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Police in Turkey say they have confiscated more than 1,000 fake life jackets made for migrants wanting to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece. Officers raided a workshop in the port of Izmir, where they say they found life jackets stuffed with packaging rather than buoyancy aids. The four workers making the jackets included two young Syrian girls. On Tuesday, the bodies of 34 migrants were found along Turkey's coast. Many were wearing life jackets. Several children were among the dead. No protection More than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 and the vast majority went from Turkey to Greece. Many migrants buy life jackets to help them survive the dinghy journey. A properly made jacket costs up to a £100 (€130; $150), reports the BBC's James Reynolds in Istanbul. But many migrants make do with cheaper, badly made ones, which cost just £10 and may offer no protection whatsoever, our correspondent says. According to the UN, 3,771 people were listed as dead or missing in 2015. In Wednesday's raid the authorities seized 1,263 life jackets that failed to correspond to safety standards, Turkey's Dogan news agency said. The workshop was in the centre of Izmir, a major hub for refugees and migrants. Four people were found working in the workshop, including two young Syrian girls, the news agency said. It did not publish the girls' ages. The confiscated life jackets have been sent to the local police for examination and an investigation has been launched. It comes one day after the bodies of more than 30 migrants were washed up in Turkey. Their boats capsized in bad weather on the way to the Greek island of Lesbos, the authorities say. Turkish media published harrowing images of the corpses, many still wearing life jackets that had apparently been of no use. Migrants are continuing to arrive on the Greek islands every day, despite the wintry weather. Lesbos is by far the most popular destination for migrants leaving Turkey. More than 500,000 reached the island in 2015. Late last year, Turkey reached a deal with the European Union to tighten its borders and reduce the numbers crossing to Greece in return for €3bn (£2.1bn) and political concessions.    Source: BBC
An Islamic court has sentenced a Nigerian cleric to death by hanging for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in the northern city of Kano. Abdulazeez Dauda, popularly known as Abdul Inyass, was convicted after a trial held in secret to avoid protests. Five of his followers were also sentenced to death last year. These are the first death sentences for blasphemy handed down by a Nigerian Sharia court; those delivered for other offences have not been carried out.   Mr Inyass is a preacher at a local faction of the Tijaniya sect, founded in Senegal by Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, which has a large following across West Africa. He was reported to have said that "Niasse was bigger than Prophet Muhammad" during a lecture at an event in May, leading to violent protests in the city.   The BBC's Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai in Kano says he then fled to the capital, Abuja, and nine of his followers were arrested for their alleged part in organising the event. When they were arraigned in court, there were further clashes and the courthouse was set on fire, he says.   Four of the followers were acquitted and the five sentenced to death are appealing against their conviction at the state's high court. Kano has a predominately Muslim population and Islamic courts operate alongside secular courts. Mr Inyass, whose five-month trial was held in secret for security reasons, will also be able to appeal against the verdict at the high court. Several states in northern Nigeria introduced Sharia after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.     Tijaniya at a glance   Image copyrightGetty Images   The Sufi sect of Tijaniya was founded in Algeria in 1784 by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tijani. It spread all over the world, with large following in North and West Africa. It also has followers in South Africa, Indonesia and other parts of the world. There are other Sufi sects in Islam but Tijaniya is the largest. They have three main daily practices: Asking the forgiveness of God; sending prayers to the Prophet Muhammad and affirming the Oneness of Allah. Senegalese-born Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse was credited with reviving the sect in the 20th Century. People travel from across the continent to visit his shrine. They have several factions including the Haqiqa (Realist) group, whose members were convicted of blasphemy in Kano.  Source: BBC
Government has accepted to provide humanitarian assistance and refuge assistance to persons from Rwanda, Yemen and Syria.   This was contained in a statement signed by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Hannah Tetteh.   According to the statement, government was ‘’approached by representatives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to resettle some of the persons who had been tried and had either been acquitted and discharged or had been sentenced and had served their time but did not find it appropriate to resettle in Rwanda.’’   The statement also noted the persons who are to benefit from the assistance are those who already have relatives in Ghana and can assist them financially.   Meanwhile government also agreed to accept ‘’two detainees of Yemeni origin who were detained in Guantanamo but who have been cleared of any involvement in any terrorist activities and are being released. They are unable to return to Yemen at the moment and we have indicated our readiness to accept them for a period of two years after which they may leave the country,’’ the statement added.     