Ghana: Workers’ demonstration, major electricity blackout reported in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The Ghanaian media this week reported on workers’ demonstrations throughout the country to protest against increases in utility tariffs and taxes on petroleum products and a national blackout following a systems failure.

They also highlighted the continuing arguments over arrival of two detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

“We’re suffering, workers on demo cry out,” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic newspaper on the demonstration with the story saying thousands of workers on Wednesday thronged some streets of Accra and regional capitals to protest against hikes in utility tariffs and fuel prices.

The usually busy commercial centre and lorry station, the Obra Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, the point of convergence of the demonstrators in the Ghanaian capital, witnessed the sounds of vuvuzelas and the sight of red attire worn by members of organised labour unions.

They chanted, sang and danced around to demonstrate against the increase of electricity and water tariffs by 59.2 per cent and 67.2 per cent, respectively, by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) and called for the scrapping of the Energy Sector Levies Act, which increased fuel by about 28 per cent.

The Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress, Kofi Asamoah called for a reduction in utility tariffs to 50 per cent and the withdrawal of the Energy Sector Levies Ac saying the increases had brought untold hardship on Ghanaians.

“The working group set up by your (President’s) office to work out an amicable solution has failed to produce satisfactory results. The message we are getting from our participants in the working group shows that government remains adamant to our demands," Asamoah said.

“We are aware of the stick the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is holding over the government following the extended credit facility. The IMF might have convinced you to implement these measures, but we would like to draw your attention to the social and political implications of such actions which are completely divorced from the reality facing Ghanaians.”

The state-owned Ghanaian Times also reported the story under the headline, “Workers’ demo rocks Accra.”

It said the demonstration was the first step in a road map developed by organised labour to pressurise government to meet their demands. It is to be followed by a nationwide strike to have the increases reversed.

The Graphic had another story under the headline “Govt, labour make ‘progress’ on price hikes” which stated that the government and organised labour had made some progress towards reaching a common ground in their negotiations on workers’ demands over the increases in petroleum prices and utility tariffs.

The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Idrissu, explained that the progress was made after the government agreed to provide a lifeline for the vulnerable, while organised labour also adjusted its earlier positions.

At a crunch meeting at the Flagstaff House on Thursday, both parties agreed to meet on 26 January to bring finality to the negotiations to ensure industrial peace and harmony.

“Power failure caused by tripping,” was the headline of the Graphic on the blackout at about 0530 GMT on Thursday.

The newspaper said power supply to parts of the country had been restored after the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) suffered system failure of its transmission lines.

It said nearly the whole country was plunged into darkness following the failure of some of GRIDCo’s transmission lines.

The sudden break in power threw the country into a state of anxiety and anguish, as members of the public wondered what was happening, the Graphic reported.

When asked how they felt about the blackout, some members of the public said they were taken by surprise, while others said they thought it was the load shedding which had started again.

GRIDCo Chief Executive Officer, William Amuna, said as of 1300 GMT on the same day power supply had been restored to Accra and Tema, 25 km east of Accra.

He said that the company was working to find out the exact cause of the disruptions.

The Graphic, in a story under the headline “Govt sued over ex-Gitmo detainees,” reported that the legality of the government's decision to accept into the country two former alleged terror suspects detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay was being challenged by two citizens.

Margaret Banful and Henry Nana Boakye have taken the Attorney-General and the Interior Minister to the Supreme Court for a declaration that the continued stay of two Yemenis, Mahmud Umar Bin Atef and Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby, in Ghana is unlawful.

They also want an order directed at the Interior Minister to immediately return the two detainees to the government of the US.

The two were brought to Ghana on 6 January 2016 following an agreement reached between the governments of Ghana and the US.

Their presence has sparked public outrage. A section of Ghanaians and other groups have called for their removal from Ghana, but government officials have explained that they are “low risk” former detainees.

The Graphic had another story on the Guantanamo Bay detainees with the headline “Akufo-Addo got it all wrong.”

The Graphic reported that the government has dismissed criticisms of Nana Akufo-Addo, the leader of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), that the government violated the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act by accepting the Yemeni detainees.

It quoted an official statement signed the Communications Minister, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, as saying the opposition leader’s claims were a “complete misinterpretation” of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the government wishes to place on record that at all times it has acted strictly within the law. Any claims, therefore, by Nana Akufo-Addo and his assigns to the contrary are false and a complete misinterpretation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (Act 762),” the statement added.
-0- PANA MA/AR 23Jan2016

23 يناير 2016 08:31:38

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