The biggest stories that got Ghanaians talking in 2020

The biggest stories that got Ghanaians talking in 2020

The year 2020 was one of the most eventful in recent memory providing highs and lows, moments to savour, others to forget and above all, testing times for our young democracy.

From scandals to the coronavirus to the election cycle, here are the top stories that captured the attention of Ghanaians.

Airbus scandal

On January 31, 2020, Ghana was cited as one of five countries in which global aerospace group, Airbus SE, allegedly bribed or promised payments to senior officials in exchange for business favours between 2009 and 2015, according to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

This led to a record £3 billion in settlement by Airbus with France, the United Kingdom and the United States to avoid corporate criminal charges.

President Akufo-Addo referred the scandal to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for investigations.

Martin Amidu, the former Special Prosecutor, before he resigned from the office stated in a report that John Mahama was the government official who was code-named ‘Government Official 1’ in the UK SFO’s report.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) also made the same allegation.

Mr. Mahama has denied the claims and there has not been any conclusive evidence implicating him.

Coronavirus in Ghana

The first two cases of the coronavirus in Ghana were confirmed on 12 March 2020 after detection in two infected people who came to Ghana from Norway and from Turkey. 

The government banned all public gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus. Basic schools, senior high schools and universities, both public and private, were also closed. 

On March 22, Ghana’s borders were closed after initial restrictions on travellers from countries with over 200 positive coronavirus cases. On the same day, the Ghana Health Service reported the first death from the virus.

On 30 March, the government initiated a partial lockdown of Accra, Kasoa, Tema and Kumasi which lasted for three weeks.

In the course of the management of the virus, the state offered subsidies on utilities and free food for vulnerable Ghanaians.

The estimated the cost of the pandemic on Ghana’s economy at some GHS9.5 billion cedis.

Ghana ended the year with 54,771 recoded cases of the virus, 53,594 discharges and 335 deaths.

Voters register controversy

Prior to Ghanaians going to the poll to exercise their franchise in the December 7 elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana conducted the compilation of new voters register under controversial circumstances.

The EC had argued that the existing register was bloated while the existing biometric system was outmoded and expensive to maintain hence the need to go in for a new one.

After weeks of public backlash, protests from some opposition parties and lawsuits against the EC, the Supreme Court cleared the EC to go ahead and compile a new voters register for the 2020 general elections saying the election management body was independent.

The court also ruled against the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) quest to get the EC to accept the current voters ID card as proof of identification in the planned registration exercise after the commission amended the law to allow only the Ghana Card and passports.

John picks Jane as running mate

NDC flagbearer John Mahama named former Minister of Education, Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate for the 2020 general elections making her the first woman running mate of one of Ghana’s two main political parties.

It was viewed as a strong step forward for women inclusion in mainstream politics.

Mr. Mahama previously had Kwesi Ammisah Arthur as running mate, who like, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang, hails from the Central Region.

Okada debate

Ahead of the December 7 polls, NDC Flagbearer John Mahama promised to legalise the operation of commercial motorcycles, also known as okadas, should he win the elections.

This tossed the country into a series of debate on the risk, safety and importance of legalising and regulating such a business venture.

According to the NDC flagbearer, even though the business of commercial motorcycles was illegal in Ghana, it had created jobs for many unemployed young people.

The NPP criticised the promise saying it was reckless and populist. It further proposed alternatives, which included the CODA Drive initiative which has made quadricycles available for Okada riders.

Domelevo forced on leave

The presidency sparked public backlash after one of the men on the vanguard of Ghana’s corruption fight Auditor-General Daniel Yao Domelevo, was directed to proceed on his accumulated leave of 167 days on July 1, 2020.

The decision was criticised by observers who felt the independence of the Auditor-General was violated by the President. Nine civil society groups subsequently jointly sued President Akufo-Addo at the Supreme Court after an earlier appeal to him to rescind the decision.

The directive came as the Auditor General was scrutinising a deal the Senior Minister’s office had with a UK based company called Kroll and Associates. A 2018 report indicated there were procurement breaches resulting in payment of US$1 million to the UK firm in 2017 to recover assets from identified wrongdoers, among others, without verifying outcomes.

Return of Volta secessionists

Calls for the secession of parts of the Volta Region took a violent turn when purported Western Togoland separatists blocked major roads in the region on Friday, September 25, 2020, to voice their demands.

It was the most violent separatist action as the Aveyime and Mepe police stations were raided whilst clashes with police resulted in some wounded and a fatality among the separatist after military intervention.

The government said it foiled a plan by the separatists to burn the Ho Central Market and other key installations.”

The separatist’s violence has been attributed to the Homeland Study Group Foundation though its leader, Charles Kudzordzi, has denied being behind the attacks.

Over 70 persons were arrested and arraigned in connection with the separatist violence.

Payment of customers of fund management companies

In October 2020, the Registrar-General, who is the official liquidator of the 53 collapsed fund management companies announced that payment had begun to investors whose funds had been locked up.

