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01.05.2004 Diaspora News

Dispute delays ailing US-based Ghanaian's trip back home

By Omaha World-Herald
Dispute delays ailing US-based Ghanaian's trip back home
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Omaha, USA --- Omahans donated close to $14,000 so Kwame Bannor, suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, could return to his native Ghana.

Now Bannor is in New Jersey, his return to Africa held up at least briefly by an ugly dispute that has erupted between him and the Omaha woman overseeing his charitable fund.

Melva Woods, who was Bannor's boss for a while at the Doubletree Hotel parking garage, sponsored the fund-raising activities.

The money, according to a flier, was to be used to help pay for Bannor's relocation and buy medical equipment and medicine that he would need in Ghana.

But ultimately, Woods said, she began to doubt Bannor would go to Ghana. And if he didn't, she said, all of those donations would have been made under false pretenses.

Bannor, 56, says from New Jersey that he absolutely is going back to Ghana to live with his family. He expressed concern that Woods would take some or all of the money.

When Bannor was still in Omaha this month, he used more than $1,000 from the fund - called the "Melva Woods for Kwame Bannor" fund - for various expenses here, with Woods' approval.

Then his brother, she said, became ensnared in an immigration problem, and Bannor delayed his flight from Omaha to New York.

All of this troubled Woods. By the time she was at the airport with Bannor, she decided to give him $700 or $750 (even this is in dispute) in cash and send him monthly installments of the remaining thousands of dollars once he was in Ghana.

Meanwhile, Bannor is staying with a friend in Newark, N.J. The friend is so close to the family that Bannor calls the man, Franklin Agyemang, his son.

Both Bannor and Agyemang were deeply upset that Woods hadn't given Bannor a cashier's check for the balance of the money.

Over the phone, they also argued with Woods over a $2,000 donation she had made from the fund to a Lou Gehrig's disease support organization that had helped Bannor. When the organization learned of the conflict, it returned the money to the fund.

Bannor said he's reluctant to go to Ghana until Woods wires him the money from the fund.

Agyemang said Woods isn't treating the man with dignity. "Kwame is not a little boy," he said.

Woods said she won't wire the money to Bannor until he's in Ghana. Otherwise, he might just spend the money in the United States, she said.

Woods has gone to Omaha attorney D.C. "Woody" Bradford, who has advised her free of charge. Bradford parks in the Doubletree lot, knows both parties and contributed to the fund.

Woods gave him a full accounting of the money, Bradford said, and she wouldn't do that if she had bad intentions.

He said he hopes the dispute can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

"We've got to break that logjam," Bradford said. "There's got to be a way to do this."