31.03.2005 Crime & Punishment

Billionaire On Police Escort Murdered

By Chronicle
Billionaire On Police Escort Murdered
31.03.2005 LISTEN

Ekurafitaa/Agormanya, March 31 (Chronicle) --Barely a week after Nana Owusu Nsiah, immediate past Inspector General of Police (IGP), handed over the baton and scepter of authority to Mr. Patrick Kwateng Acheampong, his successor, The Chronicle can say that the new IGP has already been given what could be his first 'baptism of fire.'

The puzzle on his hands, if it goes unsolved early enough, could go down as akin to the strange murder of the late Overlord of Dagbon, Yakubu Andani II, exactly three years ago.

This time around, a 43-year old farmer, Mr. Ayum Samadzi, was the victim of the latest gruesome murder at Ekurafitaa, a farming settlement near Kade in the Eastern Region, two Wednesdays ago, where a police escort accorded him after an earlier threat on his life, failed to give him the needed protection.

He was subsequently shot and burnt, and as at the time of filing this story, his charred, bullet-ridden remains were still in the hands of the police in Accra.

But the riddle so far beating the imagination of the Eastern regional police commander, Chief Superintendent Vincent Dzakpata, and his district and divisional heads in Kade and Akwatia respectively, is how a Ghanaian billionaire farmer, whose life was threatened by some Togolese settler farmers, and was immediately given official police escort, was shot, killed and the body burnt the same day by the very assailants, even in the full glare of those who supposedly were protecting him. Such 'protectors' allegedly rather took to their heels at the first and only gunshot.

According to the story, in the early morning of March 16, this year, the late Samadzi was on his usual rounds on his 250-acre palm plantation in the locality when he accosted one Madam Akosua Hannah and her husband, whose name was given as Michael, after they had illegally harvested palm fruits from his farm.

Even though the owner of the farm seized the fruits from the thieves, the two allegedly threatened to kill him, as a result of which he reported the matter to the nearby police, stationed at Takorase.

One of Chronicle's sources in the area, Mr. John Djabatey, who is the deceased's farm manager, told the paper that, based on the report, the Chief Inspector of the Takorase police station and a constable offered to give him protection to the farm and were driven in the complainant's Mercedes Benz Mini Bus 208D with registration number GT 2066 V.

“When they got there, Hannah and Michael had left the farm, so the inspector suggested that the three plus a farm assistant, Tetteh Yumu, went to the Ekurafitaa village to have a talk with the community leader on the threat by some of his subjects on the life of Mr. Ayum,” he recounted.

The paper gathered from the farm manager that it was while returning from the chief's house that they realized that the only road out of the village had been blocked at the outskirts with logs and drums.

In an attempt to remove the barricade, a group of about a dozen men, who had laid in wait for them, emerged from the bush, armed with cutlasses and clubs.

Djabatey said the farm assistant reliably informed him that the men initially engaged them in a scuffle and broke the windscreen of the bus, before one of them shot at his boss at close range, killing him instantly.

“Surprisingly, the constable, who was armed with a rifle, was the first to run away into the bush before the inspector later followed. We thought they were going for rapid response enforcement, but they left the body there for five hours. This gave the assailants more room to set the body ablaze in the vehicle,” he lamented Chronicle inside sources at the Takorase police station, which confirmed the incident , explained that the feeble-hearted young constable, who was on his first posting to the area after training, was compelled to flee the scene because he had only five rounds of ammunition in his rifle.

The source could not, however, explain why it took reinforcement from nearby Kade and Akwatia several hours to arrive at the scene, but added that seven people, including the chief of the village and Hannah, had so far been arrested in connection with the incident. Michael, however, was yet to be apprehended.

Many of those arrested are alleged to be Togolese settler farmers in the area.

Their names were given as Attrah Dzifa, Gabblah Korsi, Tettey Awoo, Kodzo Gbafah, Korsi Johnson, William Amponsah and Madam Hannah Akosua.

But family spokespersons of the deceased sharply contested those accounts, and accused the police of laxity and possible complicity in the matter.

Speaking to The Chronicle last Monday in the late Ayum's mansion with number H 278/2 at Agormanya in the Manya Krobo district, his elder brother, Mr. Partey Samadzi, said the police had not done enough in protecting his brother, arguing that it was on the basis of assurance of full protection from them that the deceased confidently followed them to the village.

“There was a scuffle for several minutes at the scene, but even after the irate men smashed the windscreen of the bus that was carrying them back to the station, the armed policemen failed to fire even a warning shot. They simply looked on until one of them shot my brother straight in the face,” he contended. Partey further revealed that the incident took place around 1.00 pm, but the police, who were also eyewitnesses, brought reinforcement to the scene at 6.30 pm, by which time the body had been badly burnt and much evidence destroyed.

He said he strongly suspected foul play and recalled how two years ago, there was a similar attempt on his brother's life when his workers were attacked on the farm and many properties there destroyed, adding that the 20,000 palm plantation on a fully acquired 250-acre land from the Okumenihene in the area some years ago had become the envy of many settlers there.

The visibly disturbed brother called on the police to do very thorough investigation into the matter, so that all whose actions and inactions led to his brother's death could be brought to book.

Another family spokesman, Mr. Abraham Odonkor, appealed to government to take the matter seriously because such unprovoked attacks on investors are likely to kill the nation's economic dreams, particularly in the President's Special Initiative in oil palm production.

He also hinted that public confidence in the police could be eroded in situations of this nature.

Information reaching The Chronicle indicated that the late Ayum's farm was yielding a daily production of 10 drums of palm oil as at the time of his death.

He is survived by 12 children, the eldest of whom has just entered Senior Secondary School.