Canoe Owners and Fishermen from the Central and Western Regions have gathered to respond to some issues of critical concern to their work as was carried in President Akufo Addo’s State of the Nation Address delivered in the House of Parliament on Thursday 20th February, 2020.
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*CANOE OWNERS AND FISHERMEN REACT TO PRESIDENT AKUFO ADDO’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS 2020; A PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY OFARNYI JOHN QUAYSON A.K.A. MAANOMA*
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We thank you for responding to our invitation to be with us for this encounter, even at the short notice. In deed, you have continued to show good faith to us, the fishing fraternity and we are very grateful to you.
We, Canoe Owners and Fishermen from the Central and Western Regions have gathered here this afternoon to respond to some issues of critical concern to our work as was carried in President Akufo Addo’s State of the Nation Address delivered in the House of Parliament on Thursday 20th February, 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s any occupation that is as old as the human race, there will be no doubt that the fishing occupation will make it to the list. Here in Ghana, we have kept faith with every government since the colonial days and have continued to work our hearts and backs out to always ensure that the nation gets its fish and other sea food supplies as is required. We are equally grateful to the Government of Ghana for the continuous interest, support and investments in our work.
Speaking specifically of our Fourth Republic, we will like to pay glowing tributes to the governments of HE Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (First President of the 4th Republic), HE John Kofi Diewuo Agyekum Kufuor (2nd President of the 4th Republic), HE *Ofarnyi Kwegya II* Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills of blessed memory (3rd President of the 4th Republic) and HE *Ofarnyi Kwegya III* John Dramani Mahama (4th President of the 4th Republic).
Ghana can not talk about the growth and development of the fishing industry without talking about the enormous contributions of Former President Rawlings, the most significant of all being the free supply of outboard motors and the introduction of the National Best Farmer and Fisherman Awards at which both inland and sea-plying fishermen are recognised, celebrated and awarded for their sacrifices. We remember Former President Kufuor for opening up the market space for private businesses to bring in adequate numbers of outboard motors. Though he didn’t supply us any free outboard motors, we had enough on the market such that, we easily accessed and purchased some with ease, once we had our money.
The fishing fraternity can never forget our father, Ofarnyi Kwegya II, Former President Obemfo John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills of blessed memory. It was under Prof. Mills that our work saw genuine and robust restructuring leading to more rewarding outcomes. It would be recalled that the issues of pair trawling and smuggling of premix fuels had become so endemic under President Kufuor to the extent that they threatened to send our work into extinction. Several complaints by us, the fisherfolks fell on deaf ears. It was for those reasons that we canoe owners and fishermen openly gave our support to the late Mills, then the flag bearer of the opposition NDC and campaigned vigorously for him to win the 2008 elections. Prof. Mills toured all the fishing communities in the country and visited virtually every landing beach with his message of hope and assurance which we bought into. True to his words, the government of Atta Mills fought fiercely the pair trawling menace and added color to the premix fuel to prevent the smuggling which had become so pervasive under president Kufuor. What touched our hearts most to even honor him with the title of the “Father Of Fishing in Ghana”, OFARNYI KWEGYA II, was his continuous engagement with us and supply of free outboard motors to fishermen across the country. The first set of free outboard motors which his government distributed in 2010 were all replaced with new ones in 2012 before his glorious home call. Indeed, his death was a big blow to us and we had serious fears, but our fears soon turned to greater joy and hope after President John Dramani Mahama took over.
President Mahama did not only continue the good things Prof Mills had started, he took our work as his child and gave us unfettered access to himself and his office. We continued to get our free outboard motors in addition to subsidised ones which were readily available. In addition to maintaining color of the premix fuel, president Mahama invested heavily in landing sites and gave us one of the largest fish processing plants which is situated in Elmina. Having hailed from the northern part of the country, we had little faith in the ability of President Mahama to understand the fishing work in order to keep faith with us as was done by Prof. Mills but President Mahama proved us totally wrong. This was what moved the whole fishing fraternity to confer on him the title OFARNYI KWEGYA III. Our work as fishermen saw greater growth and development under President Mahama than even our father of blessed memory, Ofarnyi Kwegya II Prof. Atta Mills, and we remain forever grateful to President Mahama.
Ladies and gentlemen, the fishing work has seen a steady decline since the assumption of office of President Akufo Addo. As we speak, a total of 584 canoes across the country (per our count) have grounded and their teams disbanded. The breakdown is as follow.
Volta Region = 76
Greater Accra = 152
Central Region = 244
Western Region = 112
The situation has resulted in a total of 10,512 losses of direct jobs. This is aside the uncountable numbers of fishmongers, fish carriers, canoe secretaries, canoe guards and other auxiliary workers who have also lost their jobs. This is certainly gives cause for concern. Doesn’t it?
Our friends from the media, aside the baseless and needless closures of the sea by the Akufo Addo administration, pair trawling has returned with full force under this government. The smuggling of premix fuel which became a thing of the past under the Mills and Mahama administrations has also returned with a big bang. The most painful of our current plight is access to outboard motors for our expedition. Since the assumption of office by the Akufo Addo government, we are yet to receive a single outboard motor from the government, contrary to the several promises and claims the president continues to make and tout. The sale of outboard motors has suddenly become a black market business. Outboard motors which used to be everywhere and easily accessible under the erstwhile administration are now suddenly the most unavailable commodity on the market. The government’s inability to bring in enough numbers of outboard motors has led to the fleecing of fishermen who seek after these motors. Outboard motors which used to sell at Gh¢4,900 and Gh¢6,000 respectively under the Mills and Mahama administrations are now suddenly selling at a whopping Gh¢17,000 and Gh¢17,500 under this Akufo Addo government. This is certainly not what we the fishermen asked for. We therefore find the continuous promises and claims by the president of his goverment having achieved a robust fishing industry not only laughable but disingenuous, and we hereby appeal to him to up his game and walk his talk.
The Akufo Addo government can continue to take we the fishermen of Ghana for granted at their own peril. Their deafness to our worsening plight and intransigence to our continuous pleas and appeals to pay attention to our work and fix the problems causing our otherwise booming business to collapse since they assumed office, can only lead to their humiliating rejection from us at the 2020 polls. Let those who have ears, listen.
Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you once again for coming, and are hopeful that you will capture the issues we have raised as truly and aptly as possible and give them the deserved mileage to help drum them home.
Thank you all.