General News of Thursday, 16 March 2017
Over 1000 farmers in the Eastern Region town of Takorase Congo have petitioned the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) over what they say is an attempt by a private legal practitioner to dupe them.
The farmers are accusing Koforidua-based lawyer Stephen Asante Ansong of shortchanging them in a GHC4.7 million compensation paid to them by the Ghana Oil Development Company Limited.
In 2005, when the Ghana Oil Development Company Limited decided to take over the lands of Takorase Congo for their oil plantation, it meant the destruction of crops and homes of over 1,200 farmers.
The farmers were expecting compensation that will change their lives of squalor and poverty. In 2014, a High Court awarded them a compensation following the destruction of the farms.
According to the farmers, the lawyer who represented them kept over GHC200,000 of the money and they were paid a pittance which meant some parents have to give up the education of their children.
In January 2016, the company paid an extra GHC582,664 for the destruction of their structures after the claimants’ alleged payments received from their lawyer were fraught with problems.
Prior to the suit, it was agreed that the lawyer would be entitled to 10 percent of the GHC4.7 million which represents GHC470,000 for his legal services.
But the farmers are accusing the lawyer of withholding a further GHC400,000 in addition to his legal fees.
Thirty-eight-year-old Faustina Dwamena, one of those affected, has eight children, all of whom have dropped out of school because she cannot pay their fees. It’s not her desire to see them at home while lessons go on in the classroom, she said.
That is the story of most of the farmers who are left with nothing but a pittance to live on. They have called on the EOCO to investigate the alleged non-payment of the rest of their monies by the lawyer.
A member of the Committee which represented the farmers, Dogah Samuel, said the lawyer was not forthcoming with the rest of their money which he is unlawfully keeping.
However, when Joy News contacted the lawyer, Mr. Stephen Asante Ansong, he denied shortchanging the farmers appealing that he should be allowed to check his account and confirm if he is keeping any money belonging to the farmers.
He told Joy News’ Kwetey Nartey that the company did not give him all the monies but only paid in tranches with two cheques adding he has been misunderstood by the farmers.
Mr Asante Ansong said if he realises that he has withheld any monies belonging to the farmers, he would refund it.
“Professionally, I would have been entitled to about 15 percent, but because they are my people, I only charged 10 percent which they have paid me the 10 percent,” he said.
He said the rest of the money belonging to the farmers is ready and would hand it over to them but he is only waiting for the disagreements to be resolved.
Kwettey Nartey reported that he paid GHC225,460 out of the 400,000 Cedis he is allegedly keeping illegally, to the farmers after Joy News’ intervention.