Below are details of the statement Ghana provides humanitarian assistance and refuge to persons from Rwanda, Yemen & Syria  During the year 2015 the Government of Ghana was requested to assist in the resettlement of a number of persons from Rwanda and Yemen, and taking cognizance of the grave humanitarian crises in the Middle East has also decided to provide refuge to some displaced persons in Syria who already have relatives in Ghana.  Prior to winding up its affairs on the 31st of December 2015, the Government was approached by representatives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to resettle some of the persons who had been tried and had either been acquitted and discharged or had been sentenced and had served their time but did not find it appropriate to resettle in Rwanda.  We have decided to respond to the request of the tribunal and have indicated our readiness to take two of such persons and give them residence in Ghana.  At the request of the US Government we have also agreed to accept two detainees of Yemeni origin who were detained in Guantanamo but who have been cleared of any involvement in any terrorist activities and are being released. They are unable to return to Yemen at the moment and we have indicated our readiness to accept them for a period of two years after which they may leave the country.  Additionally, Government has decided to allow relatives of members of the Syrian community already resident in Ghana who have been displaced as a result of the conflict in their country to resettle in Ghana.  In all instances the persons who are being allowed into the country are subject to security clearance and their activities will be monitored during their stay in the country. Ghana recognizes that as a member of the International Community we have a responsibility to assist in International crises situations having regard to our own resources & capacity to assist, and it is in this regard that the Government has decided to take these actions. We wish to assure the public that in doing so we are cognizant of the need to protect the safety and security of our own citizens and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that is done. Hanna S. Tetteh (MP) Minister for Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration
The Electoral Commissions detailed response to the various allegations of the opposition New Patriotic Party has denied the claims of double and multiple registrations as alleged by the NPP in their petition to the electioneering body. The elephant family had alleged that the current voters’ register was bloated with multiple and double registrations. However the EC in a response on this specific allegation said ‘’the register does not have the multiple registration challenge that is being alleged. As stated in several fora by the Commission, there are a few cases of multiple registrations still in the register,’’ however ‘’these duplicates,’’ according to the electoral commission are in the register for the following reasons: • Accuracy level of AFIS (the biometric software) engine is 99.98% (as per specifications) • Insufficient Biometric data (Voters who registered with less than 6 fingers) • Low quality fingerprints • Human error during Adjudication processes The EC has introduced programmes to eliminate these multiple registrations. These include: • Installation of a De-duplication system that matches biometric and biographic data. This ensures that duplicates of Voters with no (or insufficient) biometric data are detected during exhibition of the register. • Upgrading of AFIS (software) and Voter Registration systems • Establishing a better adjudication process with the assistance of political parties at IPAC. In our view, 2,096 alleged multiple registrations out of over 14 million entries are in line with duplicates expected to pass through the system. A percentage of less than 0.02% should not be the basis for the replacement of the entire Register. Below is the EC’s position on the allegation of multiple and double registration It has been demonstrated that the system was capable of removing over 150,000 multiple registrations from the register. It was further demonstrated that there is a clear, multi-level transparent procedure of Adjudication when humans check the machines’ findings. It was also demonstrated that there are very few cases of multiple registrations which resulted from either: Human error, system allowed error margin or insufficient biometric data (no fingerprints were captured or low quality fingerprints). The magnitude of multiple registrations in the current Register is very acceptable by any standard (estimated at hundreds in the entire register of 14.8 million people). The register does not have the multiple registration challenge that is being alleged. As stated in several fora by the Commission, there are a few cases of multiple registrations still in the register. These duplicates are in the register for the following reasons: • Accuracy level of AFIS (the biometric software) engine is 99.98% (as per specifications) • Insufficient Biometric data (Voters who registered with less than 6 fingers) • Low quality fingerprints • Human error during Adjudication processes The EC has introduced programmes to eliminate these multiple registrations. These include: • Installation of a De-duplication system that matches biometric and biographic data. This ensures that duplicates of Voters with no (or insufficient) biometric data are detected during exhibition of the register. • Upgrading of AFIS (software) and Voter Registration systems • Establishing a better adjudication process with the assistance of political parties at IPAC. In our view, 2,096 alleged multiple registrations out of over 14 million entries are in line with duplicates expected to pass through the system. A percentage of less than 0.02% should not be the basis for the replacement of the entire Register.    
