9:09, 05.Sep 2018
Former President John Mahama has asked Ghanaians to make a wise choice between the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) since Ghana under President Nana Akufo-Addo is hard.
Mr Mahama, who is the 2020 flag bearer of the NDC, told party supporters on Monday, 15 April 2019 during his thank you tour of Kasoa in the Awutu Senya East Municipality of the Central Region that: “We are all aware of the hardship we are going through in the reign of the NPP, but maybe some of you might not be going through it but majority of Ghanaians are going through it and Ghanaians have seen the leadership style of the NPP compared to that of the NDC and they can make their own judgment”.
Mr Mahama believes: “God wanted Ghanaians to have a feel of how the NPP leadership will look like compared to that of the NDC so that they can make their own judgment”.
Before his Kasoa visit, Mr Mahama toured Komenda where he described as “unacceptable”, plans by the Akufo-Addo government to sell off the Komenda Sugar Factory to a private interest, and also denied claims that he, as president, planned disposing off the factory.
“It is unacceptable to sell the factory; this is an investment the government made”, Mr Mahama said, adding: “We can get the expertise and technology to make this factory work”.
Mr Mahama argued: “Sugar is one of the products we import a lot – almost $200 million every year – so, if we produce part of that sugar here, then it reduces the foreign exchange we have to take outside to import sugar”.
“I will urge the government to follow the path that we took”, he said while addressing the people of Komenda during a tour of the Central Region at the weekend.
Mr Mahama’s concerns tie in with that of the Member of Parliament for Komenda Edina Eguafo Abirem Constituency, Mr Samuel Atta Mills, who, on Friday, 12 April 2019, expressed anger over what he says is the devaluation of the $35-million Komenda Sugar Factory to $12 million by the government of Ghana.
The factory, built at a cost of $35 million from an Indian Exim Bank facility, was revamped and inaugurated by the erstwhile Mahama administration in 2016 and closed down in June of the same year and has since remained dormant. It has a capacity to crush 1,250 tonnes of sugarcane per day.
The Akufo-Addo government has cited a number of reasons for the factory’s dormancy, including an improper implementation plan and insufficient raw materials to feed the plant, among others.
The brother of late President John Evans Atta Mills wondered how, within a year, the value of the factory could plummet by $23 million as plans are afoot to hand it over to a strategic investor by close of April 2019.
In Mr Mills’ view, the Auditor-General and the Special Prosecutor's office must investigate the matter.
“We cannot sit down for these things to happen. If somebody was to steal two goats and a chicken, we all know how many years this person will get [in jail], but I am basing my conclusion on this: that if it is true that it has been valued at $12 million, we need to be very worried in this country,” he said.
“Why should it always be on acquiring wealth in illegal ways?” he questioned.
In November 2017, the government began moves to revive the factory.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen, told Parliament that a $24.5-million Indian Exim Bank credit facility was to be secured to develop and implement a plantation and out-grower scheme in a bid to provide raw materials for the factory.
It was to see the cultivation of some 14,100 acres of sugar cane to feed the plant but that never happened, prompting Mr Kyerematen’s return to parliament to announce the plans of the government to hand over the factory to a new strategic investor by the end of April.
Mr Kyerematen on 4 April 2019 told parliament that the dormancy of the factory was due to technical and financial challenges.
Answering questions tabled by Mr Atta Mills, Mr Kyerematen indicated that upon the assumption of office, a technical audit was conducted on the facility, which revealed, among other things that the soil condition was not favourable to produce quality sugarcane, adding that the government is taking steps to engage a new investor and expects that a decision will be taken by April this year.
Additionally, he noted that: “A test-run was never completed before the factory was commissioned due to unavailability of sufficient sugarcane”.
According to him, the factory, upon inauguration by the previous government, “was not in a position to produce the required refined white sugar due to the absence” of some processing component units “which were not fully installed during the test-run”.
He said: “About 35 items had not been installed on commissioning, although they are critical for the production of sulphur-less white sugar”.
Furthermore, he noted that the land size available for cultivation of sugarcane is far less than the 6,000 acres required to supply sugarcane to run the factory at full capacity.
He highlighted that: “There has been no out-grower scheme for small-scale farm holders to support a nucleus plantation for the factory”.
It will be recalled that the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government contracted a loan of some GHS35 million for the revamp of the Komenda Sugar Factory.
But the minister indicated that a decision has been taken not to trigger the loan until all the challenges are resolved. The minister, however, did not provide figures concerning the cost to the nation for the delay in activation of the loan.
The Minority in parliament have not been happy about the move to sell the factory and accused the government of deliberately undervaluing it in order for it to be sold off cheaply.
Denying claims that his administration also had intentions of selling the factory, Mr Mahama during his tour, said: “There was never any plan; I can say emphatically as the former president under whom that factory was built that there was never any plan to sell off the factory”.
“There is still about 3,000 acres of land available for planting sugarcane for the factory.
“The loan from the Indian EXIM is still available, so, all the government needed to do was to take that money and implement the second phase of the project, and once they had done that, this factory will be running,” he added.