I got to know the former Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, in 2012, when he became the Campaign Manager of the current President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
It was as a result of the nature of my work. In fact journalism connects one to legions of personalities more than any other profession does. My relationship with Mr Agyarko got better prior to the 2016 General Elections, when candidate Nana Akufo-Addo made him his Policy Advisor and Chairman of the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Energy Committee.
Mr Agyarko became the toast of many listeners on Accra-based Oman FM’s political programme 'Boiling Point', aired on Tuesdays and Thursdays night. He was a regular panelist on the programme on Tuesdays.
I recall vividly how Mr Agyarko would step out of his car, carry his voluminous books like some '60's Law lecturer, and attempt to make his way to the studios of Oman FM, but would be met by one Barnabas Armah, the engineer on duty, or one Ofosu, and helped him carry the books into the studios.
Mr Agyarko would settle down and when he had his turn to deliver, he brilliantly and with mastery, pointed out the challenges facing the energy sector then, and explained how an Akufo-Addo led government intended to resolve the challenges especially, the debilitating power crisis at that time.
Armed with reliable information and being privy to several agreements signed under the previous administration, Mr Agyarko could not spare them (the NDC government) for the amount of money involved and its implications for the electricity consumers. He had no other description for the then government than to label them as corrupt. And any time he touched on the AMERI power deal, he smelt no other thing but a stinky deal.
With his over 22 years’ experience in the banking sector and having risen through the ranks to become the Vice President of the Bank of New York, Boakye Agyarko was convinced that the previous National Democratic Congress under Mr John Mahama's regime, short-changed the country with the US$510 million dollars Ameri power deal, and indicated the resolve of the Akufo-Addo-led government to cancel the deal, if the NPP won power.
Mr Agyarko continued to trumpet it anytime he was a guest on 'Boiling Point' and many listeners of the programme could attest to this fact. Not only did he raise concern about the AMERI he also noticed that the Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) signed, was fraught with corruption and he brought it to the attention of listeners. Agyarko aroused my interest in the energy sector with his level of understanding of issues pertaining to the sector and his maturity of handling political issues.
Again, I recall how in those days, I could stay glued to my radio sets if I were at home to listen and enjoy all his submissions, in order to get story angles. And when I got to the office the following day, the first thing I did was to grab the full tape and start cutting Agyarko's voice for midday news. I made sure that some of the stories were published online and also in some newspapers. As destiny would have it, Nana Addo and the NPP, overwhelmingly, won the 2016 General Elections, and Boakye Agyarko was appointed the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko came under the spotlight of the Minority in parliament given his criticism of their handling of the power sector.
After spending several hours quizzing him, one of the Minority MP's on the Vetting Committee and Member of Parliament for Bawku Central in the Upper East Region, Mahama Ayariga allegedly cooked a bribery allegation against Mr Agyarko in a bid to equalise, but Ghanaians later got to know that it was a deliberate move to tarnish the Minister's image. The Vetting Committee approved him and was sworn into office with other appointees at the Jubilee House.
Agyarko's achievements at the Energy Ministry
Agyarko hit the ground running, considering the debilitating power crisis at hand at the time, which affected about 885 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), with 55 folding up. He worked hard with his deputies and technical people in the ministry and its agencies and in less than four months, the power crisis was resolved.
Ghanaians became happy and soon forgot that they had been in four years of power crisis.Not only did he work to stabilise power he also made sure, as promised by the party, that electricity tariffs were reduced and power made more affordable. After reviewing all the PPAs and examining all the variables of the tariffs, he realised that it was possible and, therefore, forwarded a proposal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) and on March 5, 2018, the regulator announced between 10% and 20% reduction for all category of consumers.
My recent research findings, which was widely published, stated how companies are making a lot of savings from the tariff reduction.
With his desire and passion to see to it that the energy sector is strengthened and becomes financially sound, Boakye Agyarko and the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, worked tirelessly to ensure that the over US $2billion legacy debt in the energy sector was cleared by floating ESLA Bonds. After the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, they organised a road show in London to that effect.
Under the leadership of Mr Agyarko, Cash Waterfall Mechanism (CWM), which is a new system aimed to reduce the effects of the Electricity Company of Ghana's (ECG) inability to collect the payment for power supplied to consumers, was initiated and approved by Cabinet.
