Creation of new regions formed an integral part of two major political parties in Ghana; the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic (NDC) especially during their campaigns for the 2016 general election.
While the former promised in their 2016 Manifesto to create six more regions on account of proximity and the growing needs of development, the latter also promised to create five more with similar reasons.
Laudable as the ideas were, people of the suggested areas embarked on campaigns to ensure that the promises of the politicians bore fruits.
The Genesis of creation
It came to pass that the NPP led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo won the 2016 general election convincingly and was sworn-in as the fourth President of the fourth Republic on January 2017.
To appease the beneficiaries and fulfil his campaign promises, the President created a new and strange Ministry which sounded quite odd in the ears of most Ghanaians; the Ministry of Regional Re-organisation and Development.
President Akufo-Addo during his appointment of Ministers of state appointed Mr Dan Kweku Botwe, Member of Parliament for Okere as the Minister of the ‘virgin Ministry.’
To hit the ground running, the Minister after his vetting and confirmation started with a number of consultations with chiefs and other stakeholders in the places earmarked for the creation of the regions.
It was therefore not surprising that when the proposals were finally made, the people in those areas received it with alacrity. Amidst jubilations of drumming and dancing, in some cases the people believed it was their ‘liberation time.’
Then came the presentations of cases, hearings and vetting. This gave the applicants the opportunity to present their cases, provide defences and tangible reasons to justify their demands for separate regions.
The committee or vetting party moved from region to region to give the applicants the hearing to justify their demands.
In all about seven places proposed to have separate regions. This they did by collecting signatures of chiefs and prominent persons from those areas to make a case for their people.
In the Brong and Ahafo region, the Bono East and Ahafo regions were proposed, while the Northern Region had the highest proposals of North East Region, Savannah Region and the Eastern Corridor Regions, but somewhere along the deliberations, the proponents of the Eastern Corridor region, seems to have chickened out in the process.
In the Western region the northern parts of the region made a special appeal and it was therefore a matter of time for them to realize their dreams, while the people of Northern Volta also appealed for the creation of Oti region, which later received some amount of resistance from some others who thought otherwise.
As part of the procedure, referenda were supposed to be held at all the areas that appealed for new regions. It demanded that about 50 per cent of registered voters in the areas turned out for the voting for YES and NO.
It also demanded that out of the turn-out, 80 per cent of them should vote YES to give the people the opportunity to have a separate region.
Subsequently, all the proposed regions received high endorsement, which served as a precursor for government to negotiate for the creation of challenges.
Although people of various regions teamed up irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political inclinations, those issues are likely to serve as impediments in their bid to choose Regional capitals, Regional Ministers and even other auxiliary staff.
Their ability to effectively handle this issue will pave way for their effective take-off to accelerate growth and development.
Government has announced that regional capitals of the six newly created regions would soon be announced and I believe that will mark the beginning of the controversies which need proper handling to avoid crisis.
Recently Mr Kwesi Jonah, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), suggested to government to choose already developed towns as capitals for the newly created regions.
He said infrastructure such as good road network, sufficient accommodation facilities for prospective government officers must be prerequisites for the selection of the capitals for the new regions.
According to him, deciding on that basis will make it easier for further development to take off in the region.
“If you create a new region and you want a relatively accelerated rate of development, you may want to go in for a city or a town in this new region which already does have some minimum infrastructure, enough good roads, enough for housing for civil servants that will be coming in and so on,”
His position is countered by some who have argued that based on that fact that new regions were created to accelerate growth, local communities with little or no infrastructure must be considered as capitals.
LOBBYING FOR CAPITALS
Although all connoisseurs have already called for the use of developed towns for capitals, chiefs, politicians and ethnic heads are busy everywhere lobbying the powers that be for the capitals.
In the Bono East area, which received a massive YES endorsement to the carved out of the Brong Ahafo Region, there are wide campaigns to have Techiman named the regional capital.
In the Savannah region, which was created out of the current Northern Region, some groups have begun pushing for Damongo to be made the regional capital, while others are also pushing for Salaga to be named the regional capital.
