From Samuel Agbewode
Tension is mounting in over 60 fishing communities in the Biakoye District of the region, as over 1,000 fishermen and canoe owners are planning to embark on an indefinite strike to express their displeasure over two and a half months during which they have not been supplied with premix fuel, thereby making their businesses collapse, leading to severe hardship.
The fishermen and canoe owners are accusing the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Biakoye, Madam Comfort Atta, for alleged hijacking, diverting and sale of premix fuel outside the district since she took over the administration of the area, and called on the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to use his good offices to bring the DCE to order, since her alleged activities were fast destroying the economic life of the people.
Briefing the media at Tapa-Abotoase, a Zonal Premix Fuel Coordinator, Mr. Batali Nash, pointed out that since the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government took over the administration of the country, the supply of premix fuel to fishermen and canoe owners for their outboard motors was going smoothly until the President appointed Madam Atta as DCE for Biakoye, then the problems with premix fuel supply surfaced.
Mr. Nash appealed to the President to, as a matter of urgency, remove the Madam Atta from office, because her position as the DCE was gradually making the government unpopular, and that out of the three Zonal Coordinators who were inaugurated to handle premix fuel, the DCE decided to deal with only one of them who is a teacher, and anytime they were informed that fuel had arrived, the fishermen would only be told that it was for the DCE.
He explained that the fishermen and canoe owners who were initially satisfied with the NPP government’s premix fuel distribution, were now angry to the extent that if elections were to be conducted in May this year, the ruling government’s vote would drop from 9,000 to 4,000.
Mr. Nash alleged that the DCE has collaborated with a teacher at the Tapa-Abotoase R.C Junior High School (JHS), Mr. Samuel Takyi, a Premix Fuel Coordinator, to embark on her nefarious activities.
The Chairman of the Tapa-Abotoase Boat Owners Association, Mr. Vincent Aboagye, said the National Premix Secretariat informed them that premix fuel would be provided to them frequently, but anytime the fuel was sent, the DCE allegedly diverted it to other areas.
Mr. Aboagye said the DCE and her alleged partners hoard premix fuel and increase the price of a gallon from GH¢52.50p to GH¢80, which they were compelled to buy at the time when the product was only found with carpenters and petty traders, until the product was allegedly diverted outside the district.
The Chairman explained that the intended strike means that all fishermen and canoe owners in Biakoye would no longer patronise markets in the district, such as the Abotoase market, because after they have struggled to get premix fuel in other districts like Krachi-East and West and Kpando among others, they would only engage in business activities in the various markets in these districts, and not markets in Biakoye.
Mr. Aboagye further explained that if the government supports the DCE and allows them to take such an action, it would not only deprive the assembly off the needed revenue, but also be on record that it was during President Akufo-Addo’s regime that fishermen and canoe owners embarked on a strike, since 1992 in the Biakoye District.
The Assembly Member for Tapa-Alavanyo, Mr. Amos Boku, said for the past three months, fishermen and canoe owners have been complaining to him about the lack of premix fuel, and that they suspected that the product was being diverted outside the district.
The Assembly Member for Tapa-Aboabo Electoral Area, Mr. Daniel Vadze, said it is a shame that the DCE for Biakoye is alleged to have been hijacking and diverting premix fuel.
Mr. Vadze said since the DCE took over the administration of the area, there has never be any sign of development, but rather confusion and economic hardship, and said he and the fishermen were prepared to prove the allegations against the DCE on any platform that would be made available to them.
The Paramount Chief of the Tapa Traditional Area, Nana Okoforobour Baffour Kwame Asante II, confirmed that the fishermen and canoe owners had informed him that they planned to embark on a strike, but he pleaded with them to exercise restrain to enable him to contact the Volta Regional Minister and the DCE to find out why the premix fuel was no longer being supplied to the fishermen.
The Paramount Chief, therefore, appealed to President Akufo-Addo that if the issue was not a national problem, but only being experienced in the Biakoye District, then conscious efforts be made to provide the fishermen with premix fuel to forestall any form of demonstration, which, he said, would tarnish the image of the district.
However, when Madam Comfort Atta was contacted for her side of the story, she denied all the allegations, and described it as a deliberate attempt by the fishermen and canoe owners to tarnish her hard-won reputation.
She said that she does not handle the distribution of premix fuel, and rather asked the District Premix Fuel Coordinator, Mr. George Attah Dzeble, to explain the issues relating to premix fuel to the media.
Mr. Dzeble explained that the DCE has no business in relation to premix fuel distribution, pointing out that the system put in place would not pave way for anybody to hijack and divert the fuel as was being alleged, and described it as very unfortunate.
The District Coordinator further explained that even though there has not been any supply of premix fuel to the Biakoye District for some time now, it was less than one month since premix has not been supplied, and not two and a half months, as stated by the fishermen and canoe owners, and assured them that premix would soon be supplied to them.
Mr. Dzeble said the lack of premix fuel in the district was due to a problem from the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), and said he had informed the Zonal Coordinators to also inform the fishermen and boat owners about the problem, and appealed to them to remain calm, as efforts were being made to supply fuel to them.