Friday, November 30, 2007

Weeds Invade Volta Basin

By Stephen K.Effah, Sogakope
Friday, 30 November 2007

THE health of the people living in communities along the Volta Basin is threatened by aquatic weeds which provide breeding grounds for snails that play host to bilharzias, the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has said.

The weeds he said, are rapidly invading water bodies in the lower Volta resulting in high prevalence of bilharzia in many parts of the Volta Basin, and adversely affecting the socio-economic activities and livelihood of the people.

Jonathan Allotey, executive director of the EPA, disclosed this in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of an integrated management project aimed at controlling the invasion of aquatic weeds in the Tano and Volta rivers.

The 2.5-million-dollar project, being executed by the EPA, is expected to reduce by 20 per cent the aquatic weeds in the seven districts along the two rivers.

Mr. Allotey said at present, about 30 per cent of the water surface of the Volta River has been infested by the weeds in various locations while that of Tano River is 50 per cent.

According to a Volta River Authority report, about 50 per cent and 60 per cent of people of Kpong and Fodzoku, in the Dangme West District, were infested with bilharzia last year.

He said that the first invasion of aquatic weeds in the country was in the 1980s and by 1994, the problem had assumed “serious dimensions.”

“It affects navigation on the affected rivers such as Tano and Oti, irrigation, domestic water supply and hydropower generation on the Volta,” he pointed out.

“In portions of the Lower Volta Basin, stretching from Amedeka to Azizanya, massive infestation of the submerged weeds covering 70 per cent of the water column significantly constrained fishing activities, and contributed to modifying the habitat for fresh water clam,” he added.

Mr. Allotey attributed the spread of the weeds to changes in hydrology arising from damming of water courses, alteration of flow rates and nutrients inputs from agricultural and human activities.

These, he explained, affect the natural ecological balance and creates conditions that promote the rapid growth and spread of the weeds.

He said that the EPA has since 1984, led the control of the weeds in water bodies with support of other stakeholders, adding that the current project is to further control aquatic weeds.

“Removal of the weeds would improve the water transport, navigation, availa-bility of water for irrigation, improvement in the quality of the water and less infestation of bilharzia disease,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, Maxwell Kofi Dwumah, said the government is aware of the challenges facing communities at the Lower Volta and the Lower Tano areas as a result of the weed infestation.

He said government is committed to assisting the communities to address the challenges to enable them to harness the opportunities provided by water resources for sustainable development.

FRESH AGONY FOR WEIJA RESIDENTS...thieves invade ruins

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 30 November 2007

ONLY hours after the demolition of some of the unauthorised houses at the Weija Dam area in Accra on Wednesday, thieves invaded the ruins of the buildings and made away with personal effects and building materials.

The Times learnt that they arrived, about 11 pm on Wednesday, barely five hours after the demolition, and looted items yet to be removed by owners of the affected buildings.

Some of the houses which were marked to be pulled down but were not because they were not too close to the dam site, were also raided by the thieves.

A number of the victims who confirmed the thefts when the Times called yesterday said that security personnel detailed to oversee the exercise left the scene soon after it ended because it was getting dark.

Some young men believed to be thieves were spotted by the Times carrying away iron rods from a razed building site.

The group, numbering about eight, bolted as our photographer tried to take shots of them.

The Times was also told that some occupants of buildings initially marked for demolition but which were not pulled down on the first day, have abandoned their homes.

According to them, they are now living in fear because the demolition team on Wednesday violated an agreement with the Weija Member of Parliament , Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, not to include buildings which do not pose any threat to the water treatment plant.

Some of them had started removing roofing sheets, louver blades and frames, doors and security gates of their buildings when the Times got there.

One of them George Wortodzor Bodzah, said, "We are now living in fear since we don’t know when they will come again. My family and I have prepared to evacuate in case the exercise would be continued. We have nowhere to go. I will have to sleep here with my family."

Another victim of the demolition, Ms Appiah Danquah Paxman, who looked distraught said, "I don’t know what to do with myself now. I have lost all that I have taken years of toil to build."

She said that her sisters, brother and herself had to put up with their friends after their house was pulled down on Wednesday.

Twenty-five unauthorised houses close to the Weija Dam were on Wednesday pulled down by a task force contracted by the Ghana Water Company.

They were among some 2,000 structures originally earmarked to be pulled down but the demolition of the others was suspended after Ms Botchway had intervened because some of them were at the centre of the town and did not pose any danger to the dam.

