18.06.2004 General News

Laison Officer cheats farmers of millions

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....But denies outfoxing them A CROSS-SECTION OF settler farmers at Teberebe in the Wassa West district are pointing accusing fingers at the Community Liaison Officer, Mr. Martin Dadzie for refusing to pay them their full compensation.

The farmers claim that Mr. Dadzie, who serves as a link between communities affected by mining and the management of the Ghanaian Australian Goldfields Company Limited (GAG), has been cheating them off their entitlements.

They told the Gye Nyame Concord on a recent visit to the area that Mr. Dadzie promised them last year December that within four weeks, their monies will be paid to them, but has consistently being playing hide and seek with them.

Mr. Dadzie however refuted the allegations levelled against him when reached and called the aggrieved farmers “liars.”

But speaking in an interview with a group of journalists, Nana Kwamina Panyin II, Kontihene of Teberebe said, “anytime Mr. Dadzie invites you to come for your compensation, he pays you less than what you have to benefit from.”

He said Mr. Dadzie takes delight in cheating the settler farmers a lot. For instance, Madam Mercy Amoakwah was to receive ¢31 million as compensation when she went to the offices of GAG for her money. Instead, she was issued with a cheque of ¢23 million, which she rejected. She was then asked to come at a later date to collect the full amount.

When Mad. Amoakwah later went back for her money, it had been reduced to ¢8 million. When she confronted Mr. Dadzie for clarification he said “it is a computer mistake and nothing can be done about it since it has already been recorded.”

Another case is that of Mad. Ama Awortwi, who was to benefit from ¢52, 941,000. She was intead issued with a cheque of ¢4 million last December as part payment.

“What saddens my heart and most settler farmers is that after extensive negotiations with management of GAG, settler farmers, elders of the Wassa Traditional Council and a consultant that the acreage system would be used as the basis for compensating them, Mr. Dadzie has instituted his own method of payment”, he observed.

Nana Kwabena Panyin mentioned that only a handful of farmers have received their full compensation whilst about 80 farmers have not even being invited by the management of GAG for their compensation since the year 2000, when their farm produce were counted.

He said there was some division among the farmers as he speaks to us because the Chairman of the Teberebe Farmers Association, Mr. Martin Appiah Gyimah has sent an agreement letter to Mr. Dadzie on behalf of the farmers without consulting the executives.

“The truth of the matter is that we want the amounts written on our payment slips given to us by GAG to reflect on our cheques since we are dying of hunger, diseases and poverty”, he stressed.

Reacting to why he did not consult the executives of the farmers association before sending the agreement letter to GAG, Mr. Appiah Gyimah, Chairman of the Association, disclosed that “if all efforts made for them to receive their compensation have proven futile, the only alternative is to go for the money like that”, since we cannot litigate with a mining company like GAG.

He said so long as the mining company decides to use acreage system instead of head counting of crops as the basis for payment, you have no choice.

He noted that if it were headcount, he will benefit from a ¢200 million compensation, but with the acreage system he was paid ¢44 million.

He disclosed that when he sent the agreement letter to GAG, Mr. Dadzie showed him a letter written by the Omanhene of Wassa Fiase, Osagyefo Kwamina Enimil, directing them not to pay compensation to the farmers, which was meant to affect only those who are yet to receive their compensation.

At the palace of the Wassa Fiase Omanhene, he admitted sending a letter to the management of GAG on a number of issues, of which compensation to Teberebe farmers was mentioned.

He said it is part of their tenancy agreement that every settler farmer gives one third of his produce to the custodians of the land or stool. Therefore, if their farmlands have been given out to a mining company, the agreement still holds, he argued.

He however made a passionate appeal to the government to consider reviewing its policy on surface mining to the practice of deep mining, although it is expensive, looking at the huge and extensive effects of surface mining.

Earlier on at the residence of the Aboduahene, Nana Kwabena Angui II, under whose jurisdiction Teberebe falls, he said he heard on radio that the management of GAG was paying compensation to settler farmers from Teberebe.

With this development, he wrote letters on three different occasions to the management of GAG through the Liaison Officer but received no response from them.

He said this compelled him to inform the Omanhene, who wrote a letter to the management of GAG of which he is privy to.

The Aboduahene reiterated that with Teberebe being part of his jurisdiction, he has to ensure that there is transparency during the payment of compensation to enable the farmers pay their one-third proceed to the Wassa Fiase stool before they leave to their various regions and home towns.

Contacted at his office to find out whether he had received a letter from the Omanhene restraining him from paying compensation to Teberebe farmers, the Community Liaison Officer, Mr. Martin Dadzie underscored that the Omanhene has no right to stop them from paying compensation to farmers and that they will continue paying them.

He told the group of journalists that they have no right to ask him whether he has received a letter from the Omanhene and in any case it was a private discussion he had with the Omanhene.

He had earlier on, however, told the journalists that he had not seen the Omanhene before, let alone talked to him.

He further said it is the duty of the Omanhene to claim his entitlements directly from the farmers and not through GAG.

Dadzie said about 100 farmers have been fully compensated from Teberebe as at the end of last year but refuted all the allegations levelled against him, calling the aggrieved farmers “liars.”

The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Wassa West, Mr. Kwesi Ayensu when contacted disclosed that he was aware of the allegations levelled against the management of GAG but confirmed that GAG has refused to pay the settler farmers according to head counting as agreed earlier on with the farmers.

They had rather resorted to use the acreage system because they alleged that the farmers were practicing speculative planting.

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