The three-day working visit by President Akufo-Addo to his home region, the Eastern Region, which started yesterday, has gotten two communities; GCD Walker and Amanfrom Camp in Akwatia in the Denkyembour District of the Region, calling on him to use his high office to direct the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) to restore power supply.
The two towns, have been without electricity for over a year and persistent calls to the ECG, the District Chief Executive (DCE), Member of Parliament (MP) and other government officials, to use their offices to fix the problem, have fallen deaf ears.
The decision to cut off power supply to the communities, have greatly affected the communities in many ways, leading to various demonstrations, petitions, press conferences and statements.It is exactly one year on (November 24, 2017), but all efforts aimed at pushing for the restoration of power, have been fruitless.
They are, therefore, appealing to the President to use his trip to the region as a platform to help restore power supply to their communities.
Water is very difficult to come by in the affected communities, because electricity which is expected to be used to pump the resource in the area, has been cut off.
According to the communities, business and social life are at standstill, as most of the youth who otherwise could have stayed behind to engage in profitable businesses to develop the communities, have all migrated to the cities.
Assembly Member for GCD Walker, John Osborn Quansah, said over the past year, teenage pregnancy has been on the increase (11 teenage pregnancies) while 14 community members who went in search of portable water for domestic chores, were bitten by snakes.
Expressing deep concern, Kontihene of Akwatia, Nana Atefa, said the situation has halted every activity. He said, the communities, which form part of the Akwatia township, have been deserted for lack of business and social activities
.”It is a disturbing situation and as a chief, I am very concerned about the plight of my people”. We will be very grateful if the President can use his influence to urge the Electricity Company of Ghana Volta River Authority to restore power to my people.
He blamed the non-payment of electricity bills which led to the disconnection of the communities on the management of Great Consolidated Diamond Group Limited (GCDGL), saying after collecting the bills from the residents and workers of the company, failed to pay to the power companies.
Months ago, the indigenes sent an SOS message to President Akufo-Addo, to launch an investigation and if possible, abrogate contract awarded to Executive Chairman of Jospong Group of Companies, Joseph Siaw Agyapong to mine diamond in the area.
The locals, led by the Akwatia Development Association (AkDA) who wanted the government to treat their concerns as an emergency said, communities within the catchment area, have been plunged into state of hopelessness and general suffering, following the failure by Dr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong’s GCDGL to make do, it promise to revamp the once vibrant company acquired in 2011.
“The government should launch an investigation into the sales and the operations of GCDGL from the period it took over operations in 2011 to date, and take the necessary steps, should there be non-compliance of the existing agreement by GCDGL.
The steps could include, the abrogation of the agreement with the current investor and the opening of new bid, which allows for a more capable company to take over the company’s operations, the locals said.
They also suggested that the government reviews the contractual agreement with GCDGL with inputs from indigenes to ensure sustainability of the company and the environment.
The contract awarded to Dr. Siaw Agyapong under the late John Mills administration, through a divestiture implementation agreement, has woefully failed to live up to expectation, hence the need according to the people, to take a second look at it for a better deal that will bring change to the people and also the government.
Having waited patiently over the years, the mining communities are demanding government takes action that will lead to a resourceful investor to acquire the company and inject new life into it.
The Association, while addressing the media at Akwatia, warned they may put other plans into action, if the Akufo-Addo government failed to act.
“A plan has been developed to take further actions to have GCDGL account to Ghana and the people of Akwatia and its workers, if no actions are forth coming from the government and the authorities within a month of this press conference. We are determined to get to the bottom of this matter”, President of the Association, Dr. Joseph Amuzu warned.
They argued, GCDGL promised so much, both to the people and to the then government, but could only pay a paltry $1.7 million against the 17 million contractual sum, was paid to government, following which it went to sleep.
Per the agreement, GCDGL, was also expected to inject, some $100 million investment within five-year multiphase programmes and expected to produce one million carats of diamonds per annum.
“The company was reportedly going to create 2, 500 direct jobs and 50, 000 indirect jobs for support services. It also declared intentions to establish an integrated diamond mining and diamond processing industry with the prime objective of turning around the fortunes of the mine”.
However, more than seven years after the local company won the bid, DrAmuzu, said all expectations have been dashed and the once very popular towns and communities have been left in a desperate state with many, especially the youth, left very frustrated and disappointed.
Business activities, have been grinded to a halt, while social vices such as teenage pregnancies, prostitution, thievery, gambling are on the rise.
Educational standards have fallen drastically, because according to the Association, because of the cutting of electricity supply.
Many of the youth, who had high hopes following the acquisition of the company, have migrated to bigger cities for greener pastures, while the aged are left with no one around to take care of them, Akwatia and its environs, have since turned into ghost communities.
Water is also a scarce commodity, because there is no electricity to operate the machine at the water works.
Requests to hook the affected communities unto the national grid so they can be billed monthly, have not been heeded to over the past eight months.
“The President of the Republic recently said the situation in Akwatia and other mining towns, is an embarrassment to the country. And we agree that something is done about it”, Dr. Amuzu said.
According to the Association’s president, “GCDGL owes ground rent for over six years in a row. The company’s mining lease which mandates its operations has not been renewed for equality that long a period”.
He said, several infrastructure such as machineries, plants, roads vehicles, estates including it club house bequeathed to the mining firm, are in a very deplorable state or are deteriorating at fast rate with no indication of their maintenance.
They pleaded with Parliament Select Committee on Mines and Energy to pay an unannounced working visit for their “Own observation and recommendation”. They also want their electricity restored on “humanitarian grounds” and salaries paid to the workers, who have not been paid for some time now.
Assemblyman for Walker, a suburb of Akwatia, Osborn Quansah, who is a mechanical engineer at the company said, the current state of the communities is appalling and regrettable.
He showed a couple of letters and petitions written to the District Chief Executive (DCE), the Energy Ministry among others since January this year, detailing the suffering of the people, but no solution appears to be in sight.