It is exactly two years since over two thousand businesses operating at the International Trade Fair Centre, La, were demolished by authorities of the Ghana Trade Fair Company Limited (GTFCL).
Officials of GTFCL, in 2020, pulled down structures belonging to different companies following a redevelopment project that the GTFCL intended to undertake.
The exercise which lasted for about two hours began at 10.00 pm and ended after midnight on February 16, 2020. Two bulldozers were on-site with a team of armed police officers overseeing the destruction of structures and heavy industrial equipment.
Raymond Archer, had his company Universal Labels and Packaging Co. Ltd (UNIPACK) and Colour Planet Limited operating from the Ghana Trade Fair Centre. His facilities were among the many that were demolished on the night.
When GhanaWeb reached out to him, he told Ekow Arthur-Aidoo that at the time, he had injected over $10million into the business which was destroyed on one night.
He said, GTFCL just destroyed the factory; even to go back to the site to salvage things was hell because he was prevented by the authorities.
“I think it coincided with the rainy season – something that made the situation worse. Just after that, it started raining; first of all, the equipment was destroyed and the rains came to finish it up and it’s been two years now and they have not done anything there,” Archer said in a telephone conversation.
According to him, the substantive case was in court before the demolition took place and the case is still in court.
To him, the businesses at the Trade Fair were the ones keeping the trade fair running so that the workers can be paid, but since the over two thousand businesses were destroyed on the night amidst a pending application of stay of execution, the workers have been sacked.
“Once they destroyed our businesses, they didn’t have money to pay the workers, they laid them all off,” Raymond Archer stressed. “It’s been two years now and the place has become bush. They destroyed millions of businesses and allowed the place to go bush.”
When asked how the other occupants of the Trade Fair are doing, Archer stated that, because after the demolition exercise the country was hit by the novel Coronavirus, these individuals got really affected.
“We have a group, and I see that a lot of them were terribly affected because the destruction happened and the next few months, COVID-19 hit the country, so, a lot of them lost their livelihood even before COVID and when you see some of the comments they post on our platforms, sometimes, it is so disheartening and I don’t really get to read them anymore,” he said.
Raymond Archer believes the authorities of GTFCL targeted the business and could not even wait for Monday, February 17, 2020, to come in order to take up the demolition exercise because they were in a hurry to develop the trade fair.
“The whole place has been raised down and now, the workers have been sacked; and the place is just been left in the ruins.
“The trade fair with all its difficulties was running, there were about two thousand businesses there and so, people were earning a living. We were paying serious rent to trade fair, keeping the place alive and most of the workers has been sacked to go home…
“We had a thriving business that had won the hearts of many international businesses across Africa and just to leave it in ruins, just the viciousness of it is what I still can’t get over almost two years. The viciousness of which a fellow businessman will wake up, take a bulldozer, go to his fellow businessman’s factory and bulldoze it down and then you see what is happening now, he is building at the airport but bulldozing other businesses down,” a visibly worried Raymond Archer stated.
Daniel McKorley, famously known as McDan, who is the Board Chairman of the Ghana International Trade Fair Company, has been accused of ordering the demolition exercise.
When he [McDan] appeared on ‘Good Evening Ghana’ programme on Metro TV, he admitted that the time the exercise took place looked very fishy but they had the authority to go to the trade fair at any time and do what they have to do.
McDan denied on the show that they destroyed businesses on the night of demolition.
“We can go in at any time, maybe the time looked a bit fishy. People might think we had something to hide but the documents state that everything is clear [sic]. Forgive me, nothing of Raymond Archer got destroyed. Ask him to show pictures of one machine that got broken.
“No! nothing got broken. I have gone there, inspected the place; I called for footage and I saw everything myself, only the roof got off and one small portion of the building was ripped off. All the printing machines were in there intact, nothing got destroyed,” McDan told host Paul Adom-Otchere on February 18, 2020.
The government of Ghana wants to levy the public through Electronic Transaction means in order to raise about GH¢6.9 billion in order to support entrepreneurs through the ‘YouStart’ programme, yet local businesses which are thriving have been destroyed, with business owners still counting their losses.