Djetse Abram Kabu Akuaku III, Paramount Chief of the Ada Traditional Area Credit :The Publisher

When the management of Radio Ada did not see the name of the station on the list of media houses invited to cover the 85th edition of the ongoing Ada Asafotufiami festival, it thought the Ada Traditional Council in the Greater Accra had mistakenly omitted the name of the station.

Radio Ada, community radio, is the mouthpiece of Ada. The station, which has covered the festival extensively for over two decades, was dismayed at the turn of events.

Ada Traditional Council bans Radio Ada from covering 2022 Asafotufiami Festival
Traditional leaders pouring libation during the celebration of Asafotufiami Festival

The management of the station, on July 14, 2022, thus wrote to the Ada Asafotufiami Festival Planning Committee to draw attention to the fact that the letter inviting media houses to the launch of the festival on July 30, 2022, did not mention Radio Ada.

“The management of Radio Ada extends cordial and respectful greetings to the Ada Asafotufiami Planning Committee, 2022, and wishes to draw its attention to what we have taken to be an inadvertent omission in the regular protocol of the Planning Committee.

“We are referring in particular to the omission of Radio Ada from the list of invited media houses at the official launch on 30th June 2022 at Treasure Island, Ada, of the 2022 Ada Asafotufiami Festival.  We only came to learn of the launch from other media.  It is regrettable that Radio Ada was omitted,” the letter said.

The station’s management noted that even this year’s festival was officially announced on Radio Ada on May 9, 2022, by the Senior War Captain of Kabiawe Yumu, Asafoatsengua Owusie Senakey IV, alongside a warlord of the Kabiawe Clan, Asafoatse Otumfuor IV, and Nagodey Baflo, who is with the priest of the Lomobiawe Clan.

The station said it repeatedly publicised the launch event which was recorded at no cost to anyone.

Historically, the Asafotufiami is a remembrance of ancient wars with neighboring ethinic groups such as the Ewe. The “Asafotu” are companies of warriors who fire their muskets in celebration. These days, the festival is a grand homecoming for the Ada diaspora.

“It is once again regrettable that Radio Ada cannot give first-hand updates on the 2022 Asafotufiami Festival to the Ada state because it had been inadvertently omitted from the invitation list. We trust that this omission will be rectified,” the letter concluded.

In response to the management, the Asafotufiami Festival Planning Committee was unequivocal that it was not an inadvertent omission.

In a letter dated August 1, 2022, the committee said, “The Traditional Council at a meeting held on 1st August, 2022, discussed your letter and decided to invite your station to the Traditional Council for an extensive discussion after the festival.

“In the meantime, I am directed to inform you that the Traditional Council has deemed it necessary to place the following restrictions on Radio Ada during this year’s Asafotufiami festival” the letter signed by the Chairman of the Asafotufiami Festival Planning Committee, Nene Agudey Obichere III, said.

The letter mentioned three restrictions as follows:

  1. Radio Ada will not be allowed to mount a stage at Ada Asafotufiami Park.
  2. Neneme [chiefs] will not grant interviews to journalists from Radio Ada.
  3. Noah Dameh, Serwah Warri and Amanor Dzeagu who happen to be hosts of programs with unrefined language towards Neneme are not to be seen at the park in Radio Ada paraphernalia.

The letter further urged Radio Ada to respect the above restrictions to avoid embarrassment.

Radio Ada’s response to the ban

In an interview with The Fourth Estate, the Deputy Station Coordinator of Radio Ada, Mr. Noah Narh Dameh, alleged that the Traditional Council’s action which will curtail residents’ right to access information about the festival, is a strategy to punish the media house for continuously discussing the controversial Songhor Lagoon lease arrangement.

“I’ll attribute this to the Songhor lease that has been given to Dr. Daniel Mckorley [McDan] and series of programs that we have been doing to throw more light on the lease document,” he said.

He further alleged that, before this restriction was placed on them, some representatives of the traditional council visited the radio station and cautioned them to stop discussing the Songhor lease agreement.

