Speaker Sekyi-Hughes, A-G Joe Ghartey, Prof Gyan Baffour, Allan Kyerematen trapped in a messy enclave of liquor trade as Monkey dey work , Baboon dey chop
THE STRONGEST alcoholic drink on the Ghanaian market, Akpeteshie, has sent two rival bodies, the United Ghana Distillers and Retailers Association and the Ghana Co-operative Association, on a warpath over the production and sale of the drink, dragging the Speaker of Parliament, the Rt. Hon Begyina Sekyi Hughes, Attorney General Mr Joe Ghartey, Trade Minister Mr Allan Kyeremanten as well as Deputy Finance Minister Prof. Gyan-Baffour in the feud.
The brawl is over the law that regulates the production and sale of Akpeteshie in the country, which in part grants monopoly in the spirits trade to the Ghana Co-operative Association.
Section 21 of the law, LI 239 of 1962 states that "every distiller shall dispose of the whole of his production of spirit either to a registered co-operative or distiller directed to be placed under the control of Excise Ordinance 1953 No 31".
Again Section 22 of the same act tasks "all spirits produced by a distiller directed as shall first be offered for sale to a distiller directed as aforesaid to be placed under the control of the Excise Ordinance and shall be sold through the registered co-operative of that distiller".
It is these regulations which grant the Ghana Co-operative Association the sole right to sell spirit products in the country that the United Ghana Distillers and Retailers Association is contesting, since they claim the law contravenes the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution.
Article 21(1) of the Constitution provides that "All persons have the right to freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations national and international, for the protection of their interest."
In a petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, in September last year, the distillers and the retailers called for a repeal of LI 239, 1962, since the Ghana Co-operative Association is using the law to molest its members.
"We don't understand why we can distil but we cannot sell to whoever we like and issue our own waybill but rather the Co-operative waybill only", argued Mr Barth Amander, General Secretary of the United Distillers and Retailers Association.
He said per the 1992 Constitution they believe that their fundamental human rights and freedom are being toyed with and that the Speaker must initiate moves to normalise the anomaly.
"This will also avoid future confrontation as had happened in the transport and musical industries", he noted, saying that the feud has rendered many of their 18,500 members unable to "pay our wards school fees and keep the home going".
Upon receipt of the petition, this paper gathered that the Speaker sought advice from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as to how to pave the way for the distillers and retailers to work on their own.
In his advice copied to the Minister of Trade, Mr Allan Kyeremanten, on the 27th of January, this year, Mr Joe Ghartey, noted that "the import of regulations 3(1), 21 and 22 is to grant exclusive monopoly to Ghana Co-operative Association for purposes of disposal and sale of Akpeteshie. It is only the Ghana Co-operatives Association that can issue waybills to other Akpeteshie distillers for the conveyance of Akpeteshie throughout the country".
In the memo, a copy of which is in possession of this reporter, the Attorney General advised that the regulations 3(1), 21 and 22 of the Manufacture and Sale of Spirits Regulation, 1962 (LI 239) be amended to enable other Akpeteshie associations to sell their products directly to the public and not through the Ghana Co-operative Association as it is presently done.
"In the alternative, LI 239 should be revised since it is a very old law enacted in 1962 and does not accord with current trade practices", he argued, adding that it is quite clear that manufacturing companies such as Accra Brewery and Guinness Ghana Limited manufacture their own products and sell them themselves.
According to Mr Joe Ghartey, the existing law is inconsistent with Article 21(1) of the 1992 Constitution which grants all persons the right to freedom of association, including freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations national and international.
Meanwhile, this paper gathered that Cabinet has ordered a committee of stakeholders chaired by the Deputy Finance Minister, Prof Gyan-Baffour to find an interim solution to the dispute, pending the review/amendment of the current law by the Attorney General.
However, a scheduled meeting called by the Minister for stakeholders on the 27th of February this year was boycotted by the Ghana Co-operative Association without any apparent reason, this reporter learnt. Stay tuned for more interesting development.