Accuse Him Of Inadequate Rainfall In Dirty Media Campaign Days After US$750 Million Cocoa Roads Sod-Cutting
New Patriotic Party (NPP) elements, and their collaborators within the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), have begun a dirty campaign towards the removal of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, less than two years into his appointment.
Together with their paid journalists and media houses, the NPP elements, including Sydney Casely-Hayford, and Franklin Cudjoe, both of the pro-NPP Occupy Ghana, are calling for his immediate replacement, citing among other things, inadequate rainfall during the 2014/2015 cocoa season.
Insider sources have also told The Herald that, a private businessman and warehouse operators with ties in faraway Niger, is also sponsoring some of these dirty media campaigns against the hardworking COCOBOD boss, who was instrumental in securing funding for the US$750 million Cocoa Roads in the areas where the cash crop is grown in Ghana.
Some of those behind the orchestrated media campaign, had wanted one contract or the other at COCOBOD in areas of Pesticide contracts, Fertilizer contracts, Jute sacks, cocoa road construction among others, although they were not qualified. Some others who also got the contract, but failed to honour had it terminated, for a breach.
Also involved is the outgoing NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso in the Ashanti Region, who doubles as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Food and Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto.
He is asking Government to account for the discrepancy in the purchase of cocoa between October 2014 and May 2015, having shown that 614,262 tonnes of cocoa were purchased for the period against the approved 950,000 metric tonnes.
President John Mahama in November 2013, appointed Dr. Opuni to head COCOBOD, and has a total revival of the cocoa industry by giving free cocoa seedlings, free fertilizers and free pesticides to farmers across the country to boost yields in the coming years, even in places such as the Volta Region, where the industry is virtually crawling.
But Sydney Casely-Hayford, a self-proclaimed Financial Analyst speaking on Citi FM’s, The Big Issue, on Saturday said that, Dr. Opuni, must be removed because “Consistently, cocoa has been under-performing and there is no reason why we should keep him there”, his call comes less than two years after his appointment.
Sydney Casely-Hayford and his partner, Franklin Cudjoe, who had an interesting encounter with Dr. Opuni during his days at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) with respect to a drug test kit being marketed by IMANI Ghana; a Public Relations and Market company, are claiming that, under Dr. Opuni’s leadership, the cocoa sector, which is the leading foreign exchange earner for the country, has suffered major setbacks.
They cited inadequate rainfall, lack of pesticides and fertilizers for farmers, the depreciation of the cedi, increased smuggling of cocoa beans, delayed resource
allocation, the reduction of government spraying programme, among others, have adversely affected the sector.
At the beginning of the 2014/2015 cocoa season, COCOBOD, projected a target yield of 1 million tons; a projection many industry players described as over ambitious.
But the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) subsequently dropped Ghana’s yield for the 2014/2015 crop season by about 20 percent from some 900,000 tonnes to about 700,000 tonnes. It attributed the downward revision to fatigue of the cocoa trees, weather patterns and smuggling.
According to Casely-Hayford, when the wrong people are put in key positions such as COOCOBOD, their ineffectiveness has rippling damaging effects.
“When you don’t put the right people in positions, people who are business focused enough and don’t understand the impact of what is happening, that is where you have your problems because for you to predict that you will do a certain quantity of tonnage and have a shortfall by so much, you upset the whole international cycle of business,” he complained.
He mentioned that, some traders in cocoa; are going to lose about $41 million this year, all because of Ghana’s over ambitious prediction.
Casely-Hayford stated that, he “will call for the head of COCOBOD Boss immediately” the board must also be revamped since “Dr. Opuni has supervised this particular prediction in the last two years since he was transferred.”
“It is always the institutional head…there are things you must do and if you don’t do them and get them right, the repercussions down the line will hit you,” he added.
Owner of IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, claimed that Dr. Opuni’s position is based on political reasons and not based on merit.
He said: “I think the current CEO is a good man, but he is a political ‘hatcher’,”
Cudjoe argued that “if it was a very civilized economy, nobody would even ask him to leave…we are not focusing on the guy, not at all. We are just saying that he is not the man for the job because he has no commercial experience.”
The same Franklin Cudjoe, had championed Dr. Opuni’s removal from the FDA, but failed.
On his part, the NPP MP of Kwadaso, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said the Minority was dissatisfied with the recent answer given by Deputy Minister of Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson that data from the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), showed that 614,262 tonnes of cocoa were purchased for the period against the approved 950,000 metric tonnes.
“The House approved a syndicated loan of $1.8 billion for the purchase of 950,000 tonnes, and the Deputy Minister is telling us COCOBOD bought 614, 262 tonnes. Where is the money for the difference?”, Dr. Akoto quizzed.
Parliament last year approved $1.8 billion for the purchase of cocoa, for which the COCOBOD through the Ministry of Finance took $1.7billion.
Journalists, had wanted to know from the Ranking Member, who is also the MP for Kwadaso, why he had complained that the answer to the question which he asked on the floor of the House had attracted just a single sentence answer.
He said: “My question was very important, but innocuous. I intended to use the three supplementary questions to ask for follow up. I’m asking the question on behalf of the larger majority of cocoa farmers and Ghanaians.”
Dr Akoto was of the view that the shortfall was a calculated attempt by the government “to deceive the people of this country.” “We in the Minority, will pursue the matter to its logical conclusion,” Dr Akoto served notice.