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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Weija-Gbawe Assembly members threaten demo over EPA treatment of cement factory

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been beseeched upon to intervene in the impasse between Empire Cement Ghana Limited and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The construction firm and the EPA are in some stand-off over what management of company perceived to be a form victimization by EPA.

The management of the company posit that the EPA is frustrating their attempt to build new cement production factory.

According to them, despite fulfilling all requirements for the establishment of the company, the EPA has taken a stance to prevent them from establishing the firm

At a press conference held on Wednesday, October 13 2021, assembly members in the Weija-Gbawe Municipality hit out at the EPA for scheming with one other company to sabotage the company.

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“Information available to us indicate that the EPA earlier in August 2020 granted approval to commence enabling works including filling, construction of fence wall and construction of drainage structure at the factory site. The Authority concluded that a permit would be granted upon submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

“Upon the intervention of some unforeseen forces, the Authority relaxed their earlier commitment. As faith would have it, Empire re-engaged EPA and was informed to re-apply to the Authority and be guided on their processes. On the other hand, the Ghana Highways Authority has given permit on the traffic impact assessment and design to Empire Cement Factory.

“We are also reliably informed that at a stakeholders meeting held at the instance of EPA on 29th October, 2020 and jointly chaired by the Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment and the Executive Director of EPA, with the Hon. Member of Parliament of Weija – Gbawe Constituency; MCE of Weija- Gbawe Municipal Assembly; the MD of Panbros among others, the meeting agreed to set up a Technical Committee to revise the EIA report of Empire Cement and make recommendation to the EPA. The membership of the Committee was drawn from Panbros Salt Industries Limited, Empire Cement and EPA”

Andy Oppong, an assembly man who addressed the press noted that that the projects feeds into the government One-District-One Factory initiative and must be allowed to create jobs for the teeming you Weija.

“We have high hopes for then factory so if there’s something wrong, the EPA should just recommend corrections instead of trying to shut it down.”

“The President must also intervene and help resolve the issues because it is part of his 1D1F policy. This company would create huge employment for the youth but they are not allowing functions,” he said.

The youth of the area who spoke to the press threatened to pour out on the streets if the deadlock is not broken

They warned of massive losses in revenue and employment if the factory is does not operate

PRESS STATEMENT BY ASSEMBLY MEMBERS OF THE WEIJA GBAWE MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLY

ADDRESS AND PETITION ON EVENTS HAPPENING BY EMPIRE CEMENT GHANA LIMITED

We write to respectfully address the media on events affecting the establishment of the Empire Cement Ghana Limited under the flagship programme of One District One Factory (1D1F).

The Company was registered at the Registrar Generals Department for the purpose of manufacturing cement paper bags as well as bagging of cement and subsequently registered with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and the 1DIF Secretariat at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

As investors, the company heeded to the government’s call for industrialization and its associated job creation for our teaming youth by committing so far, over 350 million USD in this eco-friendly cement bagging factory which is 85% complete.

The factory is envisaged to create about 13,000 direct and indirect jobs. The sod-cutting ceremony of the factory was held on 11th June 2020 led by the Former Greater Accra Regional Minster, Honourable, Ishmael Ashittey, Honourable Tina Naa Ayeley Mensah, Member of Parliament for Weija Gbawe Constituency and Honourable Patrick Kwesi Kumor the Municipal Chief Executive as well as Chiefs and opinion leaders drawn from the length and breadth of the municipality. This was the beginning of the ‘TRADE WAR’

Accordingly, our address is because of series of interventions of unfair nature brought against Empire Cement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BACKGROUND

Members of the Media, we wish to draw your kind attention to the fact that the issue that has always been raised by Panbros Salt Industries Ltd from the onset against Empire Cement has always been about their claim of ownership of the land where Empire Cement is situated and not about pollution. Their most recent claim to the land was when they petitioned the Parliamentary Select – Committee on Environment in May 2021.

ACQUISITION OF THE LAND

Members of the Media, we wish to state as a matter of fact that Empire Cement Factoyr has title ownership to the said land and can be verified at the lands commission

PERCEIVED ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

With defeat lurking Pambros in their face in relation to the land now that ECF has the title, Panbros Salt is now resorting to herald a campaign on perceived pollution that may result during the operations of Empire Cement Ghana Limited.

Empire Cement has assured all stakeholders especially we the assembly members and residents of McCarthy Hill, Gbawe and its environs that it would operate a factory that would stay within the tolerable environmental limit. The essence of environmental studies is for cordial coexistence of human activities and nature, all possible concerns which may occur have been mitigated as per the Environmental Impact Assessment report.

These include the use of a cyclone technology and proper construction methodology to ensure an air and water-tight production environment. The company has also gone ahead to propose the establishment of an ENVIRONMENTAL FUND where monies would be lodged, should they breach any environmental processes, the monies stand annexed.

To the extent that during a ruling on an injunction application by Panbros Salt Ltd, The High Court in its ruling in March 2021, against the application went ahead to commit Empire Cement to Pay a bond of GHC60,000 representing three years ground rent purported to be paid to Panbros Salt, should the salt company suffer any injury.

