The confirmation by the Trade Ministry that indeed expatriate business people were charged and had to pay US$100,000 to gain access to the table of the President of Ghana during the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA) on December 2, 2017 marks a new low.
That others had to pay between US$25,000 and US$100,000 to determine their proximity to the President’s table as clearly communicated in that now infamous Deputy Minister Carlos Ahenkora letter of 23rd October, 2017 makes this whole scandal one of the most stenchy in recent times.
The Office of President in every country is accorded all the respect and dignity – one held in the highest of esteem and is an embodiment of the ethos and aspirations of its people. It cannot be right nor ethical to franchise the Office of the President to fundraisers where the highest bidder gains access.
How does this play out in our conscience, for an awards ceremony billed to honour deserving investors who chose our country to do business, in order to create jobs for our fellow citizens and help grow our economy being basically surcharged in the most crude circumstances for their awards. Is this not extortion? Is this not using the presidency to sell favours? In any case, how do we convince anybody that these awards were indeed earned and not for sale to those willing to pay. Have we not lost the golden opportunity to prove that as a nation we truly value the contributions of these expats over the years?
Has the NPP Government not used a so-called awards ceremony as a ruse to fleece the expatriate community? Will the expats be wrong in feeling this way?
My position will surely have been different if this particular fundraising concept was carefully utilized to raise funds for a worthy humanitarian cause, probably towards cancer patients, leukemia patients, malaria eradication, re-equiping our hospitals or towards paying the medical bills of suffering children whose parents cannot afford but certainly not debasing the presidency in this manner.
I have my strongest of doubts that President Rawlings, Kufuor, Mills and Mahama would have permitted this during their tenure.
Yes, many expatriate business people are doing a great job and deserve to be awarded without illegal and immoral fees but we also know that there are a few bad nuts whose maltreatment and abuse of their Ghanaian staff continues to cause outrage and our President must not be rendered incapacitated from talking about this and doing something about it especially as a human rights lawyer just because his government is busy collecting money from expat businesses and doing so without any standards except on the basis of the highest bidder.
The least the Ministry of Trade and Industry should be doing at this point instead of seeking to justify their shameful conduct is to apologize to President Akufo-Addo, that is, if he did not grant his blessings for this desecration of the high office he occupies, apologize to Ghanaians and refund the extorted sums to the expats.
It is emerging that this whole episode appears to dent our image in many expatriate and diplomatic circles. I do hope that salvaging measures will be implored in the immediacy to save what is left of our image.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
MP, North Tongu
Ranking Member, Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.