Tension is mounting at Buem in the Jasikan District of the Volta Region over the alleged misappropriation of their micro-loan fund of more than $35,000 by an MP of the area and a sub-chief.
Their frustration has also been aggravated by the disappearance of two American Ford and Chevrolet vehicles, purchased by the Portable Practical Educational Preparation (PPEP) – an American NGO funding the Buem Micro-Credit and Co-operative Society (BMCCS) loan scheme, for projects in the Buem community.
A school feeding programme initiated by the PPEP for the community, too, has been halted because of mismanagement of funds.
Weeks of painstaking investigations by The Ghanaian Times revealed that the Member of Parliament for the Buem constituency, Daniel Kwesi Ashiamah, the chairman of the Board of Directors and president of the fund, and Nana Otimpong Otibribi III – initiator of the scheme, were alleged to have failed to account for more than $35,000 which had been required of them for the past two years.
According to a source close to PPEP, the money was deposited in an account both of them controlled, but frantic efforts by the PPEP to get the two to account for the missing monies had ‘hit a wall’ while scores of farm workers and other business-minded citizens of Buem had been “turned away regretfully because there is no money in the fund”.
A 2013 BMCCS report submitted to PPEP as well as detailed financial report of all the wire transfers and bank accounts numbers sighted by The Ghanaian Times last month, stated that only $5,500 had been loaned out of the $35,300 loan scheme.
According to a member of the board of directors of PPEP, Clarence Boykins, the first amount loaned to clients were $5,750.00. The BMCCS loan activity with interest and payments as of 2013 indicates an outstanding loan balance of $5,396.74 and interest of $674. 59.
“Per our calculations based on your own report, there should be $29,250 available for loans,” Mr. Boykins stated in a letter of reminder on March 19, 2014, to Nana Otibribi, MP Ashiamah, and Seth Ashiamah (brother to the MP) – a director of the BMCCS.
Documents made available to The Ghanaian Times indicate that the MP collected considerable amount of cash for expenses associated with his services to the NGO, “and so would not have the cause to dish his hands into the micro-finance fund.”
Things came to a head two years ago, when needy peasant farmers and prospective businessmen and women, complained that they could not access the loan, while staff of the BMCCS had also remained unpaid since 2013 – a situation that heightened the concern of PPEP.
Several attempts by the PPEP management to ensure that the missing monies were accounted for have fallen on deaf ears.
Rather, MP Ashiamah is alleged to have threatened to cause the arrest of Dr. John David Arnold, founder and chief executive of PPEP “at the Accra airport and thrown into jail, anytime he dares visit the country.”
Upon the request of Nana Otibribi in 2011, PPEP transported four vehicles to be used for the Bueman community for a transport system primarily for medical and education. However, three of the imported vehicles (two Fords and Chevrolet) left in the care of Nana Otibribi and the MP, have gone missing. The fourth one, a red Ford Windstar, is allegedly being used by Nana’s family in Accra.
A document sighted by The Ghanaian Times indicated that, earlier, MP Ashiamah, had convinced the PPEP that he could use his position as then assemblyman for his area, to clear the vehicles free of charge, yet the NGO ended up paying $100,000 to him as clearing fee.
The secretary of the PPEP board of directors, Clarence Boykins, wrote in a letter to the Jasikan Municipal Chief Executive on February 4, 2015, stating that by their actions, MP Ashiamah and Nana Otimpong Otibribi “have stolen the hopes and dreams of the Bueman people.”
“Dr. Arnold’s vision was to bring opportunity to the Bueman people that would not otherwise have one. Now, because of these actions, they will not, unless there is a recovery,” he added.
Nana and the MP were alleged to have presented a fraudulent deed on a property of land at Old Bakai that houses the Eagle Nest property in which Dr. Arnold resides and conducts PPEP’s work.
The supposed fake deed was signed on August 30, 2013, by Nana and Ashiamah, but the land turned out to belong to the family of Nana Osekele Nayo.
When contacted last Friday, Nana Osekele II confirmed that the land in question belonged to him.
“I hail from the Apekwa clan and he Nana Otimpong is from the Dangbea clan and we don’t have anything in common. I was therefore, shocked to find out that he had used our land for a deed,” Nana Osekele said.