In the Ahafo area, four towns; Goaso, Duayaw-Nkwanta, Bechem and Kenyasi are said to be leading the race to be regional capital, while others believe Bechem or Goaso will end up being named regional capital.
In the North East Region, places like; Walewale, Gambaga and Nalerigu are the likely contestants for the capital.
In the Oti area, there is an intense campaign by the chief of people of Buem to have Jasikan named as the regional capital for the newly created Oti region.
In the Western North, there are Sefwi-Wiawso, Bibiani, Enchi, Asankragua, Adabokrom are all likely candidates for the capital.
According to the Regional Re-organisation Minister, Daniel Kweku Botwe selecting a capital will not be done in a whimsical manner as heeding to interested parties lobbying for it.
“This is what they have been fighting for decades, their forefathers wished they could have certain things.
“The next stage for regional creation and selecting a capital is when we come together and get support from technocrats and take a decision,”
An overwhelming majority (98.64 per cent) of registered voters who reside in the Oti area voted in favour of the creation of the Oti region, out of the Volta region last year.
Nifahene of Buem speaking at the Oti Region referendum victory rally had said Jasikan best suits the capital given its historical role as the headquarters for the then Buem-Krachi District Council.
Nana Opraw Akuamoah added that Jasikan is also geographically positioned in the Oti enclave and have the needed infrastructure to kick-start the administration of the new region.
Meanwhile other towns in contention may be Worawora, Dambai, Keta Krachi and Nkwanta.
After the creation of the Regional capitals, the next centre of attraction will be the selection of the Regional Ministers.
This is where all relevant factors such as; religion, ethnicity and partisanship will come to play.
While some might be considering political affiliation as the major mode of selection, others may consider ethnicity and religion.
In the Ahafo, Bono East, Western North, North East and Savannah regions, religion and ethnicity may not have a toll on them because of their relative homogeneity, but the same cannot be said of the Oti Region, where there are so many ethnic groups and different religions to flex their muscles.
It would be expedient for government to effectively engage all stakeholders to come out with regional capitals and Regional Ministers that can handle the regions on merit and not based on religious, ethnic and political affiliation.
Again, stakeholders in various regions need to team up and reconcile their various ideas in order to come out with workable plans that will accelerate development.
Traditional Authorities need to liaise with all the stakeholders to iron out issues that could escalate into troubles and end up undermining the purpose for which the regions were created.
Government also needs to adequately resource the new regions to catch up with the older ones to reduce the rural-urban migration for non-existent jobs.
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Intellectual Property owners to earn Royalties – Minister
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) is set to roll out policies and structures that will ensure that intellectual property owners received royalties for their creative works, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi, the sector Minister has announced.
She said such initiatives would reduce the constant misunderstandings, strained relationships and accusations of unfairness within the industry and ensure wealth creation for the practitioners.
She said this at a day’s seminar organized by Vodafone Ghana Music Awards and Character House in Accra.
The seminar, which was held on the theme: “The Future of Music Business”, attracted musicians, music producers, corporate organisations among others.
It was aimed at equipping industry players with the requisite knowledge about the numerous opportunities they could make wealth through music, as well as to offer them the opportunity to network.
Mrs Oteng Gyasi said the Ministry was aware of the significant role the creative arts industry could contribute to positively impact the economy, in terms of providing employment and generation of income for the youth, as well as the country.
“This has culminated in the development of the creative arts bill currently pending before parliament to provide the legal framework for the creative arts industry”, she said.
“The act, when passed, will help to grow the industry, both nationally and internationally through partnerships and industry development assistance, which will facilitate fast ways to commercialization and innovation”, she noted.
She therefore underscored the need for industry players such as Producers, Directors and Marketers to employ professionals in their dealings in order to maximize the potential of the industry.
Commending VGMA and Charter House for organizing the seminar, Mrs Oteng Gyasi said such seminars were imperative if challenges confronting the industry were to be tackled.
“The Ministry shall, therefore, facilitate a calendar of seminars and workshops to address the many gaps in the industry. The seminar would inspire our musicians and address some of the challenges currently confronting the industry”, she said.
She assured the musicians and other stakeholders within the industry of the Ministry’s commitment and support to build a robust and sustainable industry that would place Ghanaian music and artists on the global front to derive the economic benefits of their trade.
