May 30, 2024 1:52 pm

2021 in review: All the big stories that came up from January to December

2021 has been an eventful year in Ghana in terms of politics, economy, crime, among others. The year began with a commotion in Parliament on the eve of January 7 2021, and ended with fisticuffs in the same law-making house.

Ghanasonline.com has captured a compilation from Citinewsroom to give you a recap of biggest stories that kept Ghanaians talking throughout the year under review.

Election Petition

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by John Mahama challenged the results of the 2020 polls insisting that none of the nine presidential candidates obtained the mandatory 50%+1 vote constitutional threshold to be declared the winner of the polls.

In his petition filed on December 30, 2020, Mr. Mahama sought five reliefs from the apex court.

He among things asked the Supreme Court to declare the EC’s declaration of President Nana Akufo-Addo as the winner of the polls as unconstitutional, null, and void.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the petitioner (Mr. Mahama) failed to prove his case via his petition or through his witnesses.

Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah who read the ruling on Thursday, March 4, 2021, said the accounts of Rojo Mettle-Nunoo and Dr. Michael Kpessa-Whyte were immaterial to the case since the issue in contention had nothing to do with how the results were collated at the Electoral Commission’s national collation centre popularly known as the Strongroom.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the petitioner (John Mahama) said, although the decision of the court is binding on him, he departs from its conclusion on the case.

Among other things, John Mahama expressed regret that the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensa did not testify in court despite his applications for such to happen.

The E-Levy controversy

Ghana has seen a number of new taxes controversies like the more recent talk tax or the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) initiative in 1995, which sparked the Kumi Preko demo in protest.

During the 2022 budget statement, the government announced the proposed levy of 1.75% on electronic transactions, which includes mobile-money payments.

 

Critics of the proposal have warned that this new levy will negatively impact the Fintech space, as well as hurt low-income people and those outside the formal banking sector.

The government has, however, argued the levy would widen the tax net and that could raise an extra GH¢6.9 billion in 2022.

Parliament was unable to approve the Electronic Transaction Levy before the end of sittings in 2021, after a contentious approval process that even resulted in a brawl in Parliament following an attempt to consider it under a certificate of urgency.

Chaos in Parliament

Ghana’s fourth Republic was faced with what was essentially a hung Parliament after the 2020 elections. The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) won 137 seats each, with one independent MP.

On the morning Ghana’s new Parliament was set to be sworn in, an almost five-hour deadlock over voting processes to elect a new Speaker of Parliament culminated in a brawl.

After the heated debate over the status of an opposition MP-elect who had been barred by a court from taking part in the inauguration of the new Parliament, there was a standoff over the voting process for the Speaker.

The NDC MPs insisted on a secret ballot in the belief that there were some NPPs MPs planning to stray from the party line as Alban Bagbin and Mike Oquaye vied for the seat.

For hours, scuffles broke out, led by the NDC legislators’ Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, who tried to make sure his opposing Whip was not policing the ballot that would eventually see Alban Bagbin elected.

Amid the tensions, armed military and police personnel even stormed Parliament’s chamber, adding to the chaos.

The year began in chaos for the Parliament, and ended in chaos when another brawl broke out during a late-night session to consider passing the electronic transactions levy under a certificate of urgency.

The chaos started after NDC MPs tried to prevent Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu from leaving his seat to vote after weeks of debate over whether he still retained his vote as the MP for Bekwai when sitting in for the Speaker of Parliament.

Botched Sputnik V deal

Ghana’s quest to procure COVID-19 vaccines in the middle of the health crisis hit a snag.

This was after the Health Minister failed to seal a deal with a Dubai-based middleman, Sheikh Al Maktoum, to procure 3.4 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccines.

The issue first came to light after a publication by a Norwegian news outlet, Verdens Gang.

The initial price quoted for the vaccine was US$25, but it was negotiated downwards to US$19, according to the Ghana Health Service.

It later emerged, however, that, the $19 was a higher cost other than the original factory price of $10, prompting calls for the abrogation of the procurement contract.

Ghana paid more than US$2.8 million to Sheikh Al Maktoum for the procurement of the Sputnik V vaccine, contrary to claims by the Health Minister that no money had been paid at all.

This was confirmed by the nine-member ad-hoc parliamentary committee set up to probe the controversial procurement deal. In its final report, it indicated that US$2,850,000 representing 50% of the US$5,700,000 owed to Sheikh Dalmook Al Maktoum for the eventual supply of 300,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine was actually paid to the middleman.

The committee, therefore, tasked the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, to retrieve the money that had been paid.

Ghana took delivery of 20,000 out of the 300,000 doses of the expected vaccines.

But after harsh criticisms of the deal, the Ministry moved, leading to Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, refunding $2,470,000 initially paid by Ghana.