Investigations by The Ghanaian Times when it visited Buem-Baika at the weekend, revealed that the Eagle Nest property was built in 2011 by the people of Old Baika with financial support from the American NGOs – Arnold Eagle Trust Fund (AETF) and PPEP – after an agreement with Nana Otibribi – who, it was earlier believed, owned the land.
The American NGOs spent more than $50,472 to turn the property into a multi-purpose facility, according to documents made available to The Ghanaian Times.
BUEM FINANCE FUND
For the records, the BMCCS was initiated by Nana Otibribi when he presented himself at the PPEP NGO offices in Tucson, Arizona in the USA, in 2010, and said he was there to raise funds for the Buem people.
“After numerous meetings with PPEP, Nana introduced himself as the king of the Buem-Baika people (he is not) as well as the king of West Africa, and requested a micro-loan fund of $35,000, saying he had a trusted operative in Ghana in the person of Daniel Ashiamah,” another source said.
Having executed such humanitarian projects in a number of countries including Nigeria, the CEO and founder of PPEP, Dr. John David Arnold, bought into the idea, followed up to Ghana and inaugurated the micro-credit fund in December 2010 at Old Bakai-Buem.
“I was moved by the plight of the Bueman people and thought I should give them a new lease of life,” Dr. Arnold had told The Ghanaian Times earlier.
Since January 2011, PPEP has undertaken several projects in Buem traditional area including the renovations of school blocks, Girls’ Education Awareness, Girls Empowerment Education, Diabetes Prevention Education, drilling and renovation of boreholes, sports, school-feeding, and prevention of deforestation among many others.
All the projects have now grounded to a halt, a situation that is causing considerable pain and anguish among the youth.
According to a 24-year-old SHS graduate, Kwame Dompreh, he was devastated after being turned away when he went to solicit for a loan from the fund. Many others who spoke to The Ghanaian Times on conditions of anonymity said many of the youth in Buem-Baika, were now jobless as a result of the cessation of projects being undertaken by PPEP.
The Ghanaian Times also learned that the school-feeding programme for the community was halted much earlier after the Tree of Life NGO (a subsidiary of PPEP) which provided $900 for the programme, found out that the children were being under-fed. The said amount was paid into an account every month Nana Otibribri controlled – and administered by MP Ashiamah.
In 2011, Dr. Arnold was inducted into the Dangbea Royal Clan of Buem with the stool name Nana Bloti Omanboyo I (Chief Father Patriot), for his tremendous contributions to the development of the Buem area.
BUEM PARAMOUNT QUEENMOTHER
When contacted, the Paramount Queenmother of the Buem Traditional Area, Nana Appewbea II, confirmed the story but said a series of ‘conflict resolution’ meetings were ongoing to resolve the matter.
“For now, I would want you to wait for a while whilst we finish with our report and then I can get back to you,” she told The Ghanaian Times last Tuesday.
However, in a letter dated March 16, 2015, Nana Appewbea eulogized Dr. Arnold, describing him as “one of the most highly-respected individuals ever to come to the assistance of the Buem people,” adding that she was shocked and saddened by the failure of Ashiamah and Nana Otibribi to account for the Buem loan.
The Queen assured the Board of Directors of PPEP, his family and US that “no harm will come to Dr. Arnold”.
However, the MP Ashiamah refused to talk to The Ghanaian Times when reached. Several calls and messages to his phone lines also went unanswered.
But when The Ghanaian Times reached Nana Otibribi in his California base in the US (he has relocated from Arizona) on Saturday, he denied the allegations; though he was silent on the missing vehicles.
“These are mere allegations. If the PPEP know what they are accusing me of is the truth, why didn’t they raise the issue here in the US; because I’m under their nose here,” he said.
He was particularly concerned about the land issue, insisting that he didn’t sign a fraudulent deed on the land. “The land is for me – not for Osekele. He should take the matter to court and prove it if he thinks otherwise,” he stressed.
Dr. Arnold is an American micro-finance advocate, philanthropist and educationist, whose works in micro-financing and virtual education, has been cited as national models 10 times in the US Congressional Records and honoured twice at the White House.
At the moment, there is a conflict resolution meeting taking place at Bododa, the paramount seat – which is the head of all Bueman communities, in a bid to resolve the issue, which could pave way for PPEP to continue its development of Buem.
However, the MP was reported to have ‘stormed’ out of at the last meeting when he was being subjected to questions on the micro-finance fund among other issues of concern.
By John Vigah