B. A. Mensah To Get His Factory Back?
There are very strong indications that Mr B. A. Mensah, a Ghanaian industrialist may be getting his factory confiscated by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), back after years of struggle. There are however major obstacles to clear, in spite of the tremendous goodwill Mr Mensah enjoys from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). The first obstacle is the Ministry of Finance, which has taken the position that the budget cannot support either the return of the factory or the payment of appropriate compensation. The second hurdle would be what to do with the current owners of the factory.
Nana Akuffo Addo, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice gave an indication of what may happen when he wrote to the Minister of Finance for advise on what to do with the current owners of the factory. The Minister of Finance wrote back promptly saying that the budgetary situation could not support either a return of the factory to its original owner or payment of adequate compensation. The obvious implication is that when the budgetary situation improves, Mr Mensah may have his factory back.
Mr Mensah has fought consistently over the last 10 years to have his factory returned to him on the grounds that he was unfairly treated by the Rawlings administration. His main contention has been that the national economic situation at the time imposed tensions on the operations of factories like his and that while government assisted other companies to deal with the stress, it rather decided to confiscate his company. The stress arose from the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programme with its attendant massive devaluation of the cedi.
Many businesses including Mr Mensah’s cigarette manufacturing company – International Tobacco Ghana Limited could not recapitalize as a result of a bank squeeze dictated by government. Government accused International Tobacco of not paying excise duties it had collected to the state. Mr Mensah says his company was ready to pay and wanted to be given realistic terms for the payment given the stress that all companies like his were under at the time.
Mr Mensah is particularly close to the President and has claimed publicly that he played a key role in securing victory for Mr J. A. Kufour in the 2000 Presidential elections. He claims that he personally persuaded Togolese President Eyadema to close his country’s borders with Ghana to prevent non-Ghanaians from coming in to vote for the NDC and its candidate. Since assuming office, Mr Mensah has been on a few official delegations and his relations with the President is said to be still very warm.
President Kufuor has said on many occasions that the era in which membership of the ruling party could open too many gates is over. It is indeed likely that some opponents of the NPP will read political and other motives into any move to return Mr Mensah’s factory to him, given the allegations, which were made against International Tobacco. If the government finally decides to hand over the factory or to pay adequate compensation, it may have a lot of explanations to do.