The demolition exercise followed warning to encroachers of land belonging to the Water Company to move from the restricted area to protect the dam.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

‘PAC Needs More Powers’

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Samuel Sallas-Mensah, has suggested to Parliament to amend its Standing Orders to allow the committee to institute independent investigations into information from whistle-blowers.

Speaking at a seminar by the Ghana Audit Service for its stakeholders in Accra yesterday, Mr Sallas-Mensah said that such a move would "make the committee proactive."

He explained that although the committee could examine any matters outside the Auditor General’s report, it could do so only when the matter had been referred to it by the Speaker of Parliament.

"The caveat, however, is that the matter must be referred to it by the House, the committee cannot investigate any matter suo motto," (on its own),he pointed out.

The seminar was funded by the European Commission and was aimed at brainstorming on how to improve public sector financial management and make public officers more accountable for public funds.

Mr. Sallas-Mensah said the committee has over the years, endeavoured to be objective in its deliberations while it tried to "walk the fine-line of transparency" and at the same time, strive to protect the reputation and integrity of public officials.

He said the first-ever public sitting of the committee was aimed at injecting a level of transparency into its work and bring proceedings closer to the electorate and gauge the confidence and support of the public.

"The impact was impressive and this marks significant steps in the development of our democracy," he said.

The Chairman urged the auditors of the Audit Service to be diligent and meticulous in their work and properly maintain their audit working papers since they could be recalled in any judicial process.

He also called for a review of the system of appointment of the position of Auditor General in order to strengthen its independence and make it more responsible to parliament.

He said that the Auditor General should be nominated by the President, in consultation with the Council of State and the Public Services Commission for approval by Parliament as is the case with the appointments of the Justices of the Supreme Court.

He called for collaboration between all stakeholders in public financial management to maintain an effective accountability process.

For his part, a Research Fellow of the Centre for Policy Analysis, Dr.Nii-Noi Ashong, called for sound constitutional arrangements based on the principles of accountability, good governance and independent public auditing so as to sustain and uphold the highest audit standards.

He said the Auditor General must assist Parliament to ensure proper use of public resources by auditing the government and its institutions which receive public funding.

He noted that the provision of fair and impartial audit reports and information to Parliament and the presence of the Auditor General during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) deliberations on the audited accounts of the country are important measures necessary to assure tax payers that there exists an investigative body on behalf of Parliament.

"Well organised and independent audit systems contribute to a better and more transparent control of the activities of the public sector institutions, thus contributing to their economic efficiency and effectiveness," Dr Ashong stressed.

For accountability to thrive, he said there must be effective monitoring and tracking of public expenditure by the Auditor General, adding that could be achieved through the political will to adequately resource the Auditor General to enable him to hire and maintain properly trained staff and professionals.

Give Science A Priority - Dr. Leticia Obeng

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Letitia Obeng, has urged Ghanaians to comprehend the place of science in their lives to effectively fight poverty and reach higher heights in life.

"It appears that in Ghana, science has such a low rating in the assessment of things that there is only a lukewarm interest and, at best, inadequate public involvement in issues related to science," she observed.

Giving her presidential address in Accra on Monday to mark this year’s Founder’s Week of the Academy, she said that "It seems that science and technology are definitely not priority areas in Ghana".

The week is under the theme: "National Development in the Past 50 Years"
Dr. Obeng explained: "In this age when the life of society is firmly based on science, it is only logical that citizens must be empowered to understand something about science… as we pursue a culture of science."

She said that awareness and involvement in science in Ghana is mainly through the education system and science and technology research institutions, which she said, is far from "a show of national consciousness of science."

Dr Obeng described as invalid, the argument that the absence of science is due to poor infrastructure and funding, noting that the country currently has a number of universities, polytechnics, and research institutions which turn out large numbers of science graduates.

"So really, the country has no excuse for not having a strong science presence in our culture she said, adding "we need science to regulate and make our response to political, economic, social and development problems effective."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Education Reality Show Unveiled

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 19 November 2007

Twelve graduates selected from across the country to participate in the first ever educational reality show, were named on Friday.

The show is designed to give bright, ambitious Ghanaian university graduates the opportunity to win three post-graduate scholarships at leading universities in the United Kingdom.

They were selected out of more than 2,000 university graduates based on their academic excellence, leadership competencies, character and creativity.

