The new Western Regional Minister, Dr Kobby Otchere-Darko Mensah was sworn into office on Friday 5th April 2019 to take over from the Dr Kweku Afriyie. ourstorisonline.com takes a retrospective examination of Dr Afriyie’s two-year stay in office over his high and low moments.
Dr. Kweku Afriyie
Dr Afriyie was the first person to be appointed the Western Regional Minister when the NPP won the 2016 general elections. He was named the minister on January 24, 2017, and served until he was dropped later in February 2019.
A. His Successes
The position of a regional minister is largely to coordinate affairs of the MMDAs in the region. In this direction, more or fewer developments in the region can be attributed to a good regional coordinating work headed by the regional minister. In the Western Region, some significant changes happened during the reign of Dr Afriyie that worth commendations. Below is ourstorisonline.com top picks.
i. Galamsey fight
Before Dr Kweku Afriyia was confirmed the minister for the region, the problem of illegal mining in rivers and forests, as well as some farmlands were rife, with Wassa Akropong in the Amenfi East Municipality notoriously taking the lead.
Exactly two months from the day he was appointed; thus from January 24th and March 24th 2017, he became the head of the Regional Security Council to “supervise” the work of Operation Vanguard to restore the environment, when a ban was placed on all forms of small scale mining.
Today, even though the menace is yet to be completely eliminated, the environment around has seen some regeneration, with “calm” restored to many communities hitherto dominated by foreign illegal miners.
ii. Creation of Western North Region
Dr Afriyie superintended over the successful split of the then Western Region into two; Western Region and Western North Region. Earlier misunderstandings that erupted over whether the three Wassa Amenfi districts should form part of Western North Region were handled without skirmishes.
He has subsequently “stepped aside” in peace when he was dropped from both the Western and Western North Regional Minister positions.
iii. Chieftaincy Disputes
Many handing over notes of past regional ministers have highlighted chieftaincy disputes in the western region as stifling development. Like previous regional ministers, Dr Kweku Afriyie’s administration followed the paths of managing the disputes to prevent it from denigrating. The “Mente meho ase” which started in the Eastern Nzema Traditional Council between subjects of Esiama and the Traditional Council during the tenure of former minister Paul Evans Aidoo, had pockets of such emerging between the same traditional council and the chief of Sanzule.
Even though that issue is still pending, it has been managed such that it does not stifle the work of ENI’s OCTP Project in the area.
At the end of his 2-year reign as the minister, relative peace and tranquillity exist in all 20 paramouncies across the Western Region.
iv. Road and other physical infrastructure
In the area of development, we could cite the commencement of the Dixcove, Adwoa and Axim sea defence projects. All projects are yet to be completed, but greater progress is made towards fixing the gradual erosion of communities along the coast. There were four new health facilities which came to the region.
We are also aware of the reconstruction of the Kajebril-Mpohor road, the construction of the 30km road the president cut the sod for its reconstruction in the Bibiani Anwheaso Bekwai District in 2018. A Sefwi Dwenase Lorry station is credited to him for its reconstruction.
v. The Apremdo Market
The Apremdo Market has a history. Market women at the Takoradi Market Circle since the time of the late Mrs Gladys Asmah as Takoradi MP did vow not to do business in the market. Many mayors of Sekondi Takoradi, as well as previous ministers, tried unsuccessfully to relocate some market women and bus terminals from Takoradi Market Circle to the Apremdo Market.
But, under the watchful eyes of Dr Kweku Afriyie, even though the market itself is not fully operational as it should, the relocation of the Metro Mass Transit terminal, the Kumasi Station and other buses for different destinations from Mankessim White House to the Apremdo Market has seen life back to the market. This move, superintended by Dr. Afriyie is commendable, judging by the history of previous relocation attempts.
B. The low moments of Dr Afriyie’s 2year administration
Despite the successes of Dr Afriyie highlighted above, there were some bad notes that he could have handled better, in view of his years of experience in governance and his passion for the Western Region. Below are some of his low times picked by ourstorisonline.com.
i. GHUMCO gas explosion
It was shocking to hear the minister say to the 181 victims of the GHUMCO gas explosion [which became a national issue on May 9 2017] that if any one of them wanted the company to compensate them for the burns, they should go to court on their own. As we speak, the company GHUMCO only paid some of the medical bills of the victims. Many are those they completely ignored. There are those we know for a fact, who have lost their jobs and looks but without any compensation.