The boyfriend of the missing ex-EastEnders actor Sian Blake may have fled to Ghana, it has been reported, after police revealed they had found three bodies in the garden of Blake’s home. The Metropolitan police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission on Wednesday, amid concerns that officers were slow to treat the disappearance as high risk. Blake, who went missing before Christmas with her two sons, eight-year-old Zachary and four-year-old Amon, was in a relationship with Arthur Simpson-Kent, who disappeared a day after police spoke to him about his missing family. Three bodies were found on Monday in the garden of Blake’s home in Erith, south-east London, and have not yet been formally identified. Simpson-Kent left the UK for Ghana before Christmas, via Glasgow and Amsterdam, the Sun reported. Both Interpol and Scotland Yard refused to comment on whether an international alert had been issued to find him. A Facebook page for Simpson-Kent gives his home town as Cape Coast, Ghana. Simpson-Kent’s professional website claims he has been a hairdresser for more than 18 years, doing film, fashion and TV work. He describes himself as “freelancing for most of his working life and … a true professional”. Simpson-Kent married Dominique Deblieux in east London in 1999 and the couple had one daughter. Deblieux, who now lives in Cagnes-sur-Mer, southern France, told the Sun her ex-husband also had several other children. She called their marriage “a waste of time”. DSI Paul Monk said it was a difficult time for Blake’s family. He said: “Our efforts are [in] continuing to find Arthur Simpson-Kent. Our appeal is to anyone who may know his current whereabouts or can assist us in finding him. We do need to speak to him as a matter of urgency.” The Met’s internal investigators are examining the handling of the case to establish whether the decision to treat the disappearances as suspicious was escalated quickly enough. The case is expected to be handed to the IPCC. Blake and her children had not been seen since 13 December. Officers spoke to Simpson-Kent at the family home in Erith on 16 December. He has not been seen or been in contact since then. A missing persons inquiry was launched two days later, but was not classed as high risk. Police returned to the couple’s property that day and forced entry as there was no answer at the door, but did not discover the bodies. Scotland Yard has declined to elaborate on how many more times police searched the house. On Sunday, police found Blake’s silver Renault Scenic in Bethnal Green, east London, 15 miles from the family home in Erith. Officers said they were unsure why the vehicle was parked in the area or who had driven it there. It was only on Monday, three weeks after Blake and her children’s disappearance, that murder squad detectives took over the case and the police revealed they did not know the whereabouts of Simpson-Kent. Blake, who played Frankie Pierre in the BBC soap in the 1990s, had motor neurone disease and was said to be very frail at the time of her death. One of Blake’s neighbours, who did not wish to be named, said the discovery of three bodies had left her feeling afraid. “I used to see her walking up and down and we would greet each other,” she said. “She was a happy woman. I used to see her and her kids playing in the garden. I never saw the man.” Another neighbour said she had never seen Simpson-Kent. “He just seemed like a man who kept himself to himself, never really much left the house,” she said. Source: Daily Mail    
The ruling National Democratic Congress have declared their official position on the decision by the Electoral Commission to audit the voters’ register. The EC in an official statement last week stated that the call by the opposition NPP was ‘’unconvincing’’ to warrant the compilation of a new voters’ register. The NPP among other allegations claimed to have found over 76, 000 Togolese in the national document. However the EC has stated otherwise denying those claims. Meanwhile, the NDC has called for the arrest and prosecution of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia for ‘’falsifying documents’’ to back their claims. Below is the full statement presented by the General Secretary of the umbrella family, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah on the decision of the EC. Date: 06/01/2015 STATEMENT BY NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS ON OUTCOME OF ENQUIRY INTO DEMAND FOR NEW REGISTER The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has noted the response of the Electoral Commission to the claims and demands made by the New Patriotic Party, regarding the voters' register. Pending the receipt of a copy of the report of the eminent panel that looked into the matter, we wish to make the following preliminary comments. [Download pdf] 1. The NDC welcomes the decision of the Electoral Commission not to undertake the needless exercise of compiling a new register for the purposes of conducting the 2016 elections. We note that as per the EC's response to the NPP, all the grounds on which the party stood to make that demand were false. This vindicates the position held by the NDC in the discussions that ensued over the matter. As we previously indicated, the demand for a new register was premised on falsehood and an