Reveal All Debtors Of Merchant Bank

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Group Orders SSNIT As Court Fines Andrew Awuni…….

By Gifty Arthur

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), has been challenged to make public, the names of all debtors in the books of the almost sold state-owned, Merchant Bank Ghana Limited.

“As contributors into a fund, which must secure our future gratuity when we finally go on retirement, we demand full disclosure of the names of the individuals and private firms, owing SSNIT through the loans they secured from Merchant Bank”, said a group calling itself, ‘Future Pensioners Club’.

Their demand comes as the man contesting the sale of Merchant Bank at the Accra Commercial Court, Andrew Awuni, an ex-New Patriotic Party (NPP) Parliamentary aspirant for Bongo in the Northern Region, was yesterday slapped with a GH¢600 fine by an Accra Fast Track High Court, for discontinuing the case earlier filed before it, instead of the Commercial Court.

The group said in press statement sent to The Herald that “we demand the list of debtors standing in the books of Merchant Bank be made public for us to know”.

As contributors, the group insists it has the success of the bank at heart, hence has tasked SSNIT to put in place measures to retrieve all the bad loans owed Merchant Bank.

“We also want to state emphatically that our contributions cannot be wasted through loans that have been allowed to go bad. We want the management of SSNIT and Merchant bank to put in place a comprehensive plan to recover 100 percent of the outstanding loans in their books and to make public such steps put in place”, the statement said.

The press statement signed by seven group members warned that it would not hesitate to drag SSNIT to court, if it fails to grant their requests. “Any unreasonable excuses for which these cogent steps cannot be instituted shall incur legal consequences,” they threatened.

Those who signed the statement include; Samira Seidu, Ayishetu Alhassan, Isaac Kingsley Edzii, Stephen Kwabena Attuh, Adomako Fred Williams, Abdulai A Waris and Michell Adotey.

Their statement comes on the heels of information by Managing Editor of the Crusading Guide newspaper, Kweku Baako that one of the many debtors Engineers and Planners (E&P) owned by Ibrahim Mahama, brother of President John Mahama, had ordered its bankers to pay $28 million, owed the struggling Ghanaian bank.

A letter signed by the CEO of E&P, Mr. Ibrahim Mahama and dated December 13, 2013 and addressed to Africa Export Import Bank asked that a Tranche One loan be used to defray the debt.

The Future Pensioners Club, is wondering why other debtors have been shielded in all the many discussions unlike E&P.

Merchant Bank sale has been in the news for some time now. The bank has been described as not commercially viable as result of the huge debts owed it by several individuals and institutions. Among the debtors, is New Patriotic Party (NPP) elder and business mogul, Akenten Appiah-Minka of Apino Soap fame.
Merchant Bank, which is largely owned by SSNIT and State Insurance Company (SIC), has been a matter of controversy with groups and individuals
contesting the sale to FORTIZ Equity Fund.

Executive Director of the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy (CFA), Andrew Awuni, onetime Presidential Press Secretary to John Agyeku Kufuor, proceeded to court, suing 13 others involved in the sale.

He is in court, challenging the sale and arguing that other financial institutions made far better offers for the bank than Fortiz, and yet Fortiz’s offer was accepted.

Six labour groups led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Judicial Services Staff Association of Ghana and the Ghana Hospitals Pharmacists Association, last Friday jointly held a press conference and asked SSNIT Board and the Bank of Ghana to immediately suspend the transaction.

Andrew Awuni, went to the Accra Fast Track High Court on November 15, 2013 seeking an interlocutory injunction to be placed on the sale of Merchant Bank by SSNIT to Fortiz.

At yesterday’s hearing, lawyer for Andrew Awuni, Egbert Fabille Jr. told the court that he had decided to discontinue case, and pursue his case at an Accra Commercial Court, instead.

This according to him, is because they consider the commercial court as a more appropriate platform to pursue the case.
The court presided over by Justice LL Mensah, subsequently granted Mr. Awuni’s request and awarded GH¢600 cost against him to be equally shared among the three defendants in the case.

Lawyers for Bank of Ghana and SSNIT, two of the three defendants in the case had each requested a cost of GH¢5,000 cedis to be awarded against the plaintiff, but lawyer for Mr. Awuni, offered to give them GH¢50 cedis.

Meanwhile, the Accra Commercial court is hearing the new case filed by Mr. Awuni against some 13 defendants, who played various roles in selling Merchant Bank to equity firm Fortiz.

As at yesterday, Mr. Awuni’s legal team, were preparing to respond to the application filed by SSNIT challenging Mr. Awuni’s capacity to take a legal action as against the sale of the sale of the bank.

This is after a failed attempt by lawyer for Awuni, Egbert Fabille jr. to block the hearing of the application because SSNIT has only filed a conditional appearance.

The court presided over by Justice Sophia Essah, however, upheld the argument of lawyer for SSNIT, Baffour Akoto that Mr. Febille, had already filed a response to the application, hence cannot object to its hearing on that basis.

Arguing the application, Mr. Baffour Akoto said, the court stands the risk of setting dangerous precedence if it entertains the case because the action has not disclosed any reasonable cause of action.

He cautioned why Mr. Awuni wrote to the presidency raising issues about the deal, instead of writing to the trustees of SSNIT, which he says is the proper cause of action.

Writing to the trustees, Mr. Baffour Akoto said, would have gotten them to remedy any wrong Mr. Awuni felt was done by approving the deal.

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