The McCarthy Hill Residents Association, has warned politicians and public officials who kowtow to the demands of the Chinese and other foreigners with huge sums of money to invest in the country, to first think about the health and safety of Ghanaians.
“As citizens, we must stand up to foreign agents and businesses who attempt to destroy our communities in the name of development. We must realize that with our collective efforts, determination, strong leadership, and a sense purpose, we can achieve just about anything for our communities. We must use all legal methods and means at our disposal to protect our communities and we shouldn’t shy away from doing the right thing even if it may be uncomfortable and risky”.
This came to light at a press conference organized by the Association and presented by Mr. Eddie Quaynor MBE on the activities of Empire Cement Factory which they indicated, posed health threats to residents of McCarthy Hill in Accra.
“Empire Cement Factory (ECG) is operating illegally in our environment with impunity and absolute disregard to our laws”.
Empire Cement Factory the Association disclosed, is a Chinese owned operator with a Ghanaian collaborator, Nana Obokomatta IX, producing cement despite a refusal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana Standard Board, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI) to issue it with the relevant permit.
According to Mr. Eddie Quaynor, the Association’s concerned have to do with the health hazards associated from cement production and packaging facilities close to them.
He hinted that, no prior engagement with the community since onset of the project was made adding that, as soon as they became aware of the project, a meeting was called with the Member of Parliament, Ms. Tina Mensah, the MCE, Mr. Patrick Kumor on the 1st March, 2021 and decided to petition the EPA.
“The Association has noted with dismay that Empire Cement Factory did not adhere to the EPA’s directives issued on 26th March, 2021. Reader work proceeded at the alarming and accelerated speed. Currently, three silos have been installed on site. The installation of these silos has heightened the Association’s suspicion that contrary to what they had stated, Empire Cement intends to produce and bag cement products. Not the production of cement bags as they had let us to believe when we met on 1st March, 2021.
Mr. Quaynor pointed out that, the Media’s pre-occupation with the Chinese’s involvement with the Galamsey activities seems to ignore other illegal activities being perpetuated in other communities in the country saying, Empire Cement Factory is operating illegally in the environment with impunity and absolute disregard to the country’s laws.
Among the issue raised by the Residents Association as a concern to them are as follows:
As what informed the Chief Executive of Gbawe & Weijai Municipal Assembly – Mr. Patrick Kumor – to allow the sitting of the Cement Factory, which is by its very nature, classified under heavy industry. It’s inconceivable that his decision ignored the health and safety of the residents by allowing the ECF to be located within a densely populated residential area. WHY!
Again, did Ms. Tina Mensah, MP who doubles as a Health Minister, also ignored the health and safety impact that the sitting would have on sections of her constituency and, why did she also failed to recognize the destruction of one of the long serving industries – Panbros Salt – as a source of foreign exchange earner for Ghana. “Sitting the Cement Factory next to Panbros Salt is like destroying one precious industry conducive to the environment for another that is detrimental to human settlement”. WHY!
Furthermore, the Association want to know why the owners of ECF disregarded several warnings issued by the EPA to cease operations. “It is inconceivable that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was unable to enforce the current law, mandated by Parliament. It is now clear that the EPA does not have stringent financial sanctions to impose on the Empire Cement Factory. The lack of these tough punitive measures enabled Empire Cement Factory to disregard the EPA’s order to cease operations and continued to work unabated. Parliament must address the weakness in the current provisions and enact laws aim at strengthening the powers of the EPA to impose stiffer penalties”. WHY!
The Association revealed that, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI) upon receipt of a complaint lodged by ECF against the EPA, conducted a review of the decision taken by the EPA not to issue ECF with the requisite permit. “MHRA participated in this review and the report firmly upheld the EPA’s decision not to issue ECF with a permit. The ECF was duly informed of the outcome of this thorough review and was asked to cease operations. Despite this, ECF continues to operate up till now”. WHY!
Mr. Eddie Quaynor averred that, MESTI upon photographic and video evidence from the MHRA, directed the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to monitor the activities of ECF. “I was reliably informed by EPA that they (BNI) invaded the ECF premises, but this didn’t stop them from operating” WHY!
He also said, Minister of Trade and Industry indicated in Parliament (16th March 2022 Hansard) that the “EPA has not permitted Empire Cement to manufacture on the site next to Panbros Salt…” “In line with the determination by the EPA, the Ministry has withheld approval of granting 1D1F status to the said company” WHY!
Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) according to Mr. Eddie Quaynor, on 8th April 2022, alleges illegal cement production by ECF. It reported discoveries of Empire Cement brand on sales on the open market which neither it nor EPA have issued permits for ECF to produce cement. WHY!
He noted that, it is impossible for the Chinese to operate in the country unless they are supported, encouraged, and abetted by Ghanaian collaborators. The Galamsey debacle is proof of this. “In the case of ECF, the operations is co-partnered by one Nana Obokomatta IX, with support from the Municipal Chief Executive and the local MP”.
The Association said, Governments acquiesces to the Chinese, which allowed them to treat the country’s laws with impunity and the people with contempt must stop. “We have a document, dated September 2020, from the office of the Presidency directing the Cement Factory to cease the production of cement without the relevant permit. Clearly, the office of the Presidency has failed to enforce their own directive”.
By William Sarpong