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Four people who joined hundreds of protesters in the ‘Occupy Flagstaff House’ demonstration were yesterday arrested near the Afrikiko Restaurant in Accra for going against police instructions.
While three were released on the way to the Police Headquarters, one was granted a GH¢5,000 bail and asked to report himself at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at the Police Headquarters today.
The police had cordoned off the Afrikiko Restaurant, which became the alternative meeting point after the police had prevented the protestors from marching on the streets from the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park to the Flagstaff House.
The police had ordered that the protestors leave the road, as they were obstructing traffic on the 37 Military Hospital-Accra side of the road but those arrested were reluctant to do so.
Just when the police had pushed the arrested demonstrators into a pick-up, Mr Kofi Bentil, the Vice-President and Strategy Manager of IMANI Ghana, joined them in the vehicle, insisting that he was their lawyer.
Organised by Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRG), which used social media to mobilise about 300 protestors, the protest march, according to the organisers, was to draw the government’s attention to issues, including the erratic power supply, the sliding cedi, constant increases in taxes, fuel shortage, economic hardships and the non-implementation of the Senchi Consensus, for it to find solutions to the challenges facing  the country.

 

The gathering  

Many of the protesters belonged to the middle class, including Ace Kojo Ankomah, a legal practitioner; Yoofi Grant of Databank; Dr Esi Ansah, a lecturer at the Ashesi University; Kofi Kapito, the Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Protection Agency; Comfort Ocran of Legacy and Legacy; Ken Ofori-Atta, a co-Founder of Databank; Selorm Branttie, the Communications Director of IMANI Ghana; a former Chief Marketing Officer of MTN, George Andah, and others who took turns to address the crowd.
Clad mainly in red and black attire, the protestors carried placards with messages including, “Things must change now”, “Rescue the value of Ghana”, “Yentie Obia”, “Boys abre”, “The King is naked”, “Ghanafuo abre”, “JM, Stop the corruption and think outside the box” and “Mahama Aden?”.
Mr Kapito rallied all Ghanaians, especially professionals, to stand up for the country, saying, “It is about time we stopped sitting on the bench. This has nothing to do with NDC or NPP.”

Drama

There were dramatic scenes at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park as the police, who insisted that the initial agreement was for the protestors to gather at the park, while their leaders took their petition to the Flagstaff House, locked the gate of the park.
The move appeared to have gingered the protesters and they began chanting, “We want to go home! We want to go home!”
When the crowd grew bigger at the entrance and began to force their way out of the park, the police eventually opened the gate and marched alongside the protestors until they reached the National Theatre, where the police formed a wall to prevent them from moving further.
Chanting slogans and singing patriotic songs, the crowd danced, while some of them described the police action as a violation of their right to demonstrate.
For more than 45 minutes there was a hold-up, as the demonstrators and the police failed to reach a compromise.
“You cannot go beyond this point and that is not negotiable,” the Head of the Police Public Relations Directorate, DSP Cephas Arthur, warned when some of the protestors approached him.
Not even the rains in the morning could deter the protestors, as some of them picketed in front of police armoured vehicles and refused to leave.

Afrikiko rat race

Eventually, the protestors pulled back and decided to converge on the Afrikiko Restaurant.
 The movement of the police armoured vehicles was greeted with boos.
Even before the protestors got to Afrikiko, the police had blocked the entrance to the area.
With their front divided, some of the protestors remained at the Ako Adjei Interchange; others converged in front of TV3 Network, while the remaining group had a rat race with the police at the Afrikiko Restaurant.
Battle-ready riot policemen, armed with tear gas canisters, took positions in front of the crowd, warding off any attempt to get close to the Flagstaff House.        

Flagstaff House

At 12:05 p.m., the Convener of the CGRG, Nana Kwesi Awuah, read the petition to the crowd, stating that ever since the government took office, “Ghanaians have to grapple with extreme discomfort, lowered productivity, the ever-rising rate of inflation and continuous loss of their purchasing power”.
“Ghanaians have to come to grips with limited access to essential services such as quality education and health care. Further, Ghanaians have to come to grips with poor quality of service provided by the utility companies, which turns out to be a mismatch to the constant increment in utility tariffs,” he said.
Eventually, after a haggle with the police, five leaders of the demonstrators were allowed into the Flagstaff House to present the petition.
The Deputy Chief of Staff, Ms Valerie Sawyer, who received the petition, pledged that the government would look into it and respond to the concerns of the petitioners.
She said while the government appreciated the concerns listed in the petition, it would also welcome solutions to the numerous challenges in the petition.
- See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/26344-occupy-flagstaff-house-demo-rocks-accra.html#sthash.vpwj9Cbd.dpuf
Policy makers and commercial farmers across the country have met in Accra to deliberate on available opportunities and bureaucratic bottlenecks that affect commercial agriculture in Ghana.
Drawing participants from commercial forestry, cereal and oil seed producers, the forum also sought to create the foundation for the development of a comprehensive agricultural investment guide in the near future.
Apart from challenges with funding, commercial farmers in the country maintain that there are gaps in the information required by various operators in the sector, both of which need to be dealt with at the highest level of the institutions that play various roles to ensure that an enabling, conducive and transparent environment for investment in the agricultural sector was created.
It is in the light of this that the meeting was organised to also increase the knowledge base of commercial farmers and future investors on various rules, regulations and procedures relevant to their work in the sector.
Organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Africa Lead, a US-based body campaigning to scale up food security in Africa, the forum also discussed policy issues relating to the importation of seeds to Ghana, opportunities for partnering with the private sector in fulfilment of the research needs of commercial farmers and regulations governing fertilisers in the country.