“They [Traditional Council] went ahead to say that, even if we will discuss the [Songhor Lease] document at all, we should never mention the name of the Paramount Chief of Ada, Nene Abram Kabu Akuaku III. But we told them that, we’re discussing a document that’s coming from the government, and so if we see the name of the Paramount Chief, we cannot skip it because it won’t make the statement complete. These things happened before the Radio Station was attacked and the thugs also left the same message that we should not do any programme on the Songhor Lagoon else the attack would be worse,” he said.

In backing his claim that the ban had everything to do with the Radio station’s discussion of the Songhor Lease Agreement, he pointed out the fact that the letter from the Asafotufiami Planning Committee singled out the three lead producers of “Manor Munyu”, a program on Radio Ada that talks about the Songhor Lagoon Lease and other developmental issues.

“We have been producing a programme on the Songhor Lagoon, and we’re four in number, but they singled out one person and placed a restriction on the three of us. So, although they have not come out directly to explain why they’re restricting us, I believe, and the community people are also aware that they did that because of the Songhor Lagoon program we have been doing, “he said.

He particularly mentioned that some five chiefs in the Ada state are not happy with the Radio station’s programme about the Songhor Lagoon hence the restriction. He said residents of the Ada community felt threatened because some police personnel were being used to intimidate people who spoke against the Songhor Lagoon Lease agreement.

In response to the claim in the letter that the three radio hosts who had been singled out were notorious for using “unrefined language” against traditional authorities, the deputy station coordinator dared the traditional council to provide evidence in that regard.

“We have produced about 45 episodes of the program on the lease agreement and they were all prerecorded, and so if they say we’ve insulted them, they should come out and prove it because the recordings are there.”

Mr. Dameh justified Radio Ada’s advocacy on the Songhor Lease Agreement, stating that the lagoon, which has been released to a sole investor, Dr. Daniel Mckorley, will affect the livelihoods of over 150,000 people since the community has lived on salt production for centuries.

“We’re just making public documents public, that’s all that the radio programme is doing, so I don’t know why they have issues with that if indeed the lease agreement is in the interest of the people,” he noted.

According to him, the planning committee for the festival had allocated the area where Radio Ada used to mount its stage to cover the Asafotufiami Durbar to a new radio Station called Eagle FM, which he said was owned by Dr. Daniel Mckorley, CEO of McDan Group.  Electrochem, the salt-producing company, is one of its subsidiaries.

An attempt by The Fourth Estate to engage the Chairman of the Asafotufiami Planning Committee and the Spokesperson for the Ada Traditional Council, Nene Agudey Obichere III, has been unsuccessful.

He declined an interview with the excuse that he was busy with the activities of the festival.

Thugs attack Radio Ada

Ada Traditional Council bans Radio Ada from covering 2022 Asafotufiami Festival
Thugs attacked Radio Ada in January this year

On Thursday, January 13, 2022, some armed men besieged the premises of Radio Ada where they assaulted a presenter on air, manhandled other workers and clients, and destroyed some of the station’s machines.

Although the police are yet to fully unravel the circumstances of the attack and arrest the perpetrators, management of Radio Ada at the time said the yet-to-be-identified hoodlums had, before the incident, warned the station to cease programming on the Songhor Lease Agreement or face a series of attacks.

Ada Traditional Council bans Radio Ada from covering 2022 Asafotufiami Festival
Radio Ada, is a vociferous community radio in Ada

After the attack, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) helped to raise funds to replace the equipment the thugs destroyed. But the station is yet to get justice.

The residents accuse the police of siding with the private investors to intimidate those who oppose the deal.

Protests against Songhor lease agreement

There have been protests by some residents in both the Ada West and East Districts against the current arrangements to revive the Songhor Lagoon.

They said apart from the part of the Lagoon that was leased to the McDan Group, five chiefs in the area also went ahead to lease almost the entire lagoon to the company, part of which contains individual lands.

The indigenes who lay claim to Songhor lagoon embarked on a series of demonstrations to protest the mining lease granted to Electrochem Ghana Limited to mine salt in the area.

The residents believe the mining lease did not take into account their plight as their livelihoods solely depend on the lagoon. They’re also of the view that the project will deprive them of their lands.

Chiefs’ support for the project

Despite some residents’ opposition to the project, the traditional authorities of the area have publicly declared support for the project.

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The writer of this report, Philip Teye Agbeve, is a Fellow of the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Media Foundation for West Africa.