The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has accused Aviation Minister Joseph Kofi Addah of usurping the power and authority of the Minister for Health.
The Association is agitated at what it believes is the laxity on the part of the Minister in ensuring proper disinfection of the airports where the business is transacted on a daily basis in these critical times when efforts are being made to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
GUTA is more concerned as domestic flight operations have began with Ghanaians traversing various destinations, a trend they argue should have prompted the Minister to swiftly move in to implement and enforce safety measures including disinfecting aircrafts and cargo.
The Minister in a statement dated May 15, 2020 on a recent disinfection exercise at the Kotoka International Airport, accused the Greater Accra Regional Chairman Messrs.
David Kwadwo Amoateng and Secretary of GUTA Nana Poku respectively of making pronouncements that were calculated at causing disaffection for him and the Managing Director of the Ghana Airports Company Limited Yaw Kwakwa.
But the two say the Minister is taking the safety and lives of their members who transact business at the Airports for granted by refusing to adhere to a directive from the Minister of Health Kwaku Agyemang Manu through a letter dated May 17, 2019 to take steps to comply with International Legislation concerning International Health Regulations for disinfection of Ghana’s Airports.
The Aviation Minister’s letter read in part that “Matters of Aviation policy and Airport management principles and standards as well as internationally approved procedures are highly specialized that Messrs.
Amoateng and Poku are not sufficiently qualified to make pronouncements or pass judgement on, especially regarding the ability, management capacity and competence of senior management officers of the sector, as they are not the appointing authority to question the positions of these two senior government officials.’’
But at a press conference on Tuesday May, 19, 2020, the two GUTA executives described the Aviation Minister as incompetent.
According to them, they are better informed and abreast of issues as far as the industry is concerned, particularly in this era of Covid-19, than the Minister, citing the Mr Adda’s posturing, pronouncements and actions.
They argue that it is the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service that has jurisdiction over all matters relating to Health and disinfection at the Airports and not the Ministry of Aviation and the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL).
A statement read at the press conference stated in part that, “It is clear from your statement that you still do not understand what we are talking about. Open your eyes. The world has a pandemic called Covid-19. Dealing with viruses and pandemics by law is under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Health not Ministry of Aviation. Your ego has blocked your reasoning and has accelerated the spread of the virus and loss of Ghanaian lives.’’
The statement continued that “overwhelming information came from the stakeholders’ meetings with the Ministry of Health. We do not think even you can tell the Minister of Health how he should be doing and conducting disinfection at the borders. They have a huge department called Port Health, and they actually have offices at the Airports.
It is Ghana Health Service, not the Ghana Airport Company who checks people’s temperature and yellow cards when they come in and out of passport control. This is a prime example of the way things should be at the Airport concerning health matters and now you are trying to change it in a way that is challenging common sense and the law.’’
GUTA says it is unbelievable that the Minister would ask for a contract with the approved disinfection company, but has no contracts with the Port Health Unit, the Ghana Immigration Service, the Police and Customs who all operate in the airports.
‘’Do you have contracts with Port Health, Immigration Service, the Police, Customs, for them to be at the Airport? GHS has already contracted the Disinfection Health Service more than a year ago. You have not helped them to perform a public duty and now that there is pandemic and people of Ghana want answers, you claim that you are under duress which is caused by the fact that you failed to act on the Minister of Health Letter dated 1t7h May 2019 with the reference number MOH/OM/LCB-AV/14919. You want everyone to come and sign contracts with you, even though it has nothing to do with you because of your selfish interest’’ they posited.
According to them, it is clear that the Minister – who cites some cost elements for not allowing the legitimate company contracted for the airports’ disinfection LCB Worldwide Ghana Limited to carry out its mandate – does not value the lives of Ghanaians.
“Mr Minister, how much does the life of a Ghanaian worth? According to your explanation, not $20. Traders are business people; we know there is no free lunch, one way or another we the traders of Ghana who are the hard currency owners of this country, who are the taxpayers of this country will end up paying for it. Whether it will be from airport taxes, air ticket charges, we don’t know where the payment will come from, but we know that we will end up paying for it. Whatever the cost is, it is not worth losing our lives. This is the principal reason why we have supported and paid for the Disinfection Health Service at the ports of Tema and Takoradi.’’
Again, they accuse the Aviation Minister of incompetence saying it was under his watch that Ghana recorded her first Covid-19 case through the Airport, which then spread across the country.
“Answer this Mr. Minister? Where did Covid-19 virus come from? Did it come into Ghana from Tema or Takoradi Ports where the Ministry of Health successfully executed the Disinfection Health Service with the help of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority? or Did it come from the Airport where you have refused to assist the Health officials in implementing the Disinfection Health Service? We, the same ill-informed group or people, can tell you that the Covid-19 virus came through the Airport that you manage, and it spread all over Ghana. It only requires common sense to see this, not awards from Airport Council International’’ the argued.