Madam Solafunmi Oyeneye, Senior Channels Manager of MTV urged musicians to always put their target audience first when composing a song.
She encouraged up and coming artists to own their music, especially their music videos because no one would do that for them.
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Stonebwoy pulls gun as fans clash on stage at VGMA
A night of celebration for both industry players and fans in the showbiz sector, turned out to be a night of shame and regrets as the 20th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA 2019), was marred by violence.
Fans of eternal rivals and Dancehall artistes Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy clashed on stage in a fistfight forcing Stonebwoy to pull out a pistol in the process.
This caused pandemonium at the New Dome of the Accra International Conference Center (AICC), on Sunday dawn and subsequently halted the flow of the ceremony.
Calm was restored after over 30 minutes with the program continuing, but not in the same light as it started.
It all started when Stonebwoy mounted the stage to receive an award as the Reggae Artist of the Year.
Stonebwoy prior to receiving the award gestured with his five fingers (indicating he had won the award five times in a row) to his bitterest rival Shatta Wale who was nominated in the same category.
Subsequently, Shatta Wale unhappy with the announcement stormed the stage with his fans, but it was unclear what they were up to going on the stage.
Fans of Stonebwoy’s tried to prevent them from coming on the stage and that begun the fuss. It was a war-like situation with many in the auditorium running for cover.
The “Bawasaba” hitmaker later apologized for the incident after he received the Songwriter of the year award.
“I only had to act on natural instincts…I come in peace and I go in peace…by their deeds we have all seen them,” he said.
Meanwhile, two of the categories including the big one- ‘Artiste of the year’ was not announced due to the dissension that occurred.
Kwami Sefa Kayi one of the MCs for the event, announced that the winners for those categories would be announced in a press conference at a later date.
Here are the winners for the night: Traditional Artiste of the Year – Kwan Pa; Instrumentalist of the Year – Mr Okyere; Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr Rev Mrs Mary Ghansah, Obuoba J.A. Adofo, Prof Kofi Abraham; Unsung Artiste of the Year – Kula; Gospel Song of the Year – Diana Hamilton for ‘Mo Ne Yo’; Highlife Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘My Level’. Reggae/Dancehall Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘Gringo’; Hiphop Song of the Year – Kwesi Arthur for ‘Anthem’; Hiplife Song of the Year – ‘Obiaa Wone Master’ by Yaa Pono feat Stonebwoy; Afropop Song of the Year – ‘Akwaaba’ by Guilty Beatz feat Mr Eazi, Pappy Kojo and Patapaa; Gospel Artiste of the year – Diana Hamilton; Highlife Artiste of the Year – Kuami Eugene; Hiplife/Hippop Artiste of the Year – Medikal; Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year – Stonebwoy; Video of the Year award – MzVee – Come and See My Moda feat Yemi Alade (Dir Xbills Ebenezer); Best Collaboration of the Year – Stonebwoy – Kpoo Keke feat Medikal, Kwesi Arthur, Darko Vibes & Kelvyn Boy; Record of the Year – Akwaboah – Hye Me Bo; Songwriter of the Year – King Promise – CCTV; Producer of the Year – Kuami Eugene; Sound Engineer of The Year – Francis Osei with Akwaboah’s ‘Hye Me Bo; Male Vocalist of the Year – KiDi – on ‘Thunder’; Female Vocalist of the Year – Efya; African Artiste of the Year – Burna Boy; Rapper of The Year – Medikal.
Best African Collaboration Akwaaba – Guilty Beatz Ft Mr Eazi, Pappy Kojo & Patapaa; Group of the Year – Bethel Revival Choir; New Artiste of The Year – Wendy Shay; Album of The Year – Rockstar – Kuami Eugene; Artiste of The Decade – Sarkodie.
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Ghana’s abandoned Monkey Hill Reserve under threat
It is touted as the only rainforest situated in the center of a city in the entire West Africa but this little unique jungle in the capital of Ghana’s oil-rich Western Region which has been abandoned, faces an existential threat
Investigations show that despite its uniqueness, the Monkey Hill Forest Reserve, a 12.6 hectare rainforest populated with monkeys, in the heart of Takoradi, has been neglected by the country’s forest and tourism promoters and it is deteriorating.
