The stories that left us stunned in 2018

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As the sun goes down on 2018, Myjoyonline.com takes you back to some of the stories that caused you to not only hold your breath but left you at the edge of your seat.

By January 2018, the president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had spent exactly 12 months in office and perhaps, as an anniversary present, he announced former Attorney-General, Martin Amidu as Ghana’s first special prosecutor.

On that fateful Thursday afternoon, President Akufo-Addo assembled some of his ministers and government appointees at the Jubilee House to make the short announcement that left Ghanaians – expectant of the office – stunned at the president’s choice.

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Members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) – a party Mr Amidu is a member and even served as Attorney-General during Prof Atta Mills’ administration – could not believe the news. They were unhappy, they had no clue it was going to happen, but it did regardless and one could say it made them mad.

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That same month, news of Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia being suddenly flown to the United Kingdom after falling ill, sent shock waves across the country. The illness was not disclosed – as expected – but while many wished and prayed that he recovers, rumours spread about his death, deepening the fright many had gone into since government announced the development.

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Photo: Government officials were at the KIA to welcome Dr Bawumia

Thankfully, he was well and a video of him and his wife Samira Bawumia taking a stroll on one of London’s street instead of calming nerves raised more fear after some people claimed the video was recorded years ago.

Dr Bawumia arrived back in Ghana after 12 days in the arms of his smiling wife and to a great welcome at the Kotoka International Airport by the president himself, members of the government and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). As usual, he smiled and hugged almost everyone who came to welcome him home.

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After years of court proceedings, a High Court in Accra jailed a former top government official, Abuga Pele and a private service provider, Philip Assibit after finding them guilty of 19 counts of dishonestly causing financial loss to the state.

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Photo: Abuga Pele

The prosecution was able to prove 13 of the 19 counts Pele faced, ranging from aiding and abetting crime to willfully causing financial loss to the state. Some of the counts included intentionally misapplying public property and dishonestly causing loss to public property.

The satisfied court sentenced Pele and Assibit to six and 12 years respectively.

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In March, news about a supposed US Military base in Ghana broke. Many panicked after the deal was approved by Cabinet granting the US troops unfettered access to certain facilities in the country and wide-ranging tax exemptions to the US Military.

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There were protests and then came the clarifications that the US Military was not setting up a base in Ghana and that exercise was a joint Ghana-US Military Co-operation agreement of which Ghana was expected to earn some $20 million.

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That same month, President Akufo-Addo changed the name of the seat of government from Flagstaff House to Jubilee House through an executive instrument. The change made it the second time in nine years that the seat of government had been changed since the edifice was constructed by former president John Agyekum Kufuor.

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The building was constructed in 2007 to mark Ghana’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.

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The woes of the banking sector started in March when the Bank of Ghana took over management of uniBank and four others after declared them insolvent.

Governor of the Central Bank at a press conference explained that the takeover was due to challenges facing the five banks and added that weak supervisory standards and weak operations were the cause of the challenges.

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uniBank had had to fall on the BoG for money to the tune of ¢2.2 billion since 2016 to enable it to operate. The central bank appears fed up with the lack of improvement in the bank’s fortunes despite the bail-outs.

The four other banks- Beige Bank, Sovereign Bank, Royal Bank and the Construction Bank- were dissolved subsequently leaving the banking sector in complete chaos.

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That issues about homosexuality and gay marriage surfaced again in 2018 after President Akufo-Addo’s in an interview with Aljazeera last year was taken out of context. The president, in a response to if he was ever going to legalise gay marriage, said he did not see the need for it but added that the laws could be changed if the majority of Ghanaians called for it.

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He was chewed for the comment but it was a rumour spread by the opposition NDC about government’s plans to legalise gay marriage that rattled Christian leaders and the majority of Ghanaians. It was quickly denied by government.

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There was also the shocking removal of Charlotte Osei as chairperson of the Electoral Commission and two other deputies.

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A letter from the presidency announcing their removal said Madam Osei, Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwa had misconducted themselves and were incompetent.

Mrs Osei has been replaced by the head of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Jean Mensah.

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The president Akufo-Addo suspended three of his appointees, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, Pius Enam Hadzide; Acting Director General of the National Sports Authority, Robert Sarfo Mensah as well as National Sports Authority Board Chair, Kwadwo Baah Agyemang.

