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21.04.2005 Business & Finance

An Investor's $8m Anguish

By Ghanaian Chronicle

Cites National Security, GCAA of frustration The Director and Chief Executive of Afra Airlines, Luke N. Butler who has sank $8million into his aviation venture, has lost his patience and lashed at the management of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority under RichardAnane, the disgraced minister of Roads and Transport, and joined the national security for deliberately frustrating his company in favour of the Mormon-owned Ghana International Airline(GIA).

According to him, though the airlines had continuously made attempts to operate its flight in the country, it has met many impediments.

He noted that on February 4th 2004, the airline entered a joint ventureship agreement with Ghana Airways, which led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding to operate flight services. He recalled that just a few days after the signing of the agreement with Ghana Airways, it was suddenly abrogated under strange circumstances.

This, he said, made him leave the country disillusioned but he later returned with the hope that this time round, things might have probably changed to enable him set up his own airline to begin full operations. This, he said, led to the formation of Afra Airlines with the sole aim of promoting tourism in the country.

Mr.Butler who is married to a Ghanaian, applied for an air carrier license for small chartered flight for 5 years but was advised it would take two to three months to process all the needed documents to enable the airline operate as an independent entity.

Though there were initial delays, on 29th November 2004, the GCAA considered its application but for some reason, the license was issued on January 6, 2005.

Yet the shocking news was to come. The operational license had so many conditions attached to it, which disabled the airline from fully operating.

It would be recalled that Alhaji Asoma Banda met with similar challenges and he made a lot of noise before he was allowed to run Antrak Air.

Butler revealed that the aircraft was restricted to domestic flight operations alone though the airline had duly stated in its proposals to the GCAA that it was to operate internationally.

He said this " was a commercial impunity restrictions since we wondered the wisdom in granting the license with such heavy sanctions."

According to him, this prompted him to confront the authorities for an explanation because the strings tied to the license were bound to frustrate the airline's successful operation but they were only told there had been a change in the policy document.

"The authorities were not able to produce a policy document to that effect," he said.

Butler who appeared quite frustrated, expressed the suspicion that there is a deliberate attempt by some individuals with ill intent to sabotage his investment.

He noted that what surprised him most was that, Ghana International Airlines, the company that is to take over the operations of Ghana Airways, was issued a license without any such restrictions, a clear case of bias which should raise questions.

Continuing, he said he again inquired as to why GIA was issued the operational license since the Ghanaian tax payer was going to be over-burdened to service the Ghana Airways debt of $190 million US dollars but was strangely told it was due to the mere reason that it was a national carrier, hence the policy would not be applicable.

Mr. Butler further noted that Afra Airline later opted for a commercial cooperation with Citi Link, a domestic airline but again, on 3rd February 2005, the license of Afra Airline was suspended by the ministry of roads and highways and authorities of national security.

He debunked media reports in which he said he was being maligned to be a bankrupt and con man.

According to him, this was an attempt by a paper to blackmail him and his airline, which he said was set up with good business intentions and has so far invested over $8 million into the business, excluding the over ¢100 million he pays his workers monthly.

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