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Regional News Fri, 21 Feb 2003

Trouble for Ahanta West Assembly

The management of the Western Hardwood Limited, a timber processing firm based at Apowa near Takoradi in the Western Region, have threatened to take legal action against the Ahanta West District Assembly, for unconstitutionally blocking the access road to the company and prevented it from carrying out its legitimate business.

According to the timber firm, though they do admit that they owe the district assembly in the area of property rate, the latter should have followed the due process of the law to collect the money but not to resort to the unconstitutional means of blocking the access roads that lead to the factory without prior notice or knowledge.

Management further said their decision to resort to the legal action against the assembly stemmed from the fact that they have lost a lot of revenue and property when the entrance was blocked because there was a fire outbreak at the company during the period but the assembly refused to allow personnel from the Ghana Fire Service to enter the premises of the of the company to put off the fire.

According to the management it took the intervention of the police before the fire personnel were allowed in when the harm had already been caused.

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Speaking to the Chronicle at Takoradi, the managing director of the company, Mr. B. Farouk, said on Sunday February 9, this year, he had information that the road leading to his company had been blocked by the district assembly because he refused to pay his property rate despite several reminders sent to him.

Farouk said on the same day that the assembly took that decision there was a fire outbreak at his company so the fire service personnel were called in.

According to him, the firemen were refused entry to the company to put off the fire. Workers of the company later mustered courage and pushed the truck the assembly had used in blocking the entrance for the fire personnel to move in.

Farouk further told the Chronicle that the following day, which was a Monday, the blazing fire occurred again, so the firemen were called in from Sekondi but when they arrived the assembly once again refused them entry.

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He said later the police, who Chronicle learnt from an independent source that they were called in by the Fire Service, went and consulted the district chief executive, Mr. Kwesi Biney, before the road was cleared for the tenders to move in.

He said if the firemen had not entered the company at the time that they were allowed in, anything at all could have happened because the fire was moving towards a big electricity transformer that serves the company and its environs.

The managing said the behaviour of the assembly was a surprise to him because it is the same facilities at the company that he would have to work with before getting the money to pay the property rate, yet they were not allowing the fire tenders to enter when the facilities were on fire.

Quoting the Local Government Act of 1993 Act 462 section 101 sub section 2, Farouk said the assembly has no power or right to block the entrance to his company even though it is undeniable fact that he owes them.

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The quoted section reads: if any person fails to pay any rate for which he is liable on or before the date on which it is payable, the district assembly concerned may recover it as a civil debt or prosecute the defaulting tax payer for willful default to pay the rate together with the appropriate penalties.

Farouk contended that the assembly should have resorted to this legal avenue as stated in the act to collect their money but they chose the unconstitutional means to block access roads to his company where he would have to work before getting money to pay them.

When this reporter asked him why he also refused to pay the rate despite several reminders as claimed by the assembly, the MD said his personal investigation revealed that his administrators who should have also replied to it received all the letters but they did not do it, let alone inform him.

He however said as MD he cannot use that as a defence and has accepted his mistake in good faith. When the district chief executive, Mr. Kwesi Biney, was contacted, he said the assembly is ever prepared for any legal suit that would be brought against it by Mr. Farouk, whom he described as arrogant.

He said though the laws quoted by him do exist, the assembly still has the right to block the entrance. Mr. Biney said if the MD cannot sue both electricity and water companies when they disconnect his service line for non-payment of bills then he did not see why he should cry wolf about the action taken by the assembly.

Biney explained that though Mr. Farouk owes the assembly an amount of ?50 million, which is a four year property rate he has defaulted in paying, he has constantly and arrogantly refused to acknowledge the receipt of all reminders they have sent to him. He has also been dodging when a delegate is sent to him.

This disrespect, continued DCE Biney, compelled the assembly to resort to the action they took. He however denied that he prevented the fire tenders from entering the company to put off the fire.

According to him, he was not at the action spot but when the information got to him he quickly ordered that the firemen should be allowed entry to the company to carry out their legitimate function.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle