At least 120 workers have been rendered unemployed following the demolition of some factories situated at the Trade Fair.
Raymond Archer, Chief Executive Officer of Universal Labels & Packaging Co. Ltd and Colour Planet Limited, whose facilities were among the many that were demolished Sunday night by the Ghana Trade Fair Company Limited (GTFC) told GhanaWeb his factory has been in operation for over a decade and had injected a whopping $10 million into the business.
While expressing utmost dismay over the unlawful demolition exercise, Mr. Archer mentioned that the private enterprise he had laboured to sustain for years employs over 120 persons.
“We built a beautiful factory that employs over 120 workers, there are a lot of products we’re are doing now that we’re are the only factory in Africa that can do these kinds of works. To see our government target a business like this and break it down midnight is really unacceptable,” a visibly devastated Archer said.
“We are citizens here. How do you destroy one’s business because you want to bring another person’s business using politics? If you destroy my business with politics, then what? If I also get power, I also break it down? Where did we go as a people? And this business has nothing to do with politics. In fact, when I was doing this business, I specifically not to do government projects purposely because I didn’t want the politics in my business. Every work we’re doing here is for private sector.”
GTFC took tenants and owners of factories situated at the Trade Fair by surprise when it embarked on a demolition exercise backed by “orders from above”.
The exercise which began around 10pm and ended after 12:00am saw two bulldozers and a team of armed police officers overseeing the destruction of structures and heavy industrial equipment.
Archer in an interview with GhanaWeb at the scene said he got a call from his security “that there was a team of armed policemen and set of bulldozers demolishing my factory, so we got here and lo and behold the whole factory with these equipment were under destruction.”
He could not fathom why his property would be reduced to debris just for the powers that be to satisfy the thirst of fellow politicians especially when he served officials a stay of execution from the court.
“Four years ago, I was here when officials came that they want to redevelop the Trade Fair so I said okay. I’m a legal tenant and my construction was actually supervised by the Trade Fair. I’ve put in $10 million here…so they started doing a whole lot of things here which made me head to court.
“Last Wednesday they went to court to lift an injunction that the court had placed on the Trade Fair, so my lawyer immediately filed an appeal and a stay of execution which was served on them on Wednesday and Thursday. Then this midnight [Sunday] they come here with bulldozers, lock the gates so that no one can see, come here armed to the teeth just to break down the factory that we’ve built with our toil over ten years,” he said.
“…to target the business, [and say] ‘we’re government, you can’t fight the government…’; ‘I’m not here to fight the government; I’m here to earn a living and an honest one at that.”
The team of journalists from GhanaWeb had gone to the Ghana Trade Fair center upon a hint that the armed police officers were demolishing the premises of multiple tenants including Universal Label and Packaging Service Limited, a factory belonging to former journalist and businessman, Raymond Archer.
Upon reaching the place, police officers decided to deny them entry because according to them they were acting under a higher instruction and no media personnel were allowed to enter the premises.
The officer decided to use his torch to ‘blind’ the vision of the journalists and threatened to damage the camera if the journalists film.
When asked whether he could explain what exactly the armed police officers with bulldozers were doing at that ungodly hour, the unidentified man said he will not answer that particular question.
“Can you please leave…I am telling you that leave, that’s the condition and you are asking me questions,” the angry demolition supervisor told the GhanaWeb journalist.
“This is a project site and also a restricted area, you were not supposed to be here,” he added.
“He should delete it…let me see what you have recorded…I saw you recorded something…don’t tell me that,” the man screamed.
Trade Fair justifies demolition
GTFCL has in a statement refuted suggestions it has targeted some businesses for demolition at the International Trade Fair Center in Accra due to political reasons.
“The GTFCL wants to make it categorically clear that, contrary to what is being speculated in the media, no business or businesses have ever been targeted for demolition because of their political or other affiliations,” portions of the statement read.
On the claim GTFCL was served with an injunction, the entity said it was untrue.
“When the Company commenced demolition of some redundant facilities in the first quarter of 2019, some of the businesses took the Company to court and further secured an injunction to restrain the Company from evicting them from the site.
“On Wednesday 12th February 2020 His Lordship Emmanuel Amo Yartey (J) of the High Court of Justice, Land Court 7, vacated the injunction order “for the Government to go ahead with the facelift of the Ghana Trade Fair site for the betterment of the nation as well as Plaintiffs…”
“Following the vacation of the injunction order demolition of some structures took place on the night of Sunday the 16th of February 2020. Contrary to what is being speculated, the GTFCL was never served any notice of any further injunction granted by any Court. Had we been served we would surely have respected it as we did previously.”
The demolition, according to GTFCL, was as part of plans to re-develop the area into an ultra-modern, first class, mixed use facility with a focus on trade facilitation and business promotion.
“Since 2017 the Ghana Trade Fair Company has been engaging key stakeholders to redevelop the site. A Masterplan has been approved by the Board and Cabinet, and a horizontal developer secured with PPA approval on 28th June 2019 to provide the critical infrastructure needed for the lease of the site to private developers to develop the various facilities earmarked in the Masterplan to support the Ghana Trade Fair Company’s Convention and Exhibition Facilities. What has been in the way of the redevelopment are a number of structures on site occupied by a number of businesses, whose agreements had long expired.
“The GTFCL had informed all the tenants about the redevelopment project and gave them the mandatory 6-month notice on July 10 2018 to vacate the site by 31st December of the same year.
“Prior to this, on September 24, 2017, the Company sent notices to all tenants to renew their tenancy agreements for another year. Reminders followed on November 1st 2017 to renew by November 10, 2017 for the last time before the redevelopment was to start in 2019.
“Since 31st December 2018, therefore, none of the business on site had any valid tenancy agreement with the GTFCL.
“In November 2018 the Company took the initiative to engage with the businesses one-on-one to discuss the redevelopment project and its impact on them. Some of the businesses took advantage of the offer, others didn’t.”