inordinate desire to disenfranchise large sections of our population for electoral advantage. Of particular interest is the fabricated Togolese register which the NPP used in its deliberate attempt to deceive the Ghanaian public. It was and remains our contention that despite the boastful claims by the NPP that they possessed evidence of an over-bloated register brimming with foreigners, no such evidence was in their possession. What they presented was a fraudulent manipulation of the content of the Ghanaian voters' register given to all political parties in the run up to the 2012 elections. Clearly there were tribal undertones in the approach adopted by the NPP. Whereas the NPP claimed to possess evidence of the existence of foreigners from all neighbouring countries on our register, they only concocted evidence that sought to impugn the integrity of persons from the Volta Region and create the impression that people from that Region are "foreigners" who shore up the votes of the NDC in Ghanaian elections. Despite the promise by the NPP to make available in a matter of weeks, evidence from other neighbouring countries to support their claims, they have failed to do so several months after the deadline. We recall that the NPP claimed to have presented only 10% of the evidence from the Togolese Register. As things stand now, it is quite clear that the so-called 10% evidence is itself a fabrication calculated to deceive Ghanaians. Our position on the other claims by the NPP centering on under-aged voters, the use of NHIS cards for registration and, scanned pictures on the register has also been vindicated by the outcome of the eminent panel's inquiry. 2. The hollowness of the NPP's claims was manifested in their disastrous performance at the public forum held by the Electoral Commission to allow for stakeholder discussion and presentation of positions on the matter. When it mattered most, the NPP huffed and puffed and failed to put across cogent arguments in support of their demand. Rather, they made rumbling, incoherent presentations that failed to convince even the most rabid NPP optimist. Also missing at the forum was the much-vaunted watertight evidence that the NPP claimed it had prior to the holding of the forum. That disastrous outing at the forum all but convinced fair-minded Ghanaians and the international community that the NPP was only up to their usual mischief but had absolutely no basis to make the demand for a new register. 3. In view of the above, we are not surprised, and we believe same to be true for all fair-minded Ghanaians, that the eminent panel tasked to look into the matter found no tenable basis upon which to recommend the compilation of a new register. The NDC wishes to reiterate our position that sufficient avenues already exist to the improvement of the register to make it even more robust in order to guarantee credible, free and transparent elections. In that regard we stand prepared to contribute our quota towards ensuring greater integrity in our electoral processes. 4. We note that since the Electoral Commission communicated its verdict on the matter to the public last Friday, leading figures within the NPP, their propagandists and surrogates have already begun to preach violence and are threatening fire and brimstone come the elections. Their rabble-rousing appendage, Let My Vote Count Alliance has already begun to spit fire amidst threats of street protests. Some of their activists on social media have in fact threatened to lynch persons they unilaterally declare as "aliens" should they turn out to vote. 5. While this posturing is extremely undesirable, it is not surprising to Ghanaians. It is but a reflection of what the New Patriotic Party has become since it was taken over by their current flagbearer and his hawks. His political ethos which revolves around violence and intimidation, couched in his infamous "all die be die" declaration, has been on full display for well over a year within his own party. In that period, the NPP has descended into chaos, violence, brutal killings, lawlessness and intolerance of dissent. Many have been maimed in the process and two souls lost in the melee. Established party members with impeccable credentials have been suspended or threatened with expulsion when they have spoken out against wrong doing within the party. 6. The NPP activists preaching violence in the upcoming elections are only taking a cue from their leader. In his pronouncements both on national and international platforms, he has not missed an opportunity to use incendiary rhetoric amidst lies and fabrications about our electoral process. A clear case in point is the gratuitous attack he launched on the Electoral Commission and Government when claiming at an International event last year that the 2016 elections will be rigged hence the need for foreign intervention. 7. This behaviour is also in keeping with their perennial scaremongering tactic which involves the raising of the political temperature unnecessarily with a view to "compelling" Ghanaians to vote for them in exchange for peace. This political blackmailing also involves the running down of state institutions in a bid to intimidate them into toeing the NPP's line in the discharge of their duties through malicious falsehoods and needless attacks. 