General News of Thursday, 26 January 2017
Parliament’s Appointments Committee has finally cleared Senior Minister-designate Yaw Osafo Marfo and Energy Minister-designate Boakye Agyarko after their approval was withheld over certain concerns.
They were given the all clear after some horse-trading between the majority and minority sides of the house on Thursday.
The Minority in Parliament had earlier vowed to block the approval of the two. Their eight other colleagues who have also been vetted were cleared. They include Alan Kyerematen – Trade, Ken Ofori-Atta – Finance, Dominic Nitiwul – Defence, Albert Kan-Dapaah – National Security, Gloria Akuffo – Attorney General and Justice Minister, Ambrose Dery – the Interior, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey – Foreign Affairs, and Hajia Alima Mahama – Local Government & Rural Development.
With regards to Mr Osafo Marfo, the committee withheld his approval pending further investigation into alleged ethnocentric comments he made in 2015.
When he appeared before the committee on 20 January, Mr Marfo denied ever saying or implying that only Ghanaians from five resource-rich regions, all of which happen to be Akan-dominated areas in the country, should lead Ghana.
In February 2015, he was reported as saying even though about 90 per cent of Ghana’s natural resources were concentrated in the five mainly Akan-speaking regions, it is rather people who come from resource-poor regions who were at the helm of affairs at the time he made those alleged comments.
The comment was contained on an audiotape secretly recorded as the former Finance Minister, who is also the Chairman of the New Patriotic Party’s Eastern regional Council of Elders, was addressing some party members ahead of the 2016 general elections.
Mr Marfo, who spoke the Twi language punctuated with some English, was heard bemoaning why Akan-speaking people, whose regions are rich with natural resources, are not the ones at the helm of managing those resources.
“…You have all the resources, but you have no say in the management of your resources and that is what is happening. Your development depends on the one who has no resources,” he said, cautioning: “You can’t say this openly,” except among Asantes. “We should protect ourselves, we should protect our income. No one who is the source of income, the source of revenue, the source of resources allows another person without those resources the chance [to rule over them]. It’s never done anywhere in the world. In the world over, it is the group with the most resources that rules and not the other way around,” he added.
In his estimation, as reported at the time, “86.5 per cent of resources in Ghana come from five regions: Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern, Western, and Central. This is where 86 per cent of the resources of Ghana come from. … And the oil was also discovered in the West. It will change the formula to about 90 per cent. We cannot ignore these five regions. We should not.”
Clarifying the comment to the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Friday, 20 January during his vetting as Senior Minister-designate, Mr Osafo Marfo said: “This is one of those distorted ‘cut and paste’ statements.
“I’m the Chairman of the Council of Elders of the NPP in the Eastern Region. We were fighting this election  on the economy and I was giving a series of lectures on the economy to various groups within the region. When it got to the turn of the Council of Elders, the regional chair spoke, Hon Hackman spoke, I spoke and I spoke on the economy, but you don’t talk about the economy by starting with the resource location; … I started by talking about how poorly this economy has been managed that we have gone from GHS9.4bn debt to GHS110bn debt at the time, and how growth, without oil, was 1.9bn and had dwindled to about 4% etc., … And I said something which I’ve said in this room: that Ghana is not poor and that the resource base of this country is found in five regions and I mentioned the regions specifically because I was making a strong economic argument.
“Now people removed all that I said about the poor management of the economy and then made it look like I started by talking about the resource locations of this thing and put it forward and changed certain things to make me look like I was being a tribalist and it was bad, this is where I find people very mischievous; … You take the whole thing out of context and make it look very tribalistic, so, I think, yes, it happened, newspapers reported something wrong and I think people should be ashamed of themselves when they do this kind of ‘cut and paste’ to create that wrong impression in the system…” Mr Osafo Marfo clarified.
He refused to apologise for the alleged comment when he appeared before the committee. “Mr Chairman, I cannot apologise for what I have not said.”
Ekow Annan earlier reported that the Minority also felt Mr Osafo Marfo lied to the committee about the botched CNTCI and IFC loan deals.
Explaining himself on the two deals when he appeared before the committee, Mr Osafo Marfo said a section of the Ghanaian public played mischief with issues that arose from the Chinese New Techniques Construction Investment Company (CNTCI) loan debacle, cynically christened “Salon Loan”, approved by parliament on April 13, 2004.
Mr Marfo, who was the Minister of Finance at the time the loan was approved, suffered severe backlash from some Ghanaians especially members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for failing to conduct due diligence after questions about the company’s identity arose and subsequently when the address it provided was traced to a beauty salon in the UK.
The General Secretary of the NDC at the time, the late Dr Josiah Aryeh, at a press conference in Accra had said: “The identity or identities of the lenders, the intricate corporate maze known as the CNTCI, the conflicting and confusing addresses and telephone/fax numbers, the concealment of critical conditions of the agreement from the Loan Agreement and from the documentation submitted to Parliament, including the issue of the bank guarantee and the sole-sourcing undertakings, all point to one thing. Something is wrong somewhere. Someone is not telling the truth to Ghanaians.
He also suffered similar flak in connection with the IFC loan deal during the Kufuor administration.
The NDC at the time said it wrote to Interpol seeking assistance to unravel the mystery over the botched loan agreements. “Coming so soon after the IFC debacle, we must, as a country, take precaution against those who may be out to take this country for a ride.”
But responding to these issues during his vetting on January 20, Mr Marfo said: “The report we had on the IFC were positive, Barclays did it on our behalf because we were looking for a long-term finance.”
“But along the line we wanted to know the bank, where the money they intend to give us was located, because there should be evidence that you have the financial muscle to provide that type of loan.
“We then had difficulty getting that confirmation on location and payout and I came to parliament to say that in view of the difficulty we were getting on the location and the financial muscle even though we have positive reports, we were withdrawing that whole application.
“Some people were mischievous with the issue especially in the media and that worked for them.”
As far as Mr Agyarko’s nomination was concerned, committee member Mubarak Muntaka told Accra-based Joy FM on Wednesday that “for the nominee to say the World Bank was breathing down the neck of former President Mahama, it was very much uncalled for”.