Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, we thank you for making time to join us this morning. On behalf of the Upper East Regional Secretariat of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), I wish to express my profound gratitude to you for availing your esteemed platforms for this all-important encounter. We have invited you here this morning for us to have a conversation on the One Village, One Dam (1V1D) promise, and now policy by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government. Speaking of this subject, our attention has been drawn to a radio documentary by Joshua Asaah, a journalist with A1 Radio in Bolgatanga. In the said documentary, Mr Asaah puts the spotlight on the 1V1D policy by the Akufo-Addo-led government in the Upper East Region.
Friends from the media, the Upper East Regional Minister, Madam Paulina Abayaga in reaction to this matter recently on Joy FM intimated that when we talk about dams in Northern Ghana, we are not referring to the Akosombo dam, or Bui dam or Pwalugu mulitipurpose dam. What the Regional Minister failed to realize is that, the people of the Upper East Region know what a small-scale irrigation dam looks like when they see one. The minister must therefore come with a better explanation than this because her attempt to divert the issue will not wash.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, it is important for us to put this conversation into a proper perspective for all to appreciate the matter under discussion. The One Village, One Dam policy was one of the many grandiose promises made by then Candidate Akufo-Addo to the people of the Upper East Region, for which the people rewarded him with a resounding victory in the 2016 general election. Specifically, on the 28th August, 2016, then candidate Akufo-Addo, on the second day of his campaign tour of the Upper East Region, said to the Bolgatanga Traditional Council “You have been hearing me talking about One District, One Factory. As this part of the country is concerned, I even want to go further and talk about One Village One Dam, to make sure that in every village, we have a functioning dam to support agriculture. If Ghana’s Agriculture is working well, the nation is capable of feeding West Africa”.
Friends from the media, this promise could not have been one of the usual campaign platform talk. We say this because, as far as the promise of One Village, One Dam was concerned, Candidate Akufo-Addo made sure that it was boldly engraved in black and white in the NPP’s 2016 Election Manifesto, and can be found on page 17 of the NPP’s 2016 Manifesto Highlights. As a matter of fact, on page 17 of the NPPs 2016 Manifesto, they promised “to facilitate the provision of community-owned and managed Small-Scale Irrigation facilities across the country especially in Northern Ghana through the policy of One Village, One Dam”.
Considering the fact that Northern Ghana is largely a semi-arid zone with quite unpredictable rainfall patterns, the allure of having irrigation dams to spur an all-year agricultural activity was one that appealed to the people of the Upper East Region. This was one of the reasons why they joined the rest of the country to give the NPP led by President Akufo-Addo and Dr. Bawumia a chance to govern. It would be recalled, that in the first year of the Akufo-Addo government,
Vice President Bawumia, who himself hails from Northern Ghana, said they could not construct the Dams they promised because we were in the rainy season. Hence the first year ended without any attempt by the Akufo-Addo-led government to construct a single dam in Northern Ghana.
Members of the press, after having forgotten about their flagship promise to the people of the Upper East Region, and having been reminded severally by the people, the Akufo-Addo government finally found space in their 2018 budget for the One Village, One Dam initiative. In that budget, provision was made to construct 570 Dams in that year, with the Upper East Region being allocated 140 of these dams by the end of the year 2018.
Subsequently, in what was deemed to be the official commencement of the 1V1D project in the Upper East Region, on 25th June, 2018, the DCE for Bongo, Peter Ayinbisa cut sod for the construction of one of 8 Dams for Bongo District at kuyelingu in the Atampiisi Electoral Area of the Bongo District. This was followed by an official sod-cutting ceremony for this same Dam in the Bongo District on the 20th of July, 2018 as part of a 2-day working visit to the Upper East Region by President Akufo-Addo. At the said event, the President indicated that “10 dams will be sited in the Bongo District, which will ensure all-year-round agriculture farming in the District”. He further added that “you here in Bongo can see for yourselves that the 1Village, 1 Dam initiative has begun. It is our intention that Bongo alone will get 10 Dams this year”.
Colleagues from the media fraternity, after the supposedly official take-off of the 1V1D policy in Bongo, other Districts in the Region were said to have commenced same. However, almost a year after the so-called roll-out of that promise, only 40 villages are experiencing some construction activity with regard to the 1V1D policy. We hasten to add, that even though 40 villages in all are experiencing some form of activity in the name of 1V1D, we can authoritatively say, that the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government is yet to construct a single “small scale irrigation dam” through their 1V1D policy in the Upper East Region.
Instead of the irrigated dams that were promised, the supposed “Dams” so far ongoing in all the 40 villages are dugouts or excavated ponds. The so-called dams are an example of the grand conspiracy by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government to always create the impression that they are delivering on their promises, but in reality, they are creating avenues for their people to loot and misapply the innocent tax payer’s money to line their private pockets, and not to develop the nation.
