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McCarthy Hill can’t breath

On September 29, 2022, the McCarthy Hill Residents Association in Accra, led by one Eddie Quaynor, called the press to, as they put it, “raise public awareness of the hazardous nature of the Empire Cement Factory here and the environmental and health impact on the residents in the area”.

Empire Cement Factory is owned by a Chinese and apparently, the project had been going on since August 2020.

As soon as the residents became aware of this project, a meeting was called with the MP for the area, Ms. Tina Mensah and the MCE, Mr Patrick Kumor on March 1, 2021. In attendance was a representative of the Empire Cement Factory. According to the residents association, the Chinese gave assurances during the meeting that the factory was for the production of cement bags, not actual cement. Not satisfied with the assurances provided at the meeting, the residents association decided to petition the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA, by a letter dated March 26, 2021, ordered Empire Cement Factory to stop all construction activities until an approval was granted. A follow up directive issued by the Office of the President in September 2021 and signed by the Chief of Staff, asked the company “to cease all construction works currently on going within the Salt Production enclave”. [This is the area where Panbros produces salt from whose export Ghana earns foreign exchange]

Management of the factory not only ignored the order from the Office of the President, but went further to construct three silos, confirming suspicion that the factory intended to produce cement. Their suspicions were confirmed when the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) on April 8, 2022, reported that it had discovered Empire Cement brands on sale on the open market.

Questions arise. One, who issued the permit to Empire Cement to operate the factory, in the first place? Two, has it come to the notice of the local authorities, namely the DCE and the MP, that the Chinese factory owners are producing cement instead of cement bags despite a refusal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana Standard Board, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation? Three, what have the DCE and the MP done subsequent to this discovery?

It is on record that the Chinese company petitioned the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI) against the EPA, but the records also show that MESTI’s investigations upheld EPA’s decision not to issue Empire Cement with a permit. The company was duly informed of the outcome of this thorough review and was asked to cease operations.

To the dismay of the residents association, Empire Cement continues to operate.

Dear reader, if the above is not shocking enough, read this: The Ministry, upon photographic and video evidence that the factory was producing cement, directed the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to monitor the activities of ECF. The association has it on record that the BNI, in faithful compliance, descended on the factory.

But this hasn’t stopped them from operating.

Then came the Minister of Trade and Industry. Answering questions in Parliament, the Minister announced on March 16 that the “EPA has not permitted Empire Cement to manufacture on the site next to Panbros Salt…” and that “In line with the determination by the EPA, the Ministry has withheld approval for granting 1D1F status to the said company”.

The residents association showed the media a document, dated September 2020, from the Office of the President directing the Cement Factory to cease the production of cement without the relevant permit.

Which brings me to my final question: Who can they be whose word is so feared above the word of the President of the Republic of Ghana that anybody would find it safer to obey them in contemptible defiance of the word of the President? Why would a Deputy Minister and a DCE refuse to carry out a Presidential order and still feel safe?

PS: I have also been informed by a usually reliable source that the area is a Ramsar Site.

On December 19, 2018, Graphic Online reported that “The Chinese illegal mining queen, En Huang aka Aisha, and the four other Chinese nationals who were arrested for their involvement in illegal mining (galamsey) in Ghana, have been deported”.

This followed the filing of a nolle prosequi to discontinue the trial.

Defending government’s decision to free the Chinese lady, the then Senior Minister of Ghana, Osafo Maafo, cited China’s involvement in key infrastructural projects, particularly the $2 billion Sinohydro deal, and said that “Today, the main company that is helping develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro. it is a Chinese Company.”

Are the two incidents related?

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