8. The NDC wishes to highly commend Ghanaians for their steadfastness and commitment to constitutional democracy. We are gratified that calls for violence and unrest from the hawks within the NPP have been largely ignored by peace-loving Ghanaians. Ghanaians have also sent a clear signal to the NPP on many occasions by rejecting their brand of opportunistic and unprincipled politics. Ghanaians have rejected their many lies about the electoral system and we know Ghanaians stand poised to reject them once again in 2016. 9. We call on the New Patriotic Party to put an end to the politics of violence which is fast becoming their defining attribute. We urge them to respect the rights of all eligible Ghanaians to freely choose their leaders. Rather than approach elections with a sense of entitlement, they ought to convince the Ghanaian electorate of their readiness to govern by first putting their tattered party in shape and propagating credible policy alternatives. The current state of flux they find themselves in coupled with their avowed objective of using lies and violent rhetoric to impose their will on Ghanaians will simply not wash. 10. As the best organized political party in the country with solid structures and effective leadership from President Mahama, the NDC stands poised to engage the people of Ghana in a campaign of ideas. The NDC will show evidence of a superior track-record of performance which is reflecting in the improvement all sectors of our national life such as education, health, water provision, housing, roads, transport, security to name but a few. It is this performance and the bold steps we have taken to resolve long-standing systemic problems that will convince the sovereign people of Ghana to entrust the destiny of the country into the safe hands of President Mahama for another four years. In making their frivolous claims, the NPP engaged in deliberate fabrication, distortion of public records, deceit of public officials in a desperate attempt to create a make-believe stories to undermine our constitutional democracy. It will be recalled that in the election petition case thrown out by the Supreme Court, the NPP also depended on fabrication, distortion of public records, tended in falsified evidence, and engaged in willful deception to force their parochial will on Ghanaians. The NDC condemns in no uncertain terms, this fraudulent conduct and call on the police to immediately investigate the matter. In particular, we urge the security agencies to invite Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia for questioning on the basis that he engaged in falsification and fabrication of public records to deceive public officials. The NDC is outraged that the NPP so cavalierly believes it can hold the entire country to ransom through lies, lawlessness, fear-mongering, and fabrications. We of the NDC will uphold the truth at all times. The NDC will not sacrifice the truth on the altar of political expediency. We urge all Ghanaians and other political actors including civil society organizations, the clergy, and professional bodies to rally around our national values, speak out in favour of peace and national stability without which Ghana cannot develop. In addition, we urge all especially the media to join in efforts to build strong state institutions to serve as buffers in our quest to create credible career enhancing opportunities for all Ghanaians.
The opposition New Patriotic has in an official statement noted that the price of petrol should sell at GHC 9 instead of the current GHC 16.   According to the statement which was signed by the National Communication Director, Nana Akomea has called on the government to with immediate effect ‘’reverse or review’’ the recent 27% hikes in petroleum prices which took effect on 1ST January, 2016.   Government following the passage of the Energy Sector Levy (ESL) by Parliament in December 2015 announced an increment of petroleum prices between 18-27%.   However the NPP believes that: ‘’ There are two main determinants of petrol prices: the cedi exchange rate and the price of crude oil. The price of the cedi exchange rate has been relatively stable, at Ghc3.85, in the last few months. The price of crude oil HAS ACTUALLY FALLEN STEEPLY, from $110 in mid-2014 to $37 today.’’   The statement added ‘’by operation of the automatic petrol price adjustment formula, petrol should be selling at about ghc9 a gallon. Indeed the trend all over the world, including in the rich countries has been drastic falls in petrol prices.   ‘’It is therefore totally baffling that in Ghana, the NDC government has not seen it fit to reduce the price of petroleum products to bring much needed relief to the Ghanaian consumer, but has ACTUALLY increased the price of petrol by a whopping 27%, from Ghc 12 a gallon to nearly ghc16 a gallon.’’         