That the contracts that have been awarded for these “Dams” are grossly inflated and exaggerated is beyond question. The Minister for Agriculture, Dr Owusu-Afriyie Akoto recently disclosed in Parliament whilst answering a question on the 1V1D policy, that “I have said that the smallest dam will cost GH 2.5 million”. This humongous figure, when juxtaposed with the shoddy work that has been done so far, raises obvious questions about value for money and the propriety of these projects. Putting these together leads one to the inevitable conclusion that these are monies that are going into the private pockets of officials of the Akufo-Addo family and friends government, thereby leaving the people of the Upper East Region shortchanged.
SPECIFIC CASES OF CORRUPT AND SHODDY PROJECTS UNDER THE 1V1D
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, at this juncture, we will like to take you through specific projects under the banner of 1V1D in the Upper East Region. Since this press conference is an evidence-based presentation, we intend to demonstrate to you, that the promise of 1V1D, like many other promises of President Akufo-Addo prior to the 2016 election, is a trojan gift that was meant to hoodwink the people of Ghana, and the Upper East Region in particular into voting for him.
We start with the 1V1D project at Zourungu Gono. The contractor in charge of the Zourungu Gono dugout recently disclosed in a radio interview with Word 88.8 FM, that his contract sum amounted to GH 250,000. At the same time, other contractors of similar projects also quoted GH 240,000 as their contract sums. With these great disparities in the cost of a dugout, one cannot escape the conclusion that these contracts lack transparency and are grossly inflated.
The fact of the matter is that, the 40 supposed “dams” that are ongoing are dugouts but not dams, and these dugouts were shoddily constructed, leading in some reported cases to the death of children due to the defective engineering features of these excavated ponds. For instance, in the Bongo District where this initiative started, about 8 dugouts have been done, including those at Kulingu, Ayopea, Feo among others. As we speak, even though these dugouts themselves are thirsty for water, let alone provide any for dry season farming, they have already claimed four innocent lives in the Bongo District.
In the Bolgatanga Municipality, the Bolga Soe dugout whose banks were washed away by a 2-hour rain on the 25th of April, 2019, claimed three innocent lives within a month after it was shoddily constructed.
Distinguished friends from the press, the Kassena-Nankana West District which was also allocated 10 “dams” has had its own share of the shoddy work. A so-called “dam” in Kajelo, a village close to Navrongo, had its banks washed away on 25th April, 2019 after a few hours of rain, whilst other villages such as Sakaa, Kasugu, Kuliya, Katiu, and Koyoro have no single droplet of water in their dugouts. This phenomenon is what informed the christening of the recent documentary “Thirsty dams of the North”.
Another example of the failed Akufo-Addo/Bawumia 1V1D policy in the Upper East Region can be found in the Bolgatanga East District dugouts. The District had three of the 1V1D projects in communities such as Zuarungu Gono, Kunkua and Dacheo. The Dacheo dugout recently had its banks washed away after a few hours of rains, prompting the chief of that community, Naba Akliga to angrily describe the dugout as a football pitch for children to play football on, and not a dam for irrigation purposes. The Zoarungu Gono dugout has equally been described by residents as a death trap that is threatening their lives due to its poor construction.
The dugouts in the Bawku Municipality are not different from those of Bongo and the other Districts. Gumakutari, a village in the Bawku Municipality had the banks of its dugout washed away after a few rains in April 2019, whilst the dugouts in places such as Bador, Zuuku, Gumbo and Gozesi are seriously thirsty for water.
In addition to the above, villages such as Pungu, Gia and Dimbasinia, all located in the Navrongo Municipality have their shoddily constructed dugouts in serious need of water.
Distinguished friends of the inky fraternity, the above are examples of the true state of the 1V1D policy of the Akufo-Addo government in the Upper East Region. In all of the above, one thing that is obvious is that the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government has failed to construct a single “small scale irrigation” dam in the Region for dry season farming. In fact, what they have succeeded in doing is to create a vehicle for their party cronies, friends and sympathizers to misapply and defalcate scarce resources of the state in the name of 1V1D projects. What President Akufo-Addo and his conspirators have also succeeded in doing is to set up death traps which continue to claim innocent lives in the Upper East Region, without offering any opportunity for all-year farming.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, we therefore call on the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Martin Amidu, who himself is a native of the Upper East Region, to initiate criminal investigations into these shoddily constructed dugouts under the guise of 1V1D, and bring all persons who are guilty of dissipating our scarce resources on this wasteful venture to book. We further wish to sound a note of caution, that a future NDC government in 2021 Insha Allah, will investigate all officials, including the Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Special Development Initiatives and other functionaries of the Akufo-Addo government, and prosecute them for causing financial loss to the state.
Thank you for honouring this invitation, and may God bless our homeland Ghana.
AHMED SAEED TIJANI
(Regional Communication Officer, NDC
Joe Bright Nyarko
Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.