pointers to how Ghanaians are becoming more and more aware of problem-solving channels, dynamics of government, and the relevance of the rule of law.I am glad the people resorted to these means to address problems instead of using violence. This is neat.
When former head of state, Kutu Acheampong, acquired the land through an Executive Instrument for Unilever to begin the Benso Oil Palm Plantation, I saw how shock waved through Adum-Banso, resulting in many deaths attributed to heart-attacks.
Why such deaths? The people?s source of livelihood depended upon their farms. That was all that they had. The number of farms and their sizes determined how rich one was, so when valuable farms were destroyed to pave the way for BOPP without proper compensation people died from shock.
The people of Adum-Banso are better placed to tell their own story and government should listen devoid of any manipulation of the truth.
I still remember how Opanyin Pinsan , hardworking, and one of the best farmers in Adum-Banso died upon receiving the news that all the farms he owned have been destroyed.Opanyin Pinsan died in pain. Thanks to the Kutu-led de facto government, and Unilever - through one of its first estate managers, one Mr.Kauffman, after whom many of the BOPP estates were named. The name Kauffman was synonymous to "destruction", according to the people of Adum-Banso , undoutedly taking this stance based on how their farms were destroyed.
It is against a backdrop of pain people had to endure till date that the Adum-Banso saga must be addressed to bring hope and peace to a community which have been deprived of many essentials of life due to government insentivity to their plight, and the reverse benefits of investment.The people have not been treated fairly
This is an example. In 1993, it took the "power of a pen" to prevent a clandenstine move by officials of the Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) in Takoradi to deprive the people of Adum-Banso of a bigger power transformer which had been installed in the town. As time and days unfolded, executive members of Wood Retailers Association had bribed their way to acquire the transformer for a new settlement area at Apremdo, near Takoradi. One of the ECG officials wanted to bribe me , so when the offer was declined, he shouted in frustration: "Don't Mind the Villagers". Two days later, it was to become the headline of a story highlighting the problem at Adum-Banso.
"Villagers are Ghanaians, human beings, who have a stake in national life and comfort", I wrote.
Undeniably, the benefits of investment in agro-business are pronounced- providing jobs, as well as raising the standard of living.
In the case of Adum-Banso, the opposite is true, as their schools continue to collapse, bad roads, and lack of proper infrastructure in the town. This is the price they have to pay, having been robbed of their valuable land by neo-colonialists who present themselves as investors.
Recently, I wrote : that "Unilever is a bad neighbor".If the claim by William Acquah, regent of Adum-Banso, that the management of BOPP had given between 2 and 3 million cedis to workers to buy shares, only to be bought back from the workers is found to be true, I would be vindicated one day.
The problems emerging from the sale of BOPP shares, lack of development in the Adum-Banso area, people?s right to dignified life, even if they are poor, should receive maximum attention from government because there are comparisons to make as exemplified by how in Kumasi ,Tanoso and Kwadaso lands were released to chiefs and sub-chiefs who are now selling them as residential plots to individuals.
Improper land acquisition and its aftermath fuel controversy, sometimes they promote war, something Ghanaians do not relate to, because we are cerebral and have peaceful means to solving our problems before they reach unsolvable proportions.
But the government must act swiftly , maturely, and in the interest of justice and peace.
After all, when the people of Adum-Banso stated that "what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander", they were just re- echoing the gospel truth.
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