Xavier Sosu’s woes

Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis Xavier Sosu was also in the news after he was sought after by police authorities.

The legislator was accused of unlawfully blocking public roads and causing destruction to public property during a demonstration he led in his constituency over bad roads.

Mr. Sosu alleged that the police officers manhandled him on the day of the protest; in the first attempt to arrest him. He subsequently filed a complaint in Parliament against two police officers.

Police could not arrest the MP on several occasions thereafter, while attempts to invite him through the Speaker of Parliament were denied.

The Speaker of Parliament jumped to the defence of the MP, describing the actions by the Police as a breach of law.

The Ghana Police Service secured a judicial order and a criminal summons to have the MP arrested but to no avail.

Xavier Sosu said attempts to arrest him were a clear violation of his constitutionally mandated parliamentary duties, while accusing the security agency of being disingenuous with their account of events.

But the MP, who is also a human rights lawyer, failed to appear in court three consecutive times, leading to the issuance of a bench warrant by the Kaneshie District Court.

He filed a stay of execution, after which the bench warrant was withdrawn.

‘Trotro’ strike over fuel prices

Monday, December 6, 2021, could go down in history as one of the most frustrating moments in the lives of the millions of Ghanaians who depend solely on public transportation.

It followed a nationwide strike by commercial drivers.

Many commuters were left to their fate after being left stranded trying to get vehicles to work and other destinations because their most dependable means of transport had grounded to a halt.

Students were not left out because many of them had difficulties getting to school at a time they were writing end-of term examinations.

Only a handful of the drivers defied the orders to salvage the situation, but the unlucky ones who were caught by their union authorities were forced to drop off passengers they were carrying.

However, thousands of commuters in several parts of the country lined up along major roads but in futility as there were no cars in sight. Those who passed by were also not picking them up.

Left with no option, in the end, some decided to return home, while others trekked long distances to various destinations.

The few who were able to afford private transport did so by resorting to ride-hailing services, leaving the providers cashing in heavily on the day due to the exorbitant prices they charged.

The strike by the transport operators was to protest an all-time increment in the prices of fuel and pressure the government to reduce the cost of the fuel by scrapping a number of taxes slapped on the product.

It was interesting how drivers and their conductors in places like Tema, Ashaiman and Kasoa turned the lorry stations into a football park in the full glare of passengers.

Fortunately, the nationwide sit-down strike by the drivers did not last long. A couple of hours later, the strike was suspended.

The Ghana Private Transport Union (GPRTU) issued a statement announcing an invitation for discussion with the Presidency over their grievances.

Omicron and vaccine mandates

There was a fresh wave of COVID-19 in the country following the onset of the Omicron strain of the virus.

Ghana detected its first case of the Omicron variant on December 1, 2021, at the Kotoka International Airport; a situation that compelled health authorities to institute new safety protocols to control the spread in the population amidst the Christmas festivities.

The country is said to have entered a fourth wave of the virus, according to the Ghana Health Service.

Persons flying in and out of the country are to be fully vaccinated and to strictly follow stipulated guidelines for both self-preservation and the protection of the larger society.

Airlines that bring in passengers to the Kotoka International Airport who are not fully vaccinated shall be surcharged U$3,500 per passenger, and airlines that board passengers without PCR test results, or transport and disembark passengers with positive PCR test results into Accra will also be fined US$3,500 per passenger.

The month of December was set aside as the month of vaccination, with a directive from health authorities for proof of vaccination in order to access social events and other places.

Ritual killings

Several violent crimes characterized the year under review. There were murder cases, day-light robberies and other attacks, especially in the capital Accra.

In particular, in 2021 were spousal-related crimes. Police officers have been injured or killed in some of the robbery incidents.

Popular among the killings was the Kasoa ritual murder in the Central Region.

Four persons including two teenagers were arrested over the killing of 11-year-old Ishmael Mensah, supposedly for money rituals at Lamptey Mills.

The teenagers allegedly lured the deceased into an uncompleted building and smashed his head with a club and cement blocks, killing him instantly.

They subsequently buried him in the building. The suspects planned to recover the body at midnight for the supposed rituals.

A 35-year-old taxi driver was also arrested for confessing to allegedly killing many persons for ritual purposes.

In the wake of such crimes and concerns about the broadcasting of inappropriate content in the media space, some persons like Nana Agradaa were arrested for parading themselves as spiritualists.

In certain parts of the country, irate youth stormed the shrines of spiritualists and destroyed properties there.

Presidential jet purchase

Debate on the presidential jet has been in the news for some months now after the Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, filed urgent questions demanding disclosure of the full cost of President Akufo-Addo’s recent foreign trips without the use of the official presidential jet.

