16 November 2012

Ghana: Farmers Demand Compensation From Gov

Their eyes were red, just like the attire they wore, with tears rolling on their cheeks.

Neither of them could wail nor gnash their teeth, but deep within them, all was not right. From hindsight, one could consider them to be traumatized family members and friends mourning the death of a beloved one, but the situation was different.

For four years, their source of livelihood had been put on hold, leaving them with no option than to rely on some family and friends for bread and butter.

Some of them had no shelter, while the rents of others were running out. The situation was even worse for lactating mothers and parents with school going kids. They are wallowing in abject poverty.

Since 2009, businesses ranging from farms, fuel filling stations, a sawmill and eateries, among many others, along the Kwafokrom-Apedwa road have been closed and evacuated, for the reconstruction of the Accra-Kumasi Highway Lot 6.

Till date, the affected persons have not received their compensation packages after numerous pleas to the government.

Under normal circumstances, the affected persons should have been compensated before commencement of the project, but the situation was handled differently this time around.

According to some of the affected persons, before they could say Jack, power supply to their businesses was cut, leaving them with no option than to vacate the place. Others had their farms destroyed at midnight.

Madam Gladys Adobea, a widow, who makes a living from the rent of her tenants, is now helpless as a result of the reconstruction of the road.

"Ever since my husband died, I have been depending on the rent of tenants occupying my rooms. Now all the tenants have vacated the building because of this road project. This has deprived me of my livelihood.

"Now, I am also a tenant in somebody's house and very soon, my rent will expire. Where do I get money to pay? If I had been compensated, I would have used part of the money to buy a new land and build my own house. In fact, the government has left me in the dark," a grief-stricken Adobea told The Chronicle in an interview.

Mr. Kwabena Owusu Dorme, a sawmill operator said "For the past four years, I have not been operating because the contractor working on the road told me to vacate. Not a pesewa has been paid to me. When the late president John Mills visited the project site in July, the Minister of Roads and Highways told him that our compensation package totaling GH¢2,638,739.54 was ready for disbursement but as I speak with you now not a pesewa has been given to us."

The Assembly Member for Suhum Obretema, John Cudjoe, who could not fathom the action of the government in reneging on its promise, said the only way to get their monies was through a demonstration and blocking the road that had deprived them of their livelihoods.

"It is like we are standing and there is a heavy load on our feet, and so we have to struggle and remove that load. It is unfair for us to be treated this way. Even those who work with the pen, anytime they want something from the government, they go on demonstration. What about us the poor farmers? If we also don't stand up in this way, it means that we will not be paid.

"Anybody who is walking or passing on this road, it is at the expense of farmers whose crops have been destroyed. So, my crop which I am using to carter for the family has been destroyed at the expense of somebody. So, I have to block it for the one who is constructing the road to know that he cannot destroy my property for somebody to enjoy," the disgruntled Assembly Member noted.

Incensed by the raw deal meted out to them, John Cudjoe, Madam Adobea and Mr. Dorme joined hands with over two hundred people affected by the project to stage a demonstration against the government at Okorase in the Eastern Region, demanding for the immediate release of their compensation packages.

The demonstrators mounted blockade to halt all vehicular movement on the project road. Clad in red and black attire and displaying placards with inscriptions like; 'pay us now', 'respect us', 'no pay, no vote', 'dust is killing us', 'we need our compensation or...'.

The demonstrators chanted war songs as they went round the blockade, in an attempt to prevent the police dispatched to the area from disrupting their movement.

No amount of words from the security personnel could convince the demonstrators to back off from their actions.

It took the intervention of the Suhum/Kraboa/Coaltar Municipal Chief Executive, Samuel Fleitcher to arrest the situation by ordering for armed police re-enforcement, since in his opinion, the actions of the demonstrators was illegal.

After succeeding in removing the blockade, Mr. Fleitcher arranged for a meeting with the affected persons at the Town Council, to settle the matter amicably.

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