They include: Jojo Chartei Quansah, Joan Selorm Tsorhe, Thomas Kofi Arboh, John Kesse Quarshie, Joshua Adom, Sheila Addo and Belinda D. Oduro.

The rest are Seth Asiedu Miah, Esther B. Quaofio, Lily B. Atutiga, Lisboa Quarshie and Nana A.Twum-Barima.

They will be given extensive personal and professional development training and compete against each other in a series of weekly tests, task and quizzes in management, leadership, creativity and U.K- Ghana trivia.

Dubbed "The Challenge," the show being organised by the British Council, in collaboration with Charter House Ghana and Tigo, will be telecast on TV3 on Sundays, Tuesdays and repeated on Saturdays.

Each week, one of the 12 will be evicted by the viewers through Short Messaging Service voting (texting) to cut the number to four, who will compete for the grand finale.

The ultimate winner will take home a 40,000 pound scholarship to pursue postgraduate course at the University of Westminster, fully paid accommodation in an international hostel, monthly living allowance and a brand new laptop among others. On completion, the winner will have a pre-arranged lucrative job placement and a brand new Tata Safari car

The two runners up will receive one year postgraduate scholarships and accommodation from London Metropolitan and Thames Valley Universities, in addition to a return air tickets and living allowance.

Launching it, Nana Akomea, Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, lauded the organisers for introducing such an innovative and educative reality show which he said would focus on raw intellectual and mental ability.

He wished all the contestants the best in their endeavours to win the prize at stake.

The British High Commissioner, Gordon Wetherell, said Ghana and the U.K or years have productive relationship in all aspects of Ghana’s economy, noting that education has been a key area in the relationship.

He said that British Council underpins the fruitful relationship between Ghana and the U.K, adding that the British Government through the council has helped many Ghanaian students and is committed in helping a lot more in their education.

He indicated that a large number of Ghanaians living in the Diaspora are in the U.K studying and making significant contributions to their home country.

Mr.Wetherell observed that British education is now the most sought for in the world.

Ben Brako launches ‘Adende’

By Stephen Kwabena Effah

Nine years after the release of his last album, one of Ghana’s evergreen highlife stars, Ben Brako, last week Friday launched his latest album in Accra, which he described as “much more modern”.

The nine-track album titled ‘Adende’, features three of Ghana’s prominent hip-life artistes; Tic Tac, Soni Bali and Papa Flava, who add a youthful touch to the songs on the album.

It has songs like Dance With Me, Adoma, Yesu Beye, Serwaa, Love, and Enchie.

Before the launch of the album by Dr.Charles Wereko-Brobby, Chief Executive of the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat, Ben Brako, backed by Adez of the TV3 Mentor fame, thrilled the audience with some of his popular old songs as well as his new songs.

Patrons at the launch demonstrated their verdict by taking to the floor.

Ben Brako told the Times that he has been developing and writing music for the past nine years that he has been away from the music scene, adding, “It takes time to come out with good music.”

He explained that the featuring of the hip-life artistes on the new album is a strategy he has devised to attract the youth into highlife music, which seem to be on low patronage by them.

He said that he will soon embark on a nationwide and international tour beginning from the Central Region, to entertain his fans who perhaps have missed his music for sometime.

Launching the album, Dr. Wereko-Brobby observed that highlife music that was once the reigning genre of music in the country is now taking a back seat.

He said it is important for Ghanaian highlife singers to strive and ensure that they revive and sustain it because it is one of the things that could be used to identify the country.

Maybe he wasn’t joking when he said he intends to establish a highlife night club and museum in the country to be called “Charlie Wote”.

Dr.Wereko-Brobby underscored the need for Ghanaians to take pride in their rich culture and promote it.

Ben Brako hit the highlife music circle with his debut “Baya” in 1987 winning him the Leisure Foundation album of the year 1987, and Musician of the year 1987. He has five albums to his credit.

Ussher Fort Museum Inaugurated

By Stephen K.Effah
Saturday, 17 November 2007

A new museum, that gives a pictorial account of the infamous slave trade in the country between the 15th and 19th century housed in at the Ussher Fort in Accra was inaugurated on Wednesday.

Situated along the beach of James Town, the Ussher Fort Museum, tells the story of how slaves were brutally captured, dehumanised and transported to Europe to be used as labour in a pictorial and sequential order.