Farmers’ concerns and minister’s response

Giving an overview of commercial farming operations in Ghana, a representative of Africa Atlantic Franchise Farms,  Mr Kris Klokkenga, said infrastructure remained a major obstacle in the sector.
With farms that stretched deep into the belly of the Afram Plains in the Eastern Region, he said the company had to finance even road construction in the area at a cost of $30,000, in addition to building fences as cattle led by Fulani men destroyed farm produce.
“All these are extra costs that we did not budget for but had to add to bear,” he said.
Responding to the concerns, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, said the ministry would continue to support initiatives that would ensure food security in Ghana, apart from promoting the viability of commercial farms.
A major concern of commercial farmers in the country is that a lot of the government’s interventions go to small-scale farmers, while commercial farmers are left on their own to source funds and also pay market rates.
But Dr Alhassan noted that “Just as people put money into the petroleum and mining sectors and expect returns, it should also be possible for people who put money into the soil or water to also expect good returns on their investment,” he said.
Various stakeholders at the meeting expressed concern over the rather complex process farmers had to go through in registering for and receiving fertiliser application.
The law regulating the importation of fertilisers, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a 90-day window within which to take decisions on applications, dominated the discussions, as participants asked for a review of the law.
That, the Deputy Director of the EPA, Mr Joseph C. Edmund, said, was necessary to ensure public safety.
“The bottom line is that we want to make the market as safe as possible.”
He, however, said the law was being reviewed, and, therefore, the EPA would take into account the concerns expressed by the farmers during the review process.

GMO-related issues

In a presentation that centred on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biosafety and commercial farming in Ghana, the Deputy Director, Ministry of Environment Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Mr Eric A. Okoree, noted that the National Biosafety Committee had so far approved four applications for field trials in sweet potato, cowpea, rice and cotton.
He gave the assurance that the MESTI would just not allow any genetically modified crops into the country without ensuring that they passed the safety test.
Mr Okoree said the National Biosafety Authority, which would be the main regulator for GMOs, would soon be functional.
- See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/26272-policy-makers-commercial-farmers-discuss-bottlenecks-affecting-agriculture.html#sthash.kiluvWu3.dpuf
Policy makers and commercial farmers across the country have met in Accra to deliberate on available opportunities and bureaucratic bottlenecks that affect commercial agriculture in Ghana.
Drawing participants from commercial forestry, cereal and oil seed producers, the forum also sought to create the foundation for the development of a comprehensive agricultural investment guide in the near future.
Apart from challenges with funding, commercial farmers in the country maintain that there are gaps in the information required by various operators in the sector, both of which need to be dealt with at the highest level of the institutions that play various roles to ensure that an enabling, conducive and transparent environment for investment in the agricultural sector was created.
It is in the light of this that the meeting was organised to also increase the knowledge base of commercial farmers and future investors on various rules, regulations and procedures relevant to their work in the sector.
Organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Africa Lead, a US-based body campaigning to scale up food security in Africa, the forum also discussed policy issues relating to the importation of seeds to Ghana, opportunities for partnering with the private sector in fulfilment of the research needs of commercial farmers and regulations governing fertilisers in the country.

Farmers’ concerns and minister’s response

Giving an overview of commercial farming operations in Ghana, a representative of Africa Atlantic Franchise Farms,  Mr Kris Klokkenga, said infrastructure remained a major obstacle in the sector.
With farms that stretched deep into the belly of the Afram Plains in the Eastern Region, he said the company had to finance even road construction in the area at a cost of $30,000, in addition to building fences as cattle led by Fulani men destroyed farm produce.
“All these are extra costs that we did not budget for but had to add to bear,” he said.
Responding to the concerns, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, said the ministry would continue to support initiatives that would ensure food security in Ghana, apart from promoting the viability of commercial farms.
A major concern of commercial farmers in the country is that a lot of the government’s interventions go to small-scale farmers, while commercial farmers are left on their own to source funds and also pay market rates.
But Dr Alhassan noted that “Just as people put money into the petroleum and mining sectors and expect returns, it should also be possible for people who put money into the soil or water to also expect good returns on their investment,” he said.
Various stakeholders at the meeting expressed concern over the rather complex process farmers had to go through in registering for and receiving fertiliser application.
The law regulating the importation of fertilisers, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a 90-day window within which to take decisions on applications, dominated the discussions, as participants asked for a review of the law.
That, the Deputy Director of the EPA, Mr Joseph C. Edmund, said, was necessary to ensure public safety.
“The bottom line is that we want to make the market as safe as possible.”
He, however, said the law was being reviewed, and, therefore, the EPA would take into account the concerns expressed by the farmers during the review process.

GMO-related issues

In a presentation that centred on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biosafety and commercial farming in Ghana, the Deputy Director, Ministry of Environment Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Mr Eric A. Okoree, noted that the National Biosafety Committee had so far approved four applications for field trials in sweet potato, cowpea, rice and cotton.
He gave the assurance that the MESTI would just not allow any genetically modified crops into the country without ensuring that they passed the safety test.
Mr Okoree said the National Biosafety Authority, which would be the main regulator for GMOs, would soon be functional.
- See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/26272-policy-makers-commercial-farmers-discuss-bottlenecks-affecting-agriculture.html#sthash.kiluvWu3.dpuf

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