Below is the full statement: The New Patriotic Party (NPP) urges the government to immediately reverse or review the imposition of a 27% hike on petroleum products which has seen the price of petrol increase from ghc 12 to over ghc15 a gallon, effective January 1st 2016. The 27% increase is completely unjustified. There are two main determinants of petrol prices: the cedi exchange rate and the price of crude oil. The price of the cedi exchange rate has been relatively stable, at Ghc3.85, in the last few months. The price of crude oil HAS ACTUALLY FALLEN STEEPLY, from $110 in mid-2014 to $37 today. By operation of the automatic petrol price adjustment formula, petrol should be selling at about ghc9 a gallon. Indeed the trend all over the world, including in the rich countries has been drastic falls in petrol prices. It is therefore totally baffling that in Ghana, the NDC government has not seen it fit to reduce the price of petroleum products to bring much needed relief to the Ghanaian consumer, but has ACTUALLY increased the price of petrol by a whopping 27%, from Ghc 12 a gallon to nearly ghc16 a gallon. In effect, the poor consumer does not get the well-deserved relief in petrol price, but is actually punished by the government of NDC by imposition of higher prices for petrol. Furthermore, over the last month or so, the NDC government has imposed at once, a 60% increase in tariffs for electricity, a 67% rise in water tariffs and a 27% rise in petrol price, on the long suffering Ghanaian. All these unbearable increases have come on the back of only a 10% provision for increment in workers' wages and salaries. The increases therefore show a callous, wicked, insensitive and lazy government which quickly, time and again, resorts to using state power to financially squeeze the poor Ghanaian consumer. Apart from the poor Ghanaian having to eke out to pay directly the 60%, 67% and 27% increases, the poor taxpayer will still be confronted to eke out further to pay increases in trotro fares, bus fares, school fees, sachet water, kenkey, rent, and for food etc. Businesses are going to suffer from increases in operating costs, losses in profit and further limiting their ability to expand and create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth. It must be noted that the ndc government has removed all subsidies on petrol prices by its operation of the automatic petrol pricing formula. So when the prices of oil or the dollar increase, the effect of petrol price increase has been passed on without any cushion to the Ghanaian consumer. But when the price of oil has fallen to its lowest level in 7 years, the NDC govt has not allowed the automatic reduction in petrol price, as per the formula, but has rather imposed new and increased taxes to rather raise the price of petrol by this whooping 27%. These taxes, imposed under a certificate of urgency, include taxes on Ghanaians for a so called " legacy debt"(or Energy Debt Recovery Levy), another Energy Fund Levy, a Price Stabilisation and Recovery Levy, a National Electrification Scheme Levy , dramatic increases in the Road Fund Levy and the Public Lighting Levy ! The preponderance of these taxes and levies at this time, in the face of the steep increases in water and electricity tariffs, portray a very uncaring and wicked government, whose main policy is to impose higher and new taxes on the long suffering Ghanaian, even in the face of poor growth in the economy.  These government imposed hardships are unfortunate. The NPP urges the govt to revisit this issue, and review the taxes urgently to relieve the poor Ghanaian. The suffering of the people is too much! Signed Nana Akomea Communications Director
Political and security expert, Mr. David Agbeey has said the decision of former presidential candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Dr. Abu Sakara Foster to go independent, is to make himself more popular.   Speaking in an interview with Nyankonton Mu Nsem over the decision of the agronomist, the political expert noted Dr. Sakara is only doing this to project his personality and maybe his businesses in this country.   The 57 year-old 2012 presidential candidate in a statement yesterday announced his decision to resign from the Nkrumayist party and go independent in the 2016 presidential elections come November 7th, 2016.   Dr. Abu Sakara Foster as part of his reason from resigning from the CPP and going independent read: “The purpose will be to provide a more focused national interest platform on which we can truly build national consensus around the key issues that will really transform our nation for the good of all of us. My candidacy will galvanise momentum for real fundamental change in our approach to the many challenges that continue to hold us back from realising our true potential and vision as a nation and as Africans.   “It is my fervent hope and conviction that my independent candidacy will provide the pivot around which many well-meaning Ghanaians from across the political spectrum can mobilise their heartfelt desire for an alternative to the NPP and NDC.’’   However Mr. David Agbeey argues Dr. Sakara is just trying to seek attention and create opportunities for himself and most especially to boom his business activities.   In his view, Dr. Sakara will not pull any surprise in 2016 because no independent candidate will ever win the presidency in this country.   He explains Ghanaians have turned this country into a two party state and therefore apart from the ruling NDC and NPP,  no independent candidate will be able to change that political trend.   Citing examples like Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum who resigned from the CPP, the political expert posited the entrepreneur cum politician has lost his relevance in the political terrain in Ghana.    