It features a miniature ship which transported the slaves to Europe, different types of shackles and other weapons used in carrying the heinous trade, as well as pictures of some people fought for the abolition of slave trade.

The GH¢420,100 project was initiated by the Ministry of Tourism and Dias-poran Relations with support and funds from UNESCO and the European Union respectively.

Mr Stephen Asa-moah Boateng, the sector minister, in an address read on his behalf by his special assistant, Abeiku Dickson, said, Ghana’s tourism potential is found among others in its history, culture, ecology and its people.

"Our recent history is dominated by the advent of Europeans, the trade in gold, arms, salt and the heinous trafficking of human beings across the Atlantic to the then new world and colonialism," he said.

He said the slave trade has been described in certain circles as the "darkest spot" in the development of man, which he said has become the focus of intense research and studies among scholars of history and archeology.

The tourism industry has an obligation to let the world experience "whatever relics and monuments we have relating to the search," he said

The ministry he said, has for sometime now placed much emphasis on things that strengthen the advantages in the slave trade niche market segment as part of effort to attract more visitors to Ghana.

He also urged Ghana Museums and Monuments Board to ensure that the museum is managed well and sustained to achieve its purpose of establishment.

Mr.Ceriani Sebregondi, head of the EU delegation in Ghana, pointed out that besides acting as a reminder of Ghana’s past trade-links with Europe and legacy of its colonial past, the Ussher Fort is an important part of the recent history of Ghana.

"It was used as a prison until 1985 and I know many Ghanaian political leaders and activists from independence to recent time have been jailed in this structure," he added.

He said the EU is fully aware of the importance of cultural heritage and its potential role for local economic development, hence its decision to fund the museum.

"Indeed, we agreed on the huge potential of James Town for the development of cultural tourism but regretted that accessibility by tourists was hampered by the deplorable state of the site and the lack of cultural institutions and facilities such as functional museum," he indicated.

He said the museum would offer additional opportunity to harness education for cultural heritage development as well as attract tourists to stay in Accra before going anywhere in the country.

Mr.Sebregondi said the EU has found some additional money to help to clean up the James Town area to create spaces for boutiques and shops for petty trading in goods and services to aide the improvement of their livelihood.

The Organiser of the Museum, Sarah Bucknor, said the Gold Cost played a significant role in the Trans Atlantic trade because of its location on the continent, adding "the real history of Ghana must be told and shown to our young ones and to all who visit our country,"

"Even though monuments of some political personalities have been erected all around the nation, the history of Ghana is still not complete for those who do not know," she pointed out.

For any nation to move on, its citizens must know, appreciate and preserve its history so they can learn from mistakes of their ancestors irrespective of their political affiliations, he said.

Mrs.Bucknor said that the slogan ‘never Again’ will have more meaning after one has visited the new museum.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kasoa Market Up In Flames

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Kasoa
Wednesday, 07 November 2007

IT was tears and wailing at Ka-soa, in the Central Region, yesterday when the residents woke up to the news that the warehouse at the local market with goods worth millions of cedis in it had been gutted by fire.

The most affected traders, who got to the scene minutes after the incident, wailed uncontrollably as they looked on helplessly while the personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) assisted by some residents fought desperately to extinguish the fire. It took them about five hours to bring the fire under control.

Five traders collapsed at the sight of the destruction and were rushed to hospital where they were treated and discharged.

Although the cause of the fire was not immediately established, a number of the traders the Times spoke to on arrival at the scene at about 6am, said it could be a deliberate act by someone for some unknown reasons.known reasons.

Mr. Peter Abbey, Weija Fire station officer, said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire, but indicated: "We will probe the cause."

He said it took personnel of the service so much time to put out the fire because, they had no breathing apparatus and masks. Besides the market lacks fire hydrants.

He said his team arrived at the scene at 5am and was later joined by personnel from Accra city, Agona Swedru and the GNFS headquarters.

An eyewitness said that the warehouse, which has no electric power supply, was filled to capacity on Monday evening with various goods for yesterday’s marketing activities.

Abraham Quansah, a security man at the market, told the Times that at about 4:30am he and his colleagues saw smoke emanating from the warehouse which alarmed them and so they went to find out the cause of the smoke.

He said on reaching the warehouse, they realised it was on fire so they quickly organised some people around at the time to help retrieve the goods but that was not possible as they could not find the keys.

"When we realised the warehouse had been locked, we forced the locks open but could not do much since the smoke had completely engulfed the warehouse and we could not see anything," he told the Times.