The CWM is expected to see the crafting of a formula for the equitable and predictable distribution of revenue to all stakeholders in the electricity value chain, with the setting up of an escrow account from which funds would be allocated to power producers, fuel suppliers and other creditors.
Prior to his removal, Boakye Agyarko was also working very hard to ensure that the President's vision of making Ghana a petroleum hub in the whole of West Africa was realised.
Unfortunately, Ghanaians got the shock of their lives when on Monday, August 6, 2018, when a statement issued by the Communications' Director at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, announced that President Akufo-Addo had relieved Boakye Agyarko of his position as the Energy Minister.
Although the release did not state the crime Mr Agyarko committed, which warranted his dismissal, some social commentators were of the view that it would have something to do with the renegotiated AMERI power deal.
This was because prior to his dismissal, pro-government newspaper, The Daily Statesman, had reported that the President was 'misled', consequently, his issuance of an executive approval of the new AMERI power deal.
However, upon concerns raised by Ghana's legislative body that the deal had no signatures of the Finance Minister, as well as that of the Attorney General, government decided to withdraw the new deal.
As if it were a fire which had been set in a grassland in a dry season, a certain propaganda radio station presenter took the matter up, and was amplified by some civil society groups such as COPEC Ghana, Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and some senior staff of Volta River Authority (VRA), asking the President to fire the Energy Minister.
They claimed the renegotiated deal was very stinky as compared to the previous deal, because the period had been extended to about fifteen years and it would cost the country some US$1.2billion.
They apparently succeeded in throwing dust into the eyes of those who have no inkling about the deal, and even those who could reason by making Boakye Agyarko look like a bad 'guy' who did not care about Ghana.
It must be emphasised that this article is not seeking to justify any wrongdoing if there was, but as I sat back and was observing and monitoring discussions about the deal, I could sense nothing but a deliberate and orchestrated move by some people in government to smear and dent Agyarko's hard won reputation.
How could Boakye Agyarko mislead the President as The Daily Statesman alleged, when Nana Asante Bediatuo (a respected lawyer) per my information had scrutinised the deal and satisfied himself before it was forwarded to Parliament? To me, this is a tall yarn that would be swallowed hook, line and sinker by a section of the public who are not discerning.
The so-called statement, to the best of my knowledge, was the handiwork of crooks, macharvelians and evil people, who wanted to create a certain unreal impression, so that the public would be angry and demand that the President acted by dismissing the Energy Minister.
Isn't it intriguing that those who called for Mr Agyarko's head, suddenly, developed myopia and so could not even see beyond the accused, that there was a seven-member committee which was put together by the Ministry of Energy to review the deal before a memo was sent to Cabinet for discussion? Why were those critics only interested in getting Boakye Agyarko out? Again, was it not the same Boakye Agyarko who reviewed the PPA signed under the previous administration and ended up saving the nation some GH¢700 million? Was it not the same Mr Agyarko who led the review of the terms of ECG concession from the initial arrangement under NDC where Ghana had only 20% stake with the concessionaire having 80% majority stake to a better deal where Ghana now has 51% stake and 49% stake for the concessionaire and also reduced the years from 25 to 20 and ensured job security for workers? Was is it not Mr Agyarko who gave Ghana what is considered to be the best deal with regard to the Ghana ExxonMobil Petroleum Exploration Agreement contract?
For those who may not be aware, the former Energy Minister was nearly killed by hired assassins in relation to the Ameri Power deal, in 2017, but through divine intervention, he escaped. That was after a Good Samaritan had given Mr Agyarko an intel that the man behind the plot to murder him had been having lunch at a popular hotel in Accra and one afternoon, Mr Agyarko confronted the plotter at his hideout to warn him to stop sending killers after him, or he faced his wrath.
So, how could people imagine that someone who almost lost his life, in an attempt to serve the interest of his motherland, turn around to renegotiate a deal that was said to be a rip off of the the Ghanaian tax payer?
Mr Agyarko was set up by few corrupt NPP guys with tacit support from the Ministry who felt he (Agyarko) was not bowing to their pressure to make money in the energy sector.
