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National Service Secretariat subjecting personnel to modern-day slavery, financial exploitation – Forum For Accountability

Headlines National Service Secretariat subjecting personnel to modern-day slavery, financial exploitation – Forum For Accountability
SAT, 13 APR 2024 LISTEN

A group called Forum For Accountability has expressed displeasure about how the National Service Secretariat is treating national service personnel in the country.

At a press conference in Accra on Friday, April 12, Lead Convener of the Forum, Klenam Tamakloe accused the Secretariat of subjecting personnel to modern-day slavery.

He said the National Service Secretariat has over the years exploited service personnel financially and continues to do it today.

“As we gather here today, let us reflect on the legacy of our forebears who fought against the shackles of slavery. Yet, we, the national service personnel of this country, now find ourselves in a similar form of bondage. The National Service Secretariat is responsible for a modern-day atrocity. They have enslaved us in shackles and subjected us to the lowest bidder. Yes, the lowest bidder.

“They did not auction us like their predecessors, the white colonisers; they robbed us of our value and put us to work with a promise of an allowance that is close to impossible to survive on. Which they also refuse to even pay. Even the slave masters of old provided slaves with transport and shelter. But not the Secretariat; they provide us with nothing but pain and suffering. They sell us for nothing near our worth and refuse to pay us. As of March of this year, the secretariat owed 5 months arrears to service personnel,” Klenam Tamakloe bemoaned.

According to him, national service personnel are always suffering because they fall prey to loan sharks and other shady load businesses due to the failure of the secretariat to ensure they are paid at the end of every month.

He said what is worrying is that the National Service Secretariat has now given the data of service personnel to a loan company that has direct access to service personnel e-Zwich cards.

The company is said to be giving loans to service personnel and deducting directly from the secretariat at the end of every month with huge interest.

Adding this to the non-payment of national service allowance, the Forum for Accountability says enough is enough.

At the press conference on Friday, the Lead Convener, Klenam Tamakloe stressed that the Forum is in to hold the Secretariat to Justice and will fight to get justice for all service personnel across the country.

“We are taking them on for their negligence in allowing our data to fall into the hands of a third-party loan company that now tries to manipulate us into taking loans at high-interest rates. What country are we in that promotes young people to borrow to survive? The Secretariat created a problem, and now this loan company seeks to benefit from it? By giving us the hoe to dig our graves for us. This Secretariat is an evil regime. This is a direct and evil agenda that this Secretariat is responsible for. We threatened them with a lawsuit to take up these issues at the High Court, and we are following through with it,” Klenam Tamakloe emphasised.

He further warned that if by June service personnel are not paid their allowance, personnel will be advised not to go to work for continued exploitation by the scheme.

“National service secretariat, we are coming for you. And yes, you should be scared; accountability is here. There is one thing I truly believe, The tiniest spark can ignite a raging fire. I do not know if this movement will make the change that we wish to see in the nation, but I know this will spark the minds of youth who already want change. Once the youth are united with one voice no force can quench that fire it will burn till there is nothing left in its path.

“We will get this change no matter what it takes because we are taking up a righteous cause. The era of accountability is upon us and it has a bright future with the youth who will not accept the status quo any longer,” Klenam Tamakloe added.

Read a more in the press statement by the Forum for Accountability below:

FORUM FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
GREATER ACCRA
GHANA. 12th April 2024.
ADDRESSING MODERN-DAY SLAVERY AND FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF

NATIONAL SERVICE PERSONNEL: A CALL FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow NSS personnel. We, the Forum for Accountability, welcome you all to this significant event. My name is Klenam Tamakloe, the lead convener of the forum.

As we gather here today, let us reflect on the legacy of our forebears who fought against the shackles of slavery. Yet, we, the national service personnel of this country, now find ourselves in a similar form of bondage. The National Service Secretariat is responsible for a modern-day atrocity. They have enslaved us in shackles and subjected us to the lowest bidder. Yes, the lowest bidder. They did not auction us like their predecessors, the white colonisers; they robbed us of our value and put us to work with a promise of an allowance that is close to impossible to survive on. Which they also refuse to even pay. Even the slave masters of old provided slaves with transport and shelter. But not the Secretariat; they provide us with nothing but pain and suffering. They sell us for nothing near our worth and refuse to pay us. As of March of this year, the secretariat owed 5 months arrears to service personnel.