Happy New Year folks! We made it. 2015 was the year that everything could go wrong, went wrong. Our economy tanked, cost of living soared, the public debt crossed the 70 percent dangerous threshold, corruption increased and the power crisis killed thousands of jobs and businesses. But we plod on. We made it into 2016 with sheer grit and grace – a testament to our resilience. President John Dramani Mahama has once again promised to do his best to ease our suffering in the year ahead. There, however, cannot be an easement if things are done the same way they were in 2015. Here is a list of things that we can do to make 2016 great and our lives better. 1.Forget President Mahama was here – I’m kidding. I’m kidding. But oh what joy it would be if we leave President Mahama and his people in 2016! We are just five days into 2016 and the president and his people are already fumbling. They got parliament to approve one percent withholding tax on interests earned on all investments. Now they’re backtracking after public outrage. He wasn’t impressive in 2015. Despite all the borrowing under his watch, the economy didn’t improve neither did our lives. I wish we could leave him in 2015 and forget he was ever here. This is an achievable goal in 2016 – we can get rid of him and all the incompetent, clueless and corrupt people he brought along. (This label is not for everyone but if the cap fits, feel free to wear it.) In the meantime, so let’s just hope he spends the year making a difference. 2.The truth about Dumsor deadlines – It is clear the government cannot end dumsor immediately. They must tell us the truth about this crisis once and for all. Can it really end dumsor in 2016? Is the generation deficit the only problem or the lack of money to buy crude to power existing plants too? Would we get more days with power now that Karpower and AMERI are on? No one has time to play the game the former Power Minister, Dr. Kwabena Donkor, tried to play. We need to know the truth so we can plan. 3.Get a workable load-shedding schedule – In the months preceding the Christmas, we were subjected to unscheduled blackouts. It is totally unacceptable. It is impossible to plan without a proper schedule. It is bad enough that we have to endure load-shedding induced blackouts, the least officials can do as we await the final deadline is to produce a nationwide load-shedding schedule that works. 4.Sole source contracts – This practice has to die. It was behind nearly every scandal that hit us in 2015. The dictionary defines the term “designating a company contracted, without competition, to be the sole supplier of a product or service.” The procurement laws allow sole sourcing in emergency and special circumstances. There is obviously no rational reason why officials in this government make sole-sourcing the norm and not the exception it is supposed to be. The Smartty’s bus branding project is one of such. The company has no special skills and there was no emergency. In almost all the scandals, the contracts were not transparent and or the cost of the projects were excessively inflated. If the president is indeed serious about the fight against corruption, he should suspend sole-sourcing for now. 5.A reduction in corruption – Nearly every Ghanaian participates in the corruption (sometimes under duress). There is the one cedi for the Policeman on the highways and 100 cedis for the guy who knows someone at the passport office. Then there is the high level corruption where officials connive with investors to dupe the nation. Think Karpower, AMERI and Smartty’s deals. According to the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, Ghana loses about 30 million cedis to corruption every year. Ghana cannot progress and improve standards of living if citizens have to pay bribes for everything, even public goods. In 2016, the government must make small changes to reduce corruption. 6.Streamline passport application process – No citizen should have to wake up at dawn to queue for a passport picture, and then wait months to get it. Technology has changed the world and made everything easier. There is no reason why citizens cannot apply for passports using their phones. There is really no reason why passport offices cannot be cleaner, airier than and as efficient as some banks. The Minister needs to stop speaking English and fix the passport process. 7.Reduce the spate of government’s bad decisions – Which means wasteful ventures when hospitals across the country struggle to buy oxygen should not happen ever again. A government that claims to be changing lives and transforming Ghana must focus on providing a functioning healthcare and education system and not spend money on commissioning projects. 8.Secure prosecution of corrupt and negligent officials – The only person affiliated to the current government I can remember being prosecuted for misappropriation of funds is Abuga Pele. The government rarely takes offence at gross mismanagement of state resources. When it does, it offers some tepid statement and quickly reassigns the indicted person. President Mahama has been going on and on about how much he plans to fight corruption, we must make sure he does. Officials who misappropriate funds or cause financial loss to the state should be tried. 