Bede Ziedeng escapes grilling at vetting

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The minister designate for the Upper West Region, Mr Bede Ziedeng, escaped grilling on his resignation from the National Democratic Congress (NDC), formation of a new party with renegade NDC members and his subsequent return to the party when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament Wednesday.

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This followed the intervention of the Chairman of the committee, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro.

The nominee, a former Deputy Minister of the Upper West Region in the first NDC administration and Deputy General Secretary of the party, did not only resign in the run up to the 2008 general elections but also held a press conference to declare support for the then ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) saying his party would feel safer under an NPP administration.

When he appeared before the committee today, it was clear that the members had prepared to take him to task on that move and just as he settled down, Mr Haruna Iddrisu (NDC Tamale South), fired the first salvo asking if he did not think the move he made in 2008 was “a lapse of judgement” on his part.

But Mr Barton-Odro, perhaps fearing that the question was going to open up the nominee to bombardments from the other members, intervened and asked Mr Ziedeng not to answer that question.

Saved by the chairman, Mr Ziedeng only declared his commitment to the NDC saying he was part of the National Executive Committee of the party and if approved by Parliament, would work hard to assist the President, Mr John Mahama, to attain the goals he has set.

He then went on to answer questions on the security situation in the region, the functions of the Regional Co-ordinating Council (RRC), poverty reduction in the Upper West Region and the main problems confronting the people, among other things.

He told the committee that the main problems confronting the people of the region was poverty and hunger and said many interventions instituted in the past had failed.

The best way to deal with the situation, in his opinion, was to modernise agriculture by providing the people with modern machinery and improved seeds, among other things, to enable them to grow more food.

Asked how the influx of people from the northern part of Ghana to the south could be addressed, he said it was only through major interventions such as the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) initiative, adding that if such an intervention was successful, it would address many of the needs of the people and stop the migration to the south in search of jobs.

Mr Ziedeng was also of the view that policies such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) initiative were not far reaching enough and could not reduce poverty.

He said such programmes only gave temporary relief and said like the Chinese proverb goes, government should teach people how to fish instead of giving them fish, adding that empowering the poor with technology to operate effectively in their areas of endeavour, was the ultimate solution.

He noted that the main security challenge in the region was armed robbery on the major roads in the region and said the situation had become difficult to deal with because police posts were far and security forces from Tamale who could offer support were 200 kilometres away from the trouble spots.

To effectively address the problem, he advocated the establishment of a “permanent military station” in the region saying a “show of force” by the military would deter robbers.

The nominee also expressed support for proposals for the Regional Co-ordinating Councils (RRCs) to generate their own funds, saying that would strengthen the decentralisation process.

Samuel Sarpong - Ashanti Regional Minister-designate

When he appeared before the committee much earlier, the  nominee for  the Ashanti Region, Mr Samuel Sarpong, who came with a large number of supporters from the Ashanti Region, said he would work with people of all political shades and opinions to realise the goals set by the President.

He said during his time as Chief Executive of the Kumasi Metropolitan Authority (KMA), he collaborated with even members of the NPP to achieve targets set and described himself as a “unifier” and one who treats all equally.

To deal with the frequent fire outbreaks in Kumasi and decongest the Central Business District (CBD) of the metropolis, he said a plan had been drawn to construct three new markets and added that a Brazilian contractor had been approached to engage in the construction.

The market in use now, he said, had been in existence for about 50 years, had old structures and electric wires which caused the fire outbreaks and was no longer useful.

Turning the spotlight on how to deal with the menace of foreigners in the galamsey business in the region, Mr Sarpong said he would ensure that all non-Ghanaians complied with the law banning them from engaging in small scale mining and that the regional administration had a hand in the process of granting of licenses to foreign companies who applied for licenses to mine gold in the region.

He said he would also collaborate with the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, to settle all chieftaincy disputes in the region.

On how to revamp the old collapsed industries in the region such as the jute and shoe factories, he said the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) had taken over the shoe factory while the jute company had been put on divestiture.

He said investors were being sought and if private sector partners were found, the factory would resume operations.

Answering questions on how to address the problem of Fulani herdsmen, he said measures put in place in the past had not been effective because they were not holistic enough.

A committee, he added, had come out with solutions to the problem and if approved, he would consider the recommendations and implement them.

On the threat by some market women in Kumasi to go on a naked demonstration as a form of protest against his management style a few years ago, Mr Sarpong said he heard about it on radio but it never occurred and did ot know who was behind those threats.

E.K.T Addo - Central Regional Minister-designate

The minister designate for the Central Region, Mr E.K.T Addo, when he took his turn, acknowledged the fact that the construction of the Kotokuraba Market and the Cape Coast Stadium was dear to the hearts of the people of the region and said all efforts would be made to bring them into fruition.

He said all the “paper work” for the construction of the market had been done  while the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China had agreed  to grant 200 million yuan for the construction of the project. Traders in the market would be relocated after the monies are released.

With regard to the stadium, he said the Chinese contractors insisted that more land should be acquired for the project and the area fenced and added that payment of compensation to those whose property would be affected by the project would soon begin and after that the construction would start.

He noted that the Central Region was one of the poorest in Ghana and said the reasons for the situation needed to be ascertained and strategies mapped out to reduce poverty.

He said there was an emerging estate development industry in the region which the youth needed to benefit from and added that he would institute a craftsmanship training programme for the youth to enable them participate in the industry.

On the distribution of pre-mix fuel, he said he would ensure that the product is distributed directly to the fishermen to remove all the discrepancies.

Dr Mustapha Ahmed - Minister of State-designate at the Presidency

When he appeared before the committee, the minister of state at the presidency designate, Dr Mustapha Ahmed, said there were 27 agencies “bundled together” at the presidency and added that the presidency could not personally supervise or run all of them hence his appointment of ministers of state in his office to oversee those agencies.

He said as communicated to him by the President, his task at the presidency would be to supervise the operations of the Millennium Development Authority (MIDA), the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and the “yet-to-be-born” Eastern Corridor and Western Corridor development authorities..

He told the committee that a very popular drain in his constituency, known as the “Nima Gutter”  was under reconstruction and was being converted into a “tunnel drain” , adding that the project implementation committee would ensure that the project was completed on time.

Mr Alhassan Azong - Minister of State-designate at the Presidency

The last nominee to appear before the committee was Mr Alhassan Azong who has been nominated as a minister of state at the Presidency.

 Mr Azong, the only PNC Member of Parliament was also a minister of state during the last NDC administration who was responsible for public sector reforms.

He explained that as a PNC MP who served as a minister of state in an NDC administration he considered the gesture as an effort by the NDC to ensure an all-inclusive government.

Commenting on the public sector reforms, he expressed regret that Ghana did not learn lessons from reforms after the process had been completed and new ones started and called for capacity building of the staff of the ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that policies were carried through to the letter to enable the country to have strong institutions.

Story by Mark-Anthony Vinorkor