This movement was formed in response to one of the great evils of our times, which is this modern-day slavery that the Secretariat is built upon. We have one mission: to hold the Secretariat accountable for its crimes against national service personnel all over the country. Not just for this batch, but for all the batches that have passed and for all the batches to come. This generation will rise beyond the evils we face; we will hold these people accountable. When they hear our name, the Forum for Accountability, they will tremble in their sin. We are the manifestation of our time; we are what was promised, and now we have arrived.

Today, we will tread on unprecedented grounds together. We have a mission that we have been tasked to achieve. Our mission is to hold the National Service Secretariat accountable, or as our members refer to them, the National Service Crime Syndicate. A group of people who have made it their job to systematically destroy lives year after year. A true cabal of wickedness. An institution currently without a soul. I know members of the press will wonder how they have destroyed lives. Let me answer that now. Through their neglect of service personnel, who are typically young university graduates who fall prey to loan sharks and other shady loan business with outrageous interest rates, which have put them in a vicious cycle of debt. They now have to borrow to survive. They have no choice because they spend on transportation and also to feed themselves while at work. This doesn’t even take into factor the reality that a lot of these young graduates have a lot of responsibilities on their shoulders. Most of these graduates after finishing school now have to repay the faith of their parents or guardians who helped put them through school. At this point, they are now selected to contribute to the household. How can they possibly do that without borrowing when the secretariat refuses to pay us.

But this year, the secretariat upped their game. Our data has "miraculously" fallen into the hands of a third-party loan company, which offers loans with outrageous interest rates. This company waited silently, like a true agent of evil, and lurked in the shadows for months while the Secretariat refused to pay national service personnel for five months. On the fifteenth and twenty-first of March, they sent out tens of thousands of messages to "congratulate" personnel that they qualified for a two-thousand four hundred and nightly nine cedi loan, which had ridiculous interest. If you took that loan and attempted to pay back the loan over the recommended time of six to nine months, they would request an interest of more than a 100 percent. You would end up paying over 4000 cedis. This company has direct access to service personnel e-Zwich cards which they would deduct the money directly from the secretariat.

We, the Forum for Accountability and the youth, gave the Secretariat ample time to correct its sins, and they ignored us. And now we shall show them the repercussions of tampering with the freedoms of Ghanaian youth. We will demonstrate that we are the embodiment of accountability for their incompetence. The youth will no longer sit idly by and allow the older generation to dictate our future; we will fight incompetence and wickedness wherever we see it. This movement represents a new school of thought. Her name is accountability. You know her name, but this nation has ignored her for too long. We are accountable, and we will not be silenced, bullied, or bribed; we are here to stay. She is here to stay, and she will have her reckoning. We will hold the Secretariat accountable, and any institution or person who intends or is exploiting young people, we will show no mercy in our pursuit of justice.

We, the Forum for Accountability, are the agents of justice for the perpetrators of evil against the voiceless; we are here to lend our voices to our brothers and sisters wherever they may need it. Wherever we see or hear of young people being exploited, we will rise and take up the issue and challenge incompetence and neglect wherever we see it.

We will show the nation what Osagefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah meant when he stated that Ghanaians are not timid people. But rather far from it. He said we may be slow to anger, and may take time to organise and act. But once we strike, and strike hard, it pays no one to tamper with Ghanaian freedom and dignity. We have been truly slow to strike and react, but strike we finally have, and now we are coming for you. The National Service Secretariat, we are coming for you; the shadow of accountability has been cast upon you. We are calling, and you will do your best to pick up because we are coming in, whether you like it or not. The Forum for Accountability is on you now.

We gave the Secretariat up to the end of March to pay all national service arrears, and they refused. The Secretariat has gone against the act that gave birth to them. They have breached two provisions of the National Service Act. The national service act of 1980 act 426 states that all service personnel are entitled to a monthly allowance. A provision that the Secretariat clearly does not believe we deserve since they pay as and when they feel it is necessary, even as of now we are owed three months coming up on the fourth. The second provision is a rather interesting one as I know that a lot of people do not know this: all personnel who are posted outside their region of residence are entitled to a transport allowance. A provision that the Secretariat claims doesn’t exist when it is clearly stated in their act and even on their website. Two years ago, Mrs. Gifty Oware-Mensah, the deputy director of the National Service Scheme, said on TV3 that national service personnel are not entitled to a transport allowance. I would like to inform her that she should read up on the act that empowers her scheme. This is the incompetence that we must take on. A question we must ask ourselves is how can a whole deputy director not know the act that empowers her?

