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29.12.2004 General News

Ex-Ghanaian Teacher in Nigeria Demands Compensation

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Accra, Dec. 29, GNA - A former Ghanaian Teacher in Nigeria has appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist him in his claim for compensation over the illegal demolition of his bakery facility in Abuja, the Nigerian Federal Capital, in 2001.

Mr Simon Mfordjo, who taught at the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Staff Primary School, Abuja, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on Monday that after retiring from the teaching profession, he decided to go into a bakery business while awaiting his pension and other entitlements.

He said his DAT-DAY BUTTER Bakery, which was located near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at Abuja, was destroyed and its various components, comprising three big machines, were stolen when he came back home in Ghana without any prior notification or warning. Mr Mfordjo produced documents and correspondences to attest to the fact that he was officially allocated a plot at the outskirts of FAAN Staff Quarters Area B for the construction of the bakery.

A letter written and signed by B. Mbeki, Chief Director of Survey, with Ref No. FAAN/208/EMP dated 14th. May 2001, and bearing the letterhead of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and headed "OCCUPATION OF SITE AREA 'B' states: "Site located at Area B is allocated to the above-named person for a period up to 2006 May." "The initial Federal Fee has been paid and demarcations done and attached to file MS/FAAN/06/208. Approval initiated per ref. B/628342/IL," the letter concluded.

In addition are two FAAN official TR FORM 'A' receipts bearing the numbers A 899959 and B012722 bearing the dates 21st September 2000 and 23rd October 2000 being payment for electricity received from Mr Mfordjo's bakery.

Mr Mfordjo said, following the incident, he wrote several letters to the Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Federal Airports Authority, Abuja, asking for compensation.

He said after persistent pressure on the Airport Authorities for the justification of their action and compensation for the facility, they threatened that if he did not leave the Airport Area, he and his family would disappear.

He, therefore, called on both the Ghana High Commission in Abuja and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the matter and assist him to claim compensation for the bakery, which had become the only source of livelihood for him and his family.

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took up the matter and asked Ghana's High Commission in Abuja to investigate Mr Mfordjo's case, and, if possible assist him to recover his losses.

In November 2001, the Ghana High Commission in Abuja sent a seven-paragraph dispatch that stated that preliminary enquiries it conducted did not support Mr Mfordjo's claims.

The dispatch, a copy of which was shown to the GNA, indicated that there was neither a Chief Director at FAAN nor any Survey Department and that Mr Mbeki, whose signature was appended to the letter authorising Mr Mfordjo the use of the plot of land was not known at FAAN.

"FAAN authorities, however, admit that the receipts attached to Mr Mfordjo's documents are that of the Federal Airports Authority and that they will investigate the matter further and keep the Mission posted. "It is to be noted also that the Federal Capital Territory authorities have of late been demolishing illegal structures in the Metropolis in its efforts to enforce the Abuja Master Plan."

When the GNA drew his attention to this portion of the dispatch, Mr Mfordjo said his facility was not within the area specified and that those, who were affected were given ample time to quit the area. The dispatch again referred to Mr Mfordjo's previous letters requesting assistance to claim his salary arrears and other entitlements withheld by the Authorities of L.E.A. Primary School at the Abuja International Airport. It stated: "Mission dutifully took up the issue with the FCT Primary Education Board as well as the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, only to learn to our embarrassment that he had been paid all his benefits except that of September 1998 which was not paid because he travelled out of the country without permission.

"Mission has since then had to exercise a little bit of circumspection in its dealings with Mr Simon Mfordjo in order to avoid any further embarrassment to the Mission," the dispatch ended.

Reacting in a letter dated April 3, 2002, apparently to the dispatch by the Ghana Mission in Abuja, Mr Mfordjo maintained that FAAN papers and receipts bore the official receipts and that he "collected these papers from the office of one Mr Eze" who was the Head of Department, Commercial Division, FAAN at that time.

"Sir, it is my contention that all the papers bear the proper FAANB letterhead logos and it would be impossible for any individual to know which papers are genuine and which ones are fake. Moreover, the Nigerian authorities admit that the subsequent receipts based on transactions emanating from these relevant papers are genuine..."

Mr Mfordjo also expressed his reservations about some portions of the Missions dispatch that seemed to impute some dishonesty to his person, saying that he wrote his protest letter through the Ghana Mission on March 9, 1999, and received the relevant monies and payments sometime in May 1999, directly as a result of the Mission's intervention.

"Without that, I am sure I would never have been paid and I felt grateful indeed. I state, however, that three days after the receipt of the money, I personally went to the Ghana High Commission Office where I reported to Mr J.Y.A. Kwofie, the then High Commissioner and Mr Binyilla...that the culprit officials had paid the relevant claims to me."

Mr Mfordjo said he did not know "how the Mission could have been embarrassed by that wholly justified intervention on my behalf unless of course the Nigerian officials in their report had backdated their records.

"The Mission never notified me of any embarrassment and never contacted me on the matter for any explanation that might have cleared the air, even though, since then and at numerous times thereafter, they have had occasion to invite me and other Ghanaians to functions and meetings," he said.

Mr Mfordjo said that was the first time he was hearing that the Mission was embarrassed in the process in circumstances that he was yet to understand.

When the GNA contacted an official of the Ghana High Commission in Abuja, Mr Sam Afrifa Kyei, for clarification, he promised to respond to the request but nothing had been heard after several reminders by electronic mail.

Mr Mfordjo, however, still maintains that he has been unfairly treated by the FAAN and has, therefore, renewed his appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take up the matter with a view to getting adequate compensation for his destroyed bakery facility. When the Ghana News Agency contacted, Ms Jayne Gasu, Assistant Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she confirmed that the Ministry was aware of the issues raised by Mr Mfordjo but did not comment further.

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