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The suspension was in reaction to the visa scandal which has rocked the country in the wake of the Commonwealth games currently underway in Australia.

However, Pius Hadzide and Kwadwo Baah Agyemang were reinstated after they were exonerated by an investigation team.

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The football fraternity had its fair share of the upset in 2018. An investigative piece by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI team uncovered what they titled famously Numebr 12, When Greed and Corruption Become the Norm .

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The investigative piece did not only surprise the many football loving Ghanaians but also led to the disgraceful end of one of Africa’s football gods, Kwesi Nyantakyi.

He has been handed a lifetime ban by football governing body FIFA a fine in the amount of CHF 500,000 which if converted into cedis is over two million.

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Parliament was also rocked by a double salary saga. The double salaries were paid some appointees of the former government. About nine of them were fingered in the scandal, including Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu.

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A minister is paid ¢15,739 but a minister who is also an MP takes ¢16,423. Some MPs serving as ministers took salaries for both positions and as a result, bagged ¢32,162 a month making them the highest paid political office holders in Ghana.

All the former government officials cited in the alleged scandal are members of the opposition NDC, prompting some of them to blame the governing NPP of political witch-hunting and a deliberate effort to stain their reputation.

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The President in a surprising turn of events sacked the Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko.

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The president said the decision to sack Agyarko was in the “best interest of the country as well as the administration.”

He said Mr Agyarko has accepted the president’s decision to fire him.

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2018 was a good year for telecommunications giant MTN. Ghana’[s largest telecommunications service provider raised an eye watering ¢444 million in its Initial Public Offer (IPO).

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Official figures showed that about GH₵444m out of the GH₵1.14 billion raised came from Ghanaians, representing about 38.69%. About GH₵703 million was also raised from non-Ghanaians representing about 61.31%

The figures also show that out of the 128,152 applicants, 127,826 were Ghanaians and only 326 were non-Ghanaians.

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A contract for real-time call traffic monitoring with IT firm, Kelni GVG also generated a huge storm during the year. The $89 million deal saw the Communications Minister hauled before Parliament after civil society and some stakeholders raised questions about it.

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But Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, defended the controversial contract signed with Haiti-based company, Kelni GVG which will allow the government to among others, determine the telecom operators are declaring accurate figures.

The revenue assurance contract with Kelni GVG is based on a law which mandates government to independently verify the taxes telcos pay to government.

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Another contract by the same Ministry on Ghana’s digital migration again became a source of concern. The Ministry had awarded the contract to a Chinese firm, Startimes prompting a quick condemnation by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).

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The independent broadcasters in a lengthy press release asserted that the deal Ghana is entering into with StarTimes amounts to ceding the country’s broadcasting space to the Chinese giant.

“If StarTimes is allowed to control both Ghana’s only digital television infrastructure and the satellite space in the name of digital migration, Ghana would have virtually submitted its broadcast space to Chinese control and content,” GIBA said.

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Government’s flagship Free SHS brought with it joy and then disappointment. After videos circulated of students sleeping in unacceptable conditions in senior high schools and reports of overcrowding, government sought to find a solution.

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That solution came in the double track system which was rolled out in the 2018/2019 academic year. The double year-round system divides the entire student body and staff into two different tracks. So while one track is in school, the other is on vacation.

The rotation sequence will depend on the year-round calendar being used. In Ghana, the school calendar starts from September and ends in April with three different terms. The first term is from September to December, the second term starts in January and ends in April while the third term is from April/May to July.

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In fulfillment of a pledge to reduce unemployment, President Akufo-Addo rolled out the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) programme.

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Tertiary school graduates who had successfully completed their National Service programme were recruited onto the programme that will see them earn ¢700 every month for three years. The 100,000 graduates were posted to certain sectors of the public service under the modules; Educate Ghana, Heal Ghana, Feed Ghana, Revenue Ghana, Digitise Ghana, Civic Ghana and Enterprise Ghana.

Of course, the NDC was unimpressed.

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Finally, in December, the Electoral Commission successfully organised a referenda for the creation of six new regions in the country. The election which was held on December 27 saw many people in the affected 47 district voting YES for the creation of the new regions.

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—myjoyonline


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