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April 27, 2010 | Regional News

Bui Dam workers in slavery

myjoyonline


Aggrieved workers at the Bui Dam construction site have complained of poor wages and unfavorable working conditions, and have threatened to lay down their tools or even quit the job altogether.

They said they have no resting days, no annual vacation leave for the Ghanaian workers while their Chinese counterparts enjoyed such privileges. The workers also complained about accommodation problems, where between five and 10 people share a single room.

Equally worrying is the situation where between 80 and 100 workers are put in a truck at Jama village to and from work daily. Bui Power Authority (BPA) and Sinohydro could have provided two or more such trucks to sanitise the transportation of workers.

Above everything there has not been a contract agreement between them and their Sinohydro employers, the workers alleged. They agreed that there is high unemployment in the country but that should not be the reason why they should not be given fair deal.

Reacting to the workers' complaints in a questionnaire sent to him, Jabesh Amissah-Arthur, Chief Executive Officer of the BPA said the workers in question on the project site were workers of Sinohydro, which is the Contractor and not employees of BPA. Therefore, it was the responsibility of the contractor to ensure the welfare of its workforce.

“Sinohydro is the independent turnkey contractor on this project. The labour contract or collective bargaining agreement is between Sinohydro and the TUC. Therefore Sinohydro is responsible for the welfare of its workers. The right way to go is for the Workers' Union to take the issue up to their employers through the TUC for the necessary action to be taken,” he emphasized.

According to the workers, an artisan is paid a daily wage of GH¢3.00, while a labourer is paid GH¢2.50, which they noted, were even in arrears. One of the workers, who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity, said toward the end of last year, the artisans had a meeting with the TUC officials at the construction site, and it was agreed that each artisan and labourer be paid at least, a daily wage of GH¢5 and GH¢4.50 respectively but management have reneged on the agreement.

The workers are therefore contemplating on going on a demonstration once again to press home their grievances to put pressure on management to effect payment of the new wages agreed on between them and TUC.

In a related development, 23 farmers of Jama village on the Northern Region side of the Bui dam area, whose farms would be inundated as a result of the dam construction, have questioned the inclusion of two other persons on the list of such farmers.

The affected farmers argued that the two, Jama Koro/Chief, Nana Kojo Pambo II, and the Assemblyman for Jama, Valentine Abonjuah, did not have any farms in the area. The farmers said they did not understand why BPA officials should take photographs of the two and then add their names to the list of 23 affected farmers who identified themselves as having their farmers in the inundation area.

When contacted for clarification on this matter, BPA Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Amissah-Arthur, said upon the invitation of BPA, the Land Valuation Board (LVB) had visited the affected communities and commenced its work.

“The LVB is yet to complete its work so the information is currently not available. We expect the report, upon completion, to contain the list of affected farmers, compensation rates for affected crops and the total compensation due each affected farmer,” he disclosed.

According to Mr. Amissah-Arthur, the Assemblyman for Jama has a farm within the area of inundation and therefore had to be captured as an affected farmer like all other farmers.

“It has to be noted also that during the LVB's exercise at Jama, no person or farmer contested the legitimacy of the farm owned by the Assemblyman.

“With regards to the Jama Koro's name on the list, it is the practice to compensate Chiefs for certain economic trees to be destroyed during projects such as the Bui Hydroelectric Project. Natural trees like the baobab (Adansonia digitata); shea trees that were encountered within the Jama area were recorded in the name of the Jama Koro,” the CEO maintained.

Mr. Amissah-Arthur stated that the Lands Commission is the constitutionally mandated institution to determine which land belongs to whom and also to determine compensation amounts.

In an interview, the Assemblyman denied having a crops farm in the inundation area. He said rather he had some mango trees there, which had been given him by his uncle, the Jama Koro and that was why his name was taken down. He explained that not having a crops farm as the other farmers might be the reason why they thought he ought not to have been included among the affected farmers.

Meanwhile, the Jama Koro has denied ever posing for any photograph to be taken of him, whilst Salifu Wumbilla, Resettlement Officer of the BPA and the Assemblyman confirmed that the Jama Koro did indeed have a photograph taken of him.

Some of the farmers that this reporter talked to said the photographs of the Jama chief and the assemblyman were taken following whispers between the two and the BPA officials after the exercise was over. They said if when all of them had assembled at the Jama Koro's palace things had been explained to them in a transparent manner, they would not have become suspicious about a fishy deal. For they know for a fact that the Assemblyman has no a farm in the area.

It is common knowledge that land owners will have to be compensated for land acquired for the project or lost due to the inundation. Why then will any land-owning person be compensated separately for economic trees alone in one instance, and later for the entire land acquired or any portion inundated, which includes the area under reference?

In the course of investigations, it was revealed that there are three other land owning clans with their chiefs independent of the Jama Koro. One wonders on what basis baobab and shea trees encountered in the Jama area have been recorded in the name of the Jama Koro, as Mr. Amissah-Arthur maintained, when all the lands do not belong to him?

One land-owning chief of Jama, Nana Kwesi Nyarko of Bia, said if it was the Lands Commission that recorded all natural economic trees in the Jama area in the Jama Koro's name, then they need to do a proper search on land ownership there if they are to avoid being the cause of violent conflicts in the area in future.

“What is the use of the Customary Land Secretariat that was established in the North Mo area two years ago?” Nana Nyarko quizzed.

“I would like to advise whoever recorded all natural economic trees such as baobab and shea trees in the Jama area in Jama Koro's name to go back and do a thorough search on land ownership in Jama before drawing such a generalised conclusion. Being chief of a village does not imply exclusive ownership of, and rights to all lands and trees on them, something I expect BPA officials, Land Valuation Board and Lands Commission to know better than most people,” Nana Nyarko concluded.

He said he was at Jama when the BPA Resettlement Officer, Mr. Wumbilla, met with farmers who have their farms on his land at Jama Koro's palace. The aim was to discuss compensation for portions of their farms that will be destroyed in the course of putting overhead high tension transmission lines. He intimated that if BPA officials were relying on the idea of economic trees having been recorded in Jama Koro's name and therefore they will not do the proper thing, then they are more than likely to create violent conflicts in area.

Nana Nyarko disclosed that in 2008, he had to thrash out an issue over land with the Jama Koro in the law courts, and that he did not ever wish that they should allow outsiders to create confusion between the two of them.

Story by Innocent Samuel Appiah, Bui






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