Lastly, we are taking them on for their negligence in allowing our data to fall into the hands of a third-party loan company that now tries to manipulate us into taking loans at high-interest rates. What country are we in that promotes young people to borrow to survive? The Secretariat created a problem, and now this loan company seeks to benefit from it? By giving us the hoe to dig our graves for us. This Secretariat is an evil regime. This is a direct and evil agenda that this Secretariat is responsible for. We threatened them with a lawsuit to take up these issues at the High Court, and we are following through with it.

We have informed our lawyers to write to the Attorney General to kick-start the process to sue the Secretariat to satisfy the thirty-day period to file a lawsuit against a government institution. We will see the Secretariat in court where we will expose their negligence and incompetence. We have a demonstration planned for the next two weeks, which we shall take to the streets to force the Secretariat to do its job.

By June, if we are not paid in full, I would advise all my colleagues not to bother to go to work to be exploited by this wicked scheme. Looking at how the government treated NABCO and their nine months arrears, it gives us a roadmap of what is to come if the Secretariat does not pay us and the scheme is cancelled. After all, one presidential candidate plans to scrap the National Service Scheme so the certificate will become useless. As much as we want to hold the Secretariat accountable, we do not wish for the end of this great initiative. We believe that if done well, national service can really do what it was made to do, which was to instil the spirit of patriotism among the youth. Aside from that, looking at the state of the job crisis in the country, the scrapping of the National Service Act would also lead to a massive increase in unemployment as graduates will go straight to unemployment. National service is the first taste of real employment for the majority of these young graduates. This is where they would be able to learn the discipline to survive in the workplace. It is also during national service that these graduates may come up with business ideas and form long-lasting friendships and even at times find spouses.

There are pressing issues, so I plead with him to please focus on those issues, not ones that would affect the youth negatively. NSS was made to instil patriotism; instead, it has made numerous personnel who passed through it resent the nation due to the Secretariat's indifference. There was a poll I saw on Joy news which said that 70% of Ghanaian youth believe that the Ghanaian dream is to leave the country. That is the heartbreaking situation on the ground, and it is because of evil regimes like the Secretariat that have filled the youth with resentment. Can we blame us if you know a snake is going to bite you, would you not strike first? That is the dilemma of the Ghanaian youth. How can they love a country that seems to want to destroy them? The paradox of the Secretariat is a serious dilemma. This is not the start of one battle. This is the start of a war against incompetence and neglect. We will fight this battle and proceed to the next; we will show the elites what happens when you hamper the rights and freedom of the Ghanaian youth.

I assure everyone here that this is not a threat; this is a promise. National service secretariat , we are coming for you. And yes, you should be scared; accountability is here. There is one thing I truly believe, The tiniest spark can ignite a raging fire. I do not know if this movement will make the change that we wish to see in the nation, but I know this will spark the minds of youth who already want change. Once the youth are united with one voice no force can quench that fire it will burn till there is nothing left in its path.

We will get this change no matter what it takes because we are taking up a righteous cause. The era of accountability is upon us and it has a bright future with the youth who will not accept the status quo any longer.

“Why not you?” A simple quote but complex at the same time; this is what I told my comrades when we started the movement, why not us. If not us, then who? We must be the change we aspire to have in this nation. That is the only way we will achieve our goals for Ghana to work, not for the few but for all. Not for just the elites for the masses. We must all come together and believe that we are capable of great things. Belief is the first step we need to be able to get this change.

Kwesi Arthur said in his hit song "Revolution Sound", "Weytin you go do when we come for you. Real bad men in designer suits, mess up my country, deprive the youth." The National Service Crime Syndicate, the youth are coming, the Forum for Accountability is coming, we are at your door, we will hold you accountable for your crimes.

Ghana first.
Klenam Tamakloe
Lead Conveyor for the Forum For Accountability.

Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo

JournalistPage: EricNanaYawKwafo

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