Mr. Ablakwa, who has consistently accused the President of wasting taxpayer’s money on hiring luxurious jets for his foreign trips.

Mr. Ablakwa sought answers as to why the President allegedly chartered a luxurious jet that cost GH¢3.7 million for his recent trip.

The Ranking Member had earlier alleged that the President spent an amount of GH¢2.8 million on his earlier travels to only South Africa and France using the services of a private jet instead of the presidential jet.

The Finance Ministry, however, avoided the question on the expenditure and said that information ought to be provided by the National Security Ministry.

In his latest claim, Mr. Ablakwa said President Nana Akufo-Addo’s three recent foreign trips cost the taxpayer GH¢10 million.

But the government explained that the current jet was not convenient for long-hour trips, as it couldn’t take more numbers and had limited facilities for the comfort of a president.

The government has even disclosed that it is almost through with getting a new aircraft to cater for presidential travels; the reason being that the current jet is simply not fit for purpose.

But Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said the caucus will soon meet to gather its arsenal just to get moves to procure the presidential jet halted.

Fix the Country

Some months ago, the #FixTheCountry campaign started on social media, with a lot of Ghanaians jumping on the trend.

It was initially started by some young persons on Twitter, but some celebrities later joined the campaign to hold the government accountable.

The organizers say they are not going to rest until the country gets better, explaining that the plight of ordinary Ghanaians is their sole reason for the protests.

The major part of the year has seen organizers of the movement and several others taking to the streets to protest for better living conditions and rapid economic development.

The campaign sought to impress on the government to address Ghana’s numerous challenges, including youth unemployment, poor infrastructure, and high cost of living.

LGBTQ bill

The anti-LGBTQI+ Bill also dominated conversations in Ghana within the year under review.

The Bill prescribes that people of the same sex who engage in sexual activity could spend up to 10 years in jail.

Varying forms of support for the LGBTQ+ community will also be criminalized if the Bill, known as the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, is passed into law.

Ghana’s two main religious groupings, Christians and Muslims, have been vocal in their support of the Bill and presented memos backing the legislation that has been described as homophobic by critics.

Fifteen renowned legal, academic, and civil society professionals also filed a memo describing the Bill as inimical to Ghana’s democratic principles.

Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee held public hearings on memoranda received on the bill.

The Committee has received over 150 memoranda from religious bodies, civil society groups, and citizens on the controversial subject of sexual orientation.

MMDCE appointments

It wasn’t until eight months into President Akufo-Addo’s second administration that he finally appointed Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs).

This was after months of criticism fired at the government over the delays. In January, President Akufo-Addo directed all MMDCEs to remain at post until new ones are appointed.

The Presidency, defended the delay, saying it was not affecting development at the district level.

The list, which was released on September 20, had 135 out of the 260 MMDCEs being new nominations.

The gender balance in the list was criticised with only 38 of the nominees being women. There was, however, a significant milestone, with Accra getting its first woman mayor in the person of Elizabeth Sackey.

The nominees subsequently when through an approval process at the assembly level.

Currently, the appointment of MMDCEs is the sole preserve of the President, per Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.

But the delays prompted calls for proposals for the election MMDCEs to be re-looked at.

Keta Tidal wave

Residents in the Anlo district, Keta, and Ketu South Municipalities struggled with tidal wave flooding as they lost some of their communities to the ocean.

The flooding on November 7 gained national attention after hundreds of residents were displaced.

Relief from the government in the immediate aftermath of the incident was wanting, with corporate organisations and even former President John Mahama taking the lead in offering significant support.

The North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, criticised President Akufo-Addo for not commenting on the flooding in the aftermath of the incident.

The 2022 budget also made no mention of work on sea walls, which the affected communities had been crying out for.

This prompted the Minority in Parliament to call for some amendments to the budget, including a significant commitment to fighting coastal erosion.

The government revised the budget and allocated GH¢10 million for feasibility studies for sea walls in affected communities.

Hoax kidnapping and fake pregnancy in Takoradi

Josephine Panyin Mensah dominated headlines after she was accused of staging her kidnapping and faking her pregnancy.

She went missing on September 16, 2021, and was found in Axim 20 days later, without any sign of the said pregnancy.

She claimed she was allegedly kidnapped with the baby, taken by her supposed kidnappers.

The Western Regional Minister, Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, first hinted that the incident was staged and the pregnancy was fake.

The police administration in a subsequent statement confirmed the minister’s claim.

Further tests conducted on Josephine also confirmed that she was never pregnant, according to police.

She was charged on two counts of deceiving a public officer contrary to section 251 (B) of the Criminal Offences Act and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and panic contrary to section 208 (1) of the Criminal Offences Act.

Her trial will begin on January 6, 2021.

Source: Citinewsroom.com

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