The customs officer in charge of the Sewum border post in the Aowin Suaman district of the Western Region, Stephen Frimpong Boateng, has made an emergency call to the government to open up diplomatic dialogue with her Ivorian counterpart to solve the alleged encroachment on Ghanaian lands by Ivorian farmers.
According to him information made available by the chief of Sewum, indicated that during the days of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Alokem, a village which is just about 4 miles away from River Boin, used to be part of Ghana but now the Ivorians had claimed ownership and had completely taken over the village.
Speaking at a meeting with the Deputy Western Regional Minister, Madam Sophia Horner-Sam, who was on tour of the Aowin-Suaman district last Friday, Frimpong Boateng cautioned that if the government did not take immediate steps to put a stop to the Ivorian behavior it would not be long before they started claiming ownership of the lands beyond River Boin.
The customs officer also appealed to the Deputy Regional Minister to use her good office to get a bridge constructed over River Boin to help boost revenue generation in the country.
According to him, cocoa farmers behind the Boin river were selling their produce in Ivory Coast instead of Ghana because of the lack of a bridge.
He said it was just recently that he, together with some cocoa extension officers and chief and elders of Sewum, managed to convince the farmers to sell their cocoa in Ghana.
Frimpong Boateng, who led the minister and her entourage to visit River Boin near the Ivorian border in a remote part of the Aowin District, said his investigations had revealed that it was easier and shorter to travel from the border post to Abidjan than through the Elubo border, which had a number of check points.
He was, therefore, hopeful that if the government constructed the bridge it would help boost economic activity between the two countries and subsequently boost the revenue generation of the country.
According to him, traders from the two countries appeared to be using unapproved routes to bring their goods into the country, thus evading tax payments because they could not use vehicles to cross the river.
Responding to the appeal made by the customs officer, Madam Horna-Sam said she would inform the appropriate quarters in Accra, especially about the encroachment on the Ghanaian lands. She said her government would not sit down for the issue to degenerate into a serious conflict before it took steps to address it.
On the construction of the bridge, she said her ministry would work out things to see if it would be possible to construct a temporary bridge for people from the two countries to use whilst they waited for the construction of a permanent one.
Meanwhile the chief of Sewum, Nana Apena II, has confirmed the allegation of encroachment on the Ghanaian lands by the customs officer. Speaking to reporters at his palace, Nana Apena said Alokem used to be his land but the Ivorians had now taken it, though majority of farmers farming there were Ghanaians.
The chief, who is also the Adontehene of the Aowin Traditional Council, blamed the lack of a bridge over River Boin as the reason for the encroachment. He also expressed fears that if nothing was done, the Ivorians would gradually claim all the lands beyond the river, including large cocoa farms thus depriving his stool and the government of their legitimate property.
Nana advised the government to take the issue serious because the Ivorians had allegedly started destroying the concrete posts erected to serve as border markers between the two countries during the days of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Nana Apena II also seized the opportunity to appeal to the Ministry of the Interior to site a permanent police station at Sewum, which had a high crime rate because of its proximity to La Cote d'Ivoire.