Mr. Quansah said they called the Ghana Fire Service which later arrived at the scene to fight the fire.

A victim of the fire, Joana Asare, a footwear dealer, said she lost all her goods valued at seven million cedis .

She said when she heard the news that the warehouse was gutted, "I couldn’t control myself as I cried and rushed to see things for myself. Now, I have lost my capital and I don’t know how I would refund the ¢3 million I took from the bank last December.

Hajia Hawa Okwan, another victim, told the Times that she was on a hospital bed when someone called her on phone to inform her about the fire. "I fell from my sick bed," she said and showed this reporter the bruise on the cheek.

She said she has invested almost ¢80 million in her wax-print business. "I have lost everything. I’m now worried as to where to get money to pay the ¢20 million loan I took and some wax-prints I took on credit from some traders at the Makola Market.

Akua Afriyie, a member of the Kasoa Urban Council, who said she used her four bedroom house at Accra Newtown as a collateral to facilitate a ¢750 million bank loan for some traders in the market, told the Times that she was worried as to how the money would be repaid.

The District Chief Executive of the Awutu-Effutu-Senya District, Solomon Abam Quaye, who was at the scene, said that the warehouse was originally among the sheds at the mark but was converted into a warehouse.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Miss Malaika Beauty Pageant Finals Tonight

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 03 November 2007

The 10 finalists of the Miss Malaika beauty pageant will tonight mount the stage at the National Theatre in Accra to struggle for the coveted Malaika crown. ‘Malaika’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘angel.’

From tonight, each of the aspiring Malaika Queen is poised to bear the respect, prestige and the responsibility that has characterised the wearing of the crown. Over the past weeks, the contestants showed off their intelligence, beauty and boldness.

The 10 were among 16 promising contestants selected from across the country.

As a rule of the pageant, six of them were evicted one after the other on a weekly basis during the grooming process by viewers of the event on GTV through the short messaging service, or testing.

The contestants are: Laurie Naa Lamile,Nana Yaa Agyemang-Kwami, Ivy King Afenuvor,Millicent Owusu and Akosua Sasus. The rest are Dzifa Tay, Barbara Yaa Asantewah Obeng, Chantelle Elorm Acolatse, Helena Abena Ewusi and Leila Seidu.

The Malaika pageant, recognised as an internationally acclaimed pageant, aims at bringing out the best talents in young Africa women.

The 10 young beautiful, enterprising and intelligent ladies upon their return from South Africa barely two weeks ago as part of their prize package, have been preparing vigorously to bring out their best at tonight’s grand finale.

The event is expected to be competitive and spring surprises as all the finalists have so far proved beyond doubt that each of them deserve to be crowned Miss Malaika 2007.

The winner of this year’s event takes home a sleek Kia Cerato car,20 million cedis, a set of living room furniture, the Maliaka crown and other prizes.
Previous winners are Thelma Tawiah, 2003; Melisa Mensah, 2004; Patricia Akuamoa, 2005 and Hamamat Montia, 2006.

Five local artistes are billed to thrill the audience with good music at the event. They are the female duo, Irene and Jane, 5Five, Kofi B and Becca.

James Fort Inmates Re-Located To Nsawam

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 03 November 2007

The Ghana Prisons Service has begun the relocation of inmates of James Fort Prison in Accra, following the Ghana Bar Association’s call for the closure of the prison three weeks ago because of its dilapidated state.

The relocation, estimated to cost ¢5.8 billion, started yesterday with the transfer of all the 28 females on remand at the James Fort Female Prison. At exactly 1.50 pm, they were taken to the Nsawam Female Prison on board a Prison Service bus.

About 1,000 inmates, both male and female are expected to be transferred from James Fort.

Speaking to the Times before their transfer, the Chief Public Relations Officer, DSP Gloria F.Dzakdey, said the transfer of the inmates followed a decision by the government which was communicated to the service yesterday.

She said arrangements have been made at the receiving prison to ensure their safe transfer, after which the female prisons will be closed down.

Asked about measures put in place for the inmates to attend court proceedings, she said "those already there are always brought to Accra when they are to appear before a court, so transportation will not be a problem."

The male inmates DSP Dzakdey said will be relocated soon, but she did not give further details on where and when they will be relocated.

She said that the Prisons Headquarters is yet to decide where to assign the officers at the James Fort Prison to now that the inmates have been moved from there.