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20.08.2005 General News

Re-open bribery allegation against JJ -Akomea

Statesman

To redeem image of the Presidency - Nana Akomea NANA AKOMEA, Member of Parliament for Okaikoi South, has revisited an allegation involving former President Jerry Rawlings receiving a $5 million bribe. He has reiterated calls for an independent public enquiry to investigate the matter.

The allegation which surfaced in 1998 was that former Nigerian dictator, the late General Sani Abacha, had bribed the then Ghanaian Head of State to get Mr Rawlings to help salvage the dented international image of his Nigerian counterpart.

Describing as “hypocritical” the ongoing campaign by the opposition National Democratic Congress for a public enquiry into allegations suggesting President Kufuor's involvement in the purchase of an uncompleted building close to his private residence, the MP said investigations into the Abacha bribe matter were needed to “redeem the image of the Presidency.”

In an exclusive interview with The Statesman Tuesday, the former Information Minister said to be “fair to our democracy and to move the process forward” and that “having in mind the fact that the presidency and the image of Ghana has been seriously stigmatised on the international stage by this allegation, it is very important that the State re-open the matter to establish the authenticity or otherwise of the charges against the then President.”

But the NDC spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, John Dramani Mahama, believes that “it will be a wild goose chase to spend the nation's limited resources investigating an allegation that was based on a newspaper publication.”

“I believe it will be a total waste of the nation's resources because in any case Mr Rawlings is no more the President of Ghana,” he told The Statesman yesterday.

While stressing that the “NDC will not oppose” any moves by Government to institute a probe into the matter, Mr Mahama's view was that Mr Akomea was making the call just because the “Gizelle Yazji case has come up.” However, Mr Akomea disagrees, explaining that given the wide local and international publicity given “such an embarrassing charge against the presidency, it is necessary to open a probe into the matter to repair the damaged image of the presidency,” in the eyes of right thinking people of the world.

In line with his call, Mr Akomea told The Statesman that he will personally champion a crusade for the opening of investigations into the case. He added that when Parliament returns from recess in October this year, he would personally “consult his colleague MPs” to discuss the need to institute a probe into the issue which nearly sparked a diplomatic row.

Mr Akomea's call comes some seven years after the Second Parliament of the Fourth Republic threw out an application by Hackman Owusu Agyeman, NPP Member of Parliament for New Juabeng North, who on the floor of the House called for a public enquiry into the matter since, according to him, the allegations were an embarrassment to the nation's image.

“That considering the seriousness of the allegations, they seek to bring the high office of the President into disrepute, this House takes steps to safeguard the integrity of the Presidency and the image of the country by requesting the government to set up a high-powered independent board of enquiry to determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegation,” the New Juaben MP submitted.

Among the NDC hardliners who fiercely opposed the call by the NPP that the State investigated the allegations was the current Minority Leader in Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, who also is the Member of Parliament for Nadowli North.

In his submission on the floor of the House shortly after the then Speaker of Parliament, Justice Daniel Francis Annan, had thrown out the Minority NPP's application, Mr Bagbin, who today is one of the torch bearers of the NDC-led campaign for a public investigation into the 'Hotel Kufour' saga, virtually insulted his NPP colleagues when he said the NPP, by calling for a probe into the $5million allegation, was 'confused' and didn't know what it was about.

“Mr Speaker, I strongly oppose the motion …. Mr Speaker, it is clear that the fallacy of this motion is the confusion in the minds of the minority group which is moving the motion… Mr Speaker I would not want to urge you to review your decision…”

Congratulating the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice for taking up the challenge to investigate the 'Hotel Kufour' matter, Mr Akomea said by announcing his full cooperation with the Commission, President Kufuor was setting higher standards in the nation's democratic process. He was however not too happy about the fierce resistance put up by his colleague NPP MPs against the NDC's call for a public enquiry since, according to him, allowing the House to order a State enquiry into the matter would have exposed the NDC for the “cheap propagandists and hypocrites that they are.”

It will be recalled that a few years ago, a prominent Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, also made a similar call that the Nigerian government probe and retrieve a sum of $5 million allegedly given to President Rawlings by the late Gen Sani Abacha, for image-building abroad. The allegation was first published in the Nigerian Post Express newspaper and thereafter received wide publicity in the local and international press.

Among other African leaders alleged to have received bribes from Abacha to polish his international image are The Gambia's president, Yahya Jammeh and Niger's former leader, Ibrahim Barre Mainassara.

Alhaji Ishmaila Gwarzo, former Security Advisor of the late Nigerian dictator, was quoted as telling a Commission of Enquiry that was set up immediately after Abacha's death that his late boss had paid the said amount to then President Rawlings to help whitewash Nigeria's image.

However, General Abdul Salami Abubakar, who took over the reins of power after Abacha's demise has since denied the charges against Mr Rawlings. Absolving Mr Rawlings of any wrongdoing, the Nigerian leader categorically denied in an answer to a question at a news briefing at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, where he – in the heat of the allegations – made a stopover on his way to Conakry, Guinea to witness the coronation of President Lansana Conteh and to attend a summit of ECOWAS leaders, that his country paid money to the Ghanaian leader to help improve her international image.

Gen Abubakar was reported as saying: “There is no iota of truth in that statement. We have not found such allegation anywhere in the report submitted by the panel of enquiry.”

But, Mr Akomea maintained that the former Nigerian leader's denial that his Ghanaian counterpart was allegedly hired to make Abacha's image look good was not enough basis to put the matter to rest since it is the “integrity of Ghana's Presidency that is at stake here.”

“We must therefore use every constitutional means to investigate the matter so as to convince the world that it indeed happened or otherwise,” said he.

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