Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Freda Prempeh, has blamed the indigenes and residents of downstream communities along the Volta River, especially Mepe, for refusing to be evacuated before the Akosombo Dam spillage despite several warnings as far back as January, that their refusal to leave would endanger their lives.
“We do not want what has happened in Akosombo to happen to us in Accra. The Akosombo Spillage, even though VRA, NADMO and the Water Resources Commission came together to educate the people in the community, did simulation exercises with them even at Mepe, yet, they refused to leave. They didn’t want to be evacuated. They stayed there to the end when we started spilling”, Freda Prempeh noted while speaking at an official public ceremony organized by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) in Accra on Monday,
She noted further: “Unfortunately, look at what is happening and Government has to spend millions of money on relief items, on education, the whole area the water is contaminated and Ghana Water and Water Resources Commission would have to spend money, millions of money to treat the water before we can pass it through our pipes.
“So a stitch in time saves nine. But sometimes it is difficult to accept the situation. We cannot continue to sit back and allow these things to go on. Looking at what is happening, at Akosombo, now people are blaming Government, people are blaming the VRA, people are blaming NADMO but these three institutions really did a lot of education right from January. Even in September, there was still talking to the people to move because there was a likelihood they were going to spill in the next week or two and because of the change in rainfall patterns, you cannot anticipate when it would rain. So even if they start spilling on a gradual note, the rains would also fall and the Dams would keep coming up”, Freda Prempeh added.
MEPE TAKES ON FREDA
In a swift response, the Mepe Development Association (MDA) issued a statement to categorically deny claims by Freda Prempeh that the residents had refused offers to be evacuated prior to the spillage and floods.
“We wish to make it clear that the Mepe Traditional Council, Mepe Development Association, opinion leaders, and all key stakeholders were not engaged in any simulation exercise or post-simulation exercise as claimed by the Minister. How such an important exercise could escape the eyes and ears of these key stakeholders in the community leaves one to wonder whether the monies expended on the simulation should not be refunded to the state coffers”, the statement signed by Chairman of the MDA, Kojo Mawulemu Fabian noted.
It continued: “The Minister also mentioned that the people of Mepe refused to evacuate before the spillage. Evacuate to where? There were no official temporary shelter facilities provided by the state for the people in the event of an evacuation.
“It was the leadership of the MDA, in consultation with the Chiefs that took the initiative to create seven makeshift safe havens for the affected flood victims in the following locations: Mepe R.C. Primary, R.C JHS, Mepe Presby Primary, Presby JHS, D.A JHS, Holy Christ, and St. Kizito Secondary Technical School.
OKUDETO ABLAKWA ANGRY
One of the worst affected communities is the North Tongu Constituency and Member of Parliament for the area, Samuel Okudeto Ablakwa took to his facebook wall to protest the comments by Freda Prempeh:
Okudeto Ablakwa wrote: Sanitation Minister, Freda Prempeh should stop peddling falsehoods from the pit of hell. There was absolutely no effort by government to evacuate the over 30,000 people affected by the VRA-induced floods.
Can she tell us where they had intended to evacuate my constituents to? Is it the classrooms where they are forced to be now under extremely inhumane conditions? Where is the proof of alternative housing arrangements made by government?
And what does she mean by “we asked them to move?” The Sanitation Minister should sanitize her thoughts and understand in very clear terms that my constituents and all those affected across the country by her government’s negligence and ineptitude are not squatters.
Our forebears were here as land owners centuries before the Akosombo and Kpong dams were constructed. My people are down and out due to failed leadership; don’t kick them with your callous lies, crass ignorance and gross insensitivity.”