UNFAIR TREATMENT BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)

Members of the Media, information available to us indicate that the EPA earlier in August 2020 granted approval to commence enabling works including filling, construction of fence wall and construction of drainage structure at the factory site.

The Authority concluded that a permit would be granted upon submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. Upon the intervention of some unforeseen forces, the Authority relaxed their earlier commitment. As faith would have it, Empire re-engaged EPA and was informed to re-apply to the Authority and be guided on their processes. On the other hand, the Ghana Highways Authority has given permit on the traffic impact assessment and design to Empire Cement Factory.

We are also reliably informed that at a stakeholders meeting held at the instance of EPA on 29th October, 2020 and jointly chaired by the Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment and the Executive Director of EPA, with the Hon. Member of Parliament of Weija – Gbawe Constituency; MCE of Weija- Gbawe Municipal Assembly; the MD of Panbros among others, the meeting agreed to set up a Technical Committee to revise the EIA report of Empire Cement and make recommendation to the EPA.

The membership of the Committee was drawn from Panbros Salt Industries Limited, Empire Cement and EPA.

As all these engagements were on going, the first permit for manufacturing of paper bags was issued to ECF on 25th May 2021 granting them permission to start the manufacturing of paper bag as EIA on the bagging of cement is being reviewed.

However, following the Petition of Panbros Salt to the Parliamentary Select-Committee on Environment in May 2021 as mentioned above, a meeting was held with both parties present on 1st June, 2021 on Panbros claim of ownership to the land. Empire Cement produced its land tittle certificate as evidence of ownership.

Panbros realizing its false claim quickly dropped the issue of the land and started talking about pollution.

As a sequel, the Select- Committee organized a fact finding visit to Empire Cement Factory and Panbros Salt Limited on Thursday 10th June 2021 with the Deputy Executive Director of EPA, Panbros Salt, the MCE of Weija Gbawe, the MP of Weija Gbawe in attendance.

At the end of the visit, the Chairman and his Ranking Members assured both parties that a report would be issued to direct the way forward regarding the impasse between Panbros Salt and Empire Cement.

Members of the media, it is worth mentioning that EPA was invited to the site visit by the Parliamentary Select Committee. However, to our outmost surprise, by the close of day 10th June 2021, same day of the site visit, ECF had information of a letter from EPA directing them to stop construction and de-commission the installed work at the factory and pay a penalty of GHC 180,000, without due consideration to the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment yet to be issued. We ask, what informed that decision by the EPA. Our checks have also revealed that the 1D1F Secretariat has written to the EPA Still awaiting a response from them.

This development is considered an affront to Foreign Direct Investment drive. It is recalled that during the sod-cutting ceremony for the establishment of ILAM CEMENT COMPANY LTD at Dawa in the Greater Accra Region, in November 2017 by the Vice President H.E. Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia he recounted as follows ‘To ensure the development of the country, it is necessary to have some key development tools and you would also agree with me that one of the characteristics is growing infrastructure.

It is an undeniable fact that we cannot have all these beautiful buildings, factories, bridges and roads without affordable and regular supply of cement in large quantities. We are fortified in this call and EMPIRE CEMENT is here to offer quality and affordable prices to the Ghanaian community as well as creating job opportunities for our teaming youth.

Also, information reaching us is that the committee set up by the Honorable Minister of Environment Science and Technology, has been inaugurated and it has started work. We are therefore pleading for the speed up of the committee’s investigations for Empire Cement to start full operations.

We also appeal to the office of the President to intervein since the company falls directly in line with the President’s vision of industrialising the country. We are of a firm believe that the Executive director of EPA has taken sides and therefore we call for his actions to be investigated. We need to protect investors not to sabotage an investment that would help reduce the unemployment rate within our catchment area.

CONCLUSION

Members of the Media, the factory is 85% complete and huge investment has so far been made in land acquisition, construction, machinery, and trucks with the capacity to create about 13000 direct and indirect jobs. We are hopeful that you would help spread the good news to help resolve this issue and offer an enabling environment for EMPIRE CEMENT GHANA LTD and other sister companies across the country, since His Excellency’s vision of industrializing the country should be on course and not to be frustrated.

We are certain that this TRADE WAR is championed by some unseen faces who see this project as a big threat, and its likely to bring fair competition to the cement industry for the ultimate benefit of the consumers. Note that soon they would all be named and shamed.

In conclusion, we reiterate that the above information is critical and feasible to permit the licensing and operation of the Cement bagging factory and deem the lawsuit by the Upper McCarthy Hills Residents Association as premature and misconceived mainly because that community faces no risk of any adverse environmental atmospheric impact as it falls outside the AREA OF INFLUENCE OF 500 METER RADIUS as required by law and Science per EPA rules and requirements

In effect all evidence gathered depicts that this is clearly a TRADE WAR and nothing in relation to pollution. Attached are documents to show that due processes were followed.

Thank you all for coming and may God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.

At this juncture, we would take questions if any.

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