I am, therefore, not surprised that the whole Ministry of Energy does not have a copy of the document of the seven-member committee that negotiated the new Ameri Power deal, as my checks at the Ministry have revealed.
Agyarko's dismissal sparks anger in NPP
President Akufo-Addo has the right to hire and fire any of his appointees and owes no explanation to them, despite being voted for by the electorate. However, his decision to dismiss Boakye Agyarko is undeniably one major action that has sparked anger among the rank and file of the NPP, especially the grassroots, and so painful was this decision that some could not hold back their tears, as they wondered why the President could relieve such a hardworking and committed appointee like Mr Agyarko, of his position.
Monitoring comments on the social media and personally collecting public views, the conclusion is that a lot of Ghanaians are not happy at all, about the President's decision.
In a group whatsapp page, one NPP loyalist said: "The day he (Boakye Agyarko) was fired was my saddest day and perhaps His Excellency, the President's greatest mistake so far. I had a heated argument with some NDC guys on this deal and told them compared to what they did, Mr Agyarko's deal was, perhaps, the best deal we can ever get, unfortunately, we in the NPP failed to defend our own. Our communication was also very weak, I hope we are putting measures in place to beef up our communications outfit because now that Mahama has declared his intention to contest, there is going to be a sustained propaganda to paint our party as black as possible.
"I told some guys that for the first time, I disagreed with His Excellency the President. I don't know those guys in our party who are working so hard to send us into opposition, but I think they should be identified and shamed after enough evidence has been gathered on their activities."
Since Mr Agyarko was relieved of his post, some genuine Ministers, Members of Parliament, MMDCEs, NPP executives and some section of Ghanaians have paid him a visit at his residence to sympathise with him and also encourage him. Scores of traditional leaders, mostly those from Kroboland and parts of the Eastern Region, have not been left out as far as visiting him is concerned.
Believe it or not...the President's decision to fire Mr Agyarko has unequivocally dampened the spirit of the NPP's supporters at the grassroots and especially among the Krobos, and I am not surprised that the former Deputy Eastern Regional Minister, George Tetteh, resigned. Although, Mr Agyarko has asked the NPP supporters to remain calm and rally behind the government, I'm not quite sure whether they would adhere to Agyarko's advice.
A word of caution to Mr Amewu
Since his appointment as Minister for Energy, I have not yet met John Peter Amewu to introduce myself to him as a reporter in his new sector. Mr Amewu is a perfect replacement for Boakye Agyarko, because he has deep knowledge in the sector, and is also co-founded the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), a think tank that was part of those that raised concern about the AMERI deal, both in opposition and in government.
But, before I will meet the new Minister, I want to share my opinion on comments he had made in relation to the AMERI deal, which was published in some newspapers and online portals.
According to the story, Mr Amewu made a categorical statement that he would hold further consultation with managers of Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group (AMERI) on the power plant, before government takes a final decision. He went further to add that there would be openness and transparency in the process.
To me, this statement suggests that the process was shrouded in secrecy, which is not good in the sense that, there was a committee which had representation from the relevant agencies. Albeit Mr Amewu passes as my father, I would like to caution him want to tread cautiously with this Ameri Power deal.This is because his predecessor meant well for this country, but some people cooked some figures and bandied them around to create an impression that he did bad.The Akans say: "Edua Ananse atsena ase ewuno, ntekuma entsena ase nto nko," viz, one doesn't go near a situation where a colleague was and had a mishap.
It is my expectation that Mr Amewu would succeed in his new role, after leading the fight against galamsey. I pray that God grants him the wisdom and strength to go about his duties. Again, I pray that God takes over the seat and wards off mechavilians who may intend to put pressure on Mr Amewu to do certain untoward things.
I also wish to entreat the players in the energy sector especially staff of the Ministry as well as CEOs of the agencies under the Ministry, to give him the support to succeed, since the energy sector is the power behind the country's economic growth.
Finally, I wish to advise the CEOs of the agencies under the ministry to draw closer to their Maker, by studying their Bible and Quran and praying always for directions and decision making.
Columnist: Michael Creg Afful
The writer is specialized in energy reporting