Does Dr. Afriyie believe that the mayor of a Province in China [where managers of GHUMCO comes from], would allow a Ghanaian whose company operations have caused mass casualties of 181 persons in China, be left to go free without the Province leadership ensuring he pays adequate compensations to the victims?
Here in Ghana, Dr., you and your deputy allowed the company to continue its abuses. Are you aware that 15 staff of the company who were themselves injured in that explosion did not receive a dime as compensation? Dr, are you aware one of the Chinese managers at GHUMCO had the moral turpitude to ask his staff to kneel down on the floor and apologize to his dog when staff hit it for biting a colleague? Are you aware it was a radio station that got Immigration Officers to intervene and work on deporting this abusive manager?
Dr, if you are reading this, notice you lost it. You chose to minister only in favourable times, [in this case]but left a fight for right and justice to poor people; something you knew they couldn’t do deep down you. I wasn’t a victim, neither any family relative was, but as a minister who saw whatever happened, telling the injured to fight their course was a sign of a leader who disregarded the concept of service!
Today, the two of the victims we know have had their wives stopped their fishmongering business because; they spent all their business capital in taking care of their injured husbands.
ii. Big dreams, plenty talks, no show!
We saw the passion with which you spoke about the Western Region. You reminded us at different forums that the region is rich, yet development is low. You kept reminding us until it became a cliché journalists knew that at every event you were present, you will certainly talk about. Surprisingly, nothing happened beyond the talk. It’s uncomfortable to say it, but leaders must accept their shortcomings. Mining communities such as Tarkwa, Prestea and the likes saw nothing!
Even ensuring that Local Mining Committees to manage the Mining Community Development Scheme prescribed by the Mineral Development Fund are created and inaugurated in mining district assemblies, so that royalties from the mining companies can this time, be used to elevate the services provided in mining areas, you didn’t, as chief development coordinator do for mining districts.
There is nothing to show to us in view of the big dreams! Nothing! Maybe I am wrong, so show us one thing we could refer to you since you became the minister! You successfully demonstrated the ceremonial role of the position of a regional minister! You gave us big hopes but delivered little.
iii. The kidnapping of three Tadi girls
This kidnapping story became, and is still a national conundrum! As the father of the region and the head of the Regional Security Council, not a single word did Dr Afriyie authored on the missing girls. Archbishop Bonaventure Kwofie from Accra visited the families and spoke about the matter. Some minister from Accra came to Takoradi to visit the families. Former ministers of state such as Armah Kofi Buah added his voice. Even your own deputy, Mrs Eugenia Kusi was heard speaking about it. But the silence of the head of the Regional Security Council, under whose watch three girls have been kidnapped, is a very low precedent set by a statesman as Dr Afriyie. Even after this dreadful event, many are the security loopholes yet to be fixed.
iv. Sekondi Takoradi beautification
Of the 18 traffic light regulated intersections in the regional capital and Tarkwa, only three which were working before his administration continued to work. The rest have completely fallen off, whilst those standing don’t work. Imagine the whole of Sekondi Takoradi with over 11 traffic regulated intersections having just 3 working. As with Tarkwa, none is working for many years.
Apart from this, the biggest station for commuters going to Accra remains muddy when in raining season or dusty during sunshine. The whole of the Western Region doesn’t have a decent place to commute travellers going to Accra, if not the recent Apremdo Market. Dr Afriyie felt all was well because he barely used public transport.
Dr Afriyie also superintended the decongestion exercise which cost the Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly some Gh2m. as we speak, many of the areas where temporal structures were cleared have gathered weeds and unkept. The aftermath of the decongestion exercise showed a lack of post decongestion exercise.
Now, after carefully examining all that we could within the 2-year reign of Dr Afriyie as Western Regional Minister from 24th January 2017 to April 5, 2019, we score Dr Afriyie as follows:
- Human relations 8/10
- Sanitizing Takoradi Market Circle 2/10
- Fight against galamsey 7/10
- Regional peace and security 6/10
- Road construction 2/10
- Beautification of the regional capital 1/10
Overall score 26/60. 26 per cent in “a subject” more complex than mathematics, ourstorisonlince.com gives him a “credit” for his performance.
Now, a new regional minister has been sworn in, pledging to make the Western Region a shining model of development for others to emulate. ourstorisonline.com is keeping its ears on the ground on his vision for the region.