9.Reform the Judiciary – Much ado was made about Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ expose on the judiciary. Much was said about the flaws in the system – the flaws that open judges and court officials to corruption. What has not been discussed is the Chief Justice’s plan to reform the service to prevent the sale of justice and injustice. Not a word yet. Backlogs create room for bribery, rulings are rarely reviewed and judges are a law unto themselves, especially those outside the capital. Anas has given the Chief Justice an opportunity to reform the system and she shouldn’t squander it. 10.Push for an effective Parliament – Parliament on Monday January told the world that they want to revise the one percent withholding tax on interests earned on investment accounts after public backlash. May this be the sign of things to come in 2016. MPs made some questionable choices in 2015. The decision to import furniture from China and Italy to furnish the House and their offices at a time when the cedi was free-falling was one those. That and their tendency to approve everything the government put before the House, including the loans and contracts that were not in the interest of the state was a betrayal. MPs need to do what they promised, seek our interest above all else. 11.Elect worthy MPs – One of the best things we can do for ourselves as we head to election 2016 is to critically assess the men and women vying to represent us in Parliament. It matters more than anything because that’s where majority of ministers will come from and MPs are the ones who approve all loans and agreements. They are the ones supposed to keep the executive in check and ensure government deliver. Ameri and many of the power and loan agreements show that the current House has failed us. We should not be swayed by the small money. 12.Awaken the Minority in Parliament – This doesn’t need to be stated but the Minority were always wrong-footed last year. An example is their reaction to the Ameri scandal. They were in the House when the agreement was approved. In fact, the motion was seconded by their members. Then when news broke about the cost of the project, they issued a statement calling for investigations. Instead of acting like the ordinary guy on the streets and reacting to government’s decisions after they’ve been implemented, the Minority must raise hell over suspicious deals. They must provide alternatives to policies they disagree with and alert the public about suspicious loan agreement for approval. 13. NPP finds its mojo – Just like the Minority in parliament the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has also been ineffective. The chaos and the internal wrangling that hit it in 2014 stayed and prevented them focusing and actively checking the government and providing alternatives when needed. It’s an election year, this is the year they’re needed most, I hope they seize the moment and police the government 14.Rid towns and cities of filth – There is no major town or city in the country that is not being swallowed by filth. While city authorities do a poor job managing waste, citizens do not help the situation with the constant littering and dumping of rubbish in open spaces. Cholera, a filth related disease killed over 200 people last year. It’s embarrassing that cholera which was eradicated in some places 50 years ago still kills people here. We have to do our part as citizens by forcing local assemblies to keep our country clean and by policing communal spaces. 15.Stop the dumping of liquid waste into the sea/river bodies – This needs no explanation. The act is backward and destructive. 16.Stop the public display of penises – It’s a career-ruining exercise. Ask something ‘Greid’. Don’t do it. This also goes for those of you who whip it anywhere to pee. It’s disgusting. No one wants to see it or wonder where your hands have been before a handshake. 17.Toxic sermons – This requires an entire blogpost. But for now, please even Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith was challenged and questioned by the disciples and ordinary folk. So please feel free to draw your pastors’ attention when he says things that are anti-women, anti-poor and anti-society. 18. End of the Media’s poor coverage of rape stories – Last year a woman was named as the victim of a rape and her picture and details were used in stories when she wasn’t. The real victim was named and hounded until she decided not to pursue justice any longer. That’s the format, victims of rape and defilement are named, and their location and other details are all used in news stories. This leads to victim-blaming and shaming. It prevents other victims from coming forward to seek justice. This must end. In 2016, victims must be treated with more respect and care. That aside, it’s time for a clear policy and law on the coverage of rape cases. (Someone call the Gender Minister, Nana Oye) 19.Get the Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister to do more than distribution of freebies – The minister needs to stop distributing gas cylinders, registering people for the NHIS and dining with prisoners for votes and focus on the real problems facing, women, men, children like a proper welfare system that works without the Minister traveling to Wa to register people herself. And honestly I miss Nana Oye the advocate, whatever happened to her? 20.Engage in issue-based debates – 2016 is an election year. It’s going to become noisy with accusations and counter accusations from the key players. It would be easier to bear the noise if the media, citizens and everyone force politicians to stay on topic – Ghana. Source: nnyamewaa.com/Ghana
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