While the forest has not been developed into a tourist site to fetch the state revenue, it continues to grapple with survival threats including poaching of the animals, encroachment and deplorable sanitary conditions.
A research conducted as far back as 2004 by a Takoradi-based socio-environmental Civil Society Organization, Friends of the Nation (FoN), on the forest’s flora and fauna species, recommended the urgent protection of the animals and plants in the forest while entreating government to develop the place into an ecotourism site.
In the said research, three species of monkeys were identified in the forest- the Spot-nosed Monkey, Mona Monkey and the Olive Colobus Monkey, which is a globally threatened species.
In all, the research identified seven species of large mammals, 58 species of birds and 112 species of plants.
However, investigations have found that this forest has been deteriorating at a fast pace over the years as some of the residents of Takoradi poach the inhabited animals.
Kwame Johnson, a resident of Takoradi, who boasts of having skills in monkey-trapping, told this reporter that he has trapped several monkeys in the forest at a fee for his clients.
“I use wire-cage and banana to trap them. It’s quite simple but only few people know how to use this method,” he said.
Steven Cudjoe, another resident, said he and his friends often visit the forest on weekends to hunt squirrels.
“We often go home with a catch. On a good day, it could be two or more,” he said.
Checks at the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission (FC) to ascertain how the state protects these animals revealed that the Forestry Commission was yet to earmark the place as a Wildlife Protected Area.
“As a result, we’re unable to dispatch Resource Guards to this forest to protect the animals. We’re however trying hard to convince the commission to assist us in this regard,”said Tracy Boadi, a Wildlife Officer in-charge of Tourism at the Wildlife Division in Takoradi.
She said the Monkey Hill Forest Reserve has a huge tourism potential but her outfit was under resourced to leverage on the potential.
However, poaching of the animals is not the only threat to the Monkey Hill Forest. The fast expansion of the Takoradi city is also gradually eating into the forest.
When this reporter visited the place, residential structures and shops are seen to be fast developing into the perimeter of the forest especially, on its southern part that leads to New Takoradi, a neighbouring community.
Vegetation on the fringes of the forest have eroded badly due to human activities.
Portions of the base of the forest have also been turned into a refuse dump, populated with plastics and other solid waste.
The Forest Services Division of the FC which is responsible for keeping the forest in good shape has not been doing much.
The Takoradi District Manager of the Forest Services Division, Daniel Ofosu, said the Division has no economic interest in the Monkey Hill Forest because the trees were not being cut for sale.
As a result, no Forest Guard has been deployed to protect the forest but his outfit has been ensuring that the place continues to exist, he said.
“Last year, we planted some trees there and we do public education on encroachment,” he said.
John Laste, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), when contacted, could not mention specific steps the STMA hsd taken to keep the forest clean and prevent it from encroachers.
He however said the place was open to investors who would want to develop it into an ecotourism site.
“It’s in our 2018-2021 Medium-term Development Plan as one of the areas investors can take up and develop into an ecotourism site,” he said.
The Western Regional Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), George Nkrumah Ansere, said his outfit plans to promote the place to the investor community but first, the GTA, STMA and the FC would have to come together and agree on the right of ownership of the forest.
“It’s something we’re already working on and very soon it will be sorted out,” he said, adding that, the GTA would then allot a portion of its Tourism Development Fund to develop and properly package the ecotourism plan of the place to attract investors.
Since it conducted the research on the forest a decade-and-half ago, FoN has not been able to initiate any new move in protecting the forest but the organization says the findings of its research still remain relevant.
“We’ve been able to let the public know the number of animals and plants in there. Now, it behoves on the STMA to take the lead and get other stakeholders on board to develop a management plan for the place. For us, we’re open for collaboration,” said Theophilus Boachie-Yiadom, Research Coordinator at FoN.
Currently, the middle of the forest is occupied by an old one-storey building owned by Ghana Telecom (Vodafone), some residential quarters and a private restaurant. Shops are creeping in. Solid wastes have flooded parts of it. And the devastation continues.
By Marlvin-James Dadzie
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