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23.11.2004 Regional News

"We don't want monopolist in salt production" - Elders

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Accra, Nov. 23, GNA - Elders of the three clans around the Songor Lagoon on Tuesday declared that they did not want a monopoly in the production of salt in the area.

"We wish to assure you and all Ghanaians that we are not against the development of the salt resources of the Songor Lagoon," Mr Samuel Tei Tsirapah, Spokesperson for the Elders, said at a press conference in Accra.

However, they said, they did not want a repetition of the days when the former mining company, Vacuum Salt, monopolised production.

"We in Ada prefer to deal with five or 10 salt producing companies in Songor area than one monopolist," Mr Tsirapah said.

"Five or more companies in the area will have to compete with one another to attract their workforce, market and maintain good relations with the local people.

"Furthermore, it is our view that a company that has leased its land from the local people will be more amenable to the suggestions of the local people than a monopolist who has no one to compete with and owes its authority and allegiance to the Government."

Mr Tsirapah said they had passed resolutions asking to be treated in the same manner as those in Winneba, Elmina and Apam where private investors started operations without Government preparing a land use plan first.

"We have our suspicions over the enthusiasm of the Ministry of Mines to have the land use plan prepared when it claims it was going to give it out to investors.... We the landowners were suspicious of the Ministry's land use plan and only gave our conditional consent.

"We insist on choosing our own investors and undertake the land use plan ourselves", he said.

He expressed regret that President John Agyekum Kufuor had not repealed PNDCL 287 to return the Songor Lagoon and its adjoining lands to the rightful owners. The Law makes Government to hold the land in trust for the people.

Mr Tsirapah said the Songor people had not been comfortable with the Government's handling of the Songor issue because its representatives had not been candid about their intentions and called for a level playing field for all the salt producing areas. He said the impression being created that there would be mayhem in Ada if the law was repealed was baseless and unfounded.

Mr Tsirapah said it was sad that in an era where State acquired lands were being returned to owners, lands that Government was merely holding in trust for owners should be withheld.

The people of Songor were not opposed to developing salt from the area for the benefit of all Ghanaians but were rather against the way the Government was handling the issue, which would result in the repetition of past mistakes.

Elders of the three clans of the Songor areas - Tekpebiawe, Lomobiawe and Adibiawe - were present at the press conference. 23 Nov. 04

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