The Registrar-General said the payment was going to only 20 of the fund management companies. According to Jemima Oware, she had been able to receive clearance from the court to liquidate such companies.

According to the Registrar-General’s Department, a total of 2,850 investors were identified with a total investment value of GHS 563.65 million.

The bailout program was implemented via a special purpose entity, the Amalgamated Mutual Fund Plc.

According to the liquidator, the first batch of 170 investors out of the 2,850 who had submitted their Redemption requests had begun receiving their monies.

Mfantseman MP slain

The nation was shocked by news on October 9, 2020, that the Member of Parliament for Mfantseman, Ekow Quansah Hayford had been shot and killed by suspected robbers.

The MP was killed on Abeadze Dominase–Abeadze Duadzi–Mankessim road by some unknown assailants on his return from a campaign trip. He was buried on November 28, 2020.

Eight persons are currently standing trial for their alleged involvement in the murder of the late MP.

His widow, Ophelia Hayford, replaced him as the NPP’s parliamentary candidate and won the election.

Death of Rawlings

The continent was stunned when Ghana’s longest-serving head-of-state, Jerry John Rawlings, died in the early hours of Thursday, November 12, 2020, at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.

According to reports, the former President had been battling with his ill-health for some days before his death which plunged the country into mourning.

Even in death, Mr. Rawlings is still stirring controversy as there appears to be no agreement on how to handle his funeral rites.

The funeral was scheduled for December 23 by the state but this upset the Anlo Traditional Council which wanted to be consulted.

The funeral rites of the late former president were then postponed indefinitely.

Agyapa royalties deal

The government through the Minerals Income Investment Fund, set up Agyapa Royalties Limited to securitize Ghana’s gold royalties.

Under the deal, Ghana was to own 51 per cent of the Jersey-based company Agyapa Royalties and the remaining shares would be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In return for securitizing the future revenues, the government has argued that it could raise at least $500 million in capital to ease their growing debt crisis and invest in developmental projects by listing the remaining 49 percent of shares.

But the government was criticised for not being transparent with the deal and a subsequent corruption risk assessment by the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu drew a link between the transaction advisor appointed on the project, Imara Corporate Finance of South Africa, and Databank Financial Services, a Ghanaian company co-founded by the Finance Minister.

Among other things, Amidu concluded that this deal, the Agyapa Royalties deal, violated multiple laws whilst the appointment of transaction advisors, did not meet the “fundamentals of probity, transparency, and accountability.”

Though the President instructed the Finance Minister to re-submit the deal to Parliament in light of the report, the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, claimed the President tried to interfere in the deal and subsequently resigned.

Martin Amidu’s resignation

On November 16, 2020, Ghana’s first Special Prosecutor of Ghana, Martin Amidu resigned from his post having served since 11th January 2018.

He sparked controversy weeks to the general election by attributing his resignation to interference from state actors in matters like the Agyapa Royalties deal, including President Akufo-Addo.

Mr. Amidu notably described President Akufo-Addo as the “mother corruption serpent” and not the “innocent flower of anti-corruption” he once thought. He also said President Akufo-Addo had mistaken him as his “poodle”.

In a series of public statements, Mr. Amidu, among others described the period following his release of the corruption risk assessment as a “traumatic experience”.

Hung Parliament

Ghana was left with an unprecedented hung Parliament after the 2020 polls. In contrast to 2016 where the NPP secured a record majority with 169 seats in Parliament, the governing party’s representation dropped to 137 seats in Parliament.

Parliament

The NDC matched the NPP by also winning 137 seats in Parliament, the highest ever proportion of seats held by an opposition party in Ghana’s fourth republic.

The two parties were joined by an independent candidate, Andrew Amoako Asiamah, who won the Fomena seat.

Fomena MP’s redemption

The Fomena MP, Andrew Amoako Asiamah, was forced out of Parliament by his party, the NPP, after he decided to contest the 2020 election as an independent candidate due to disagreements in his constituency.

The NPP wrote to the Speaker of Parliament to demand the invocation of its party’s constitutional provision that makes a parliamentary seat vacant after a member of Parliament leaves the party that sponsored his candidature to the House.

Amoako Andrew Asiamah

But in the election, Mr. Asiamah emerged winner in the Parliamentary polls which left the NDC and NPP with 137 seats apiece in Parliament.

At the end of the December 7 polls, Mr. Asiamah obtained 12,805 of the total votes cast beating his contenders; Philip Ofori Asante and Christiana Appiagyei of the NDC who polled 10,798 and 2,608 votes respectively.

Despite the tensions with the NPP, Andrew Asiamah stated he will side with his former party in the 8th Parliament thus giving it a Majority.

Mahama challenges election outcome

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) flag bearer, John Mahama officially filed a petition at the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the December 7, 2020, presidential elections.

The petition followed weeks of street protests over alleged voter fraud and irregularities in the polls

According to Mr. Mahama’s petition, neither he nor President Akufo-Addo attained a clear majority because of the omission of one constituency from the provisional declaration of results by Ghana’s electoral commission.

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