Organised Labour on Friday, December 13, 2013 , called on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the Bank of Ghana to suspend the sale of Merchant Bank Ghana (MBG) to Fortiz Private Equity Fund Limited . Labour told a press conference in Accra that "its different constituents were of the view that it will be prudent for the SSNIT Board and BoG to suspend the sale of the bank to allow for further investigations into the matter" Mr. Kofi Asamoah , Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress and SSNIT Board member, said Labour had not received any notification that MBG had been sold to Fortiz, so BoG should use the period of the suspension "to do exhaustive due diligence on the whole process". Labour also expressed the belief that MBG has the "potential to recover from its current distressed position" and urged SSNIT, its 96 percent owner, to make the necessary arrangements to "recapitalize and re-structure the bank's management in particular to ensure its viability". It would appear to The Chronicle though, that the time for arbitrary suspensions is over. Fortiz claims that when it made an offer to buy MBG, it was given certain conditions-precedent to fulfill, including lodgement of the purchase sum in a BoG escrow account, and that once it had met the terms in full it had taken over, in line with corporate practice worldwide. We note that last year when the First Rand Bank of South Africa made an offer for MBG, Labour, which sits on the SSNIT Board did not raise a finger. Which inaction implied that Labour supported the sale that time? So what has changed now? Is it the face of the buyer? Or the claim that the bank is being or has been dashed out this time round? Or is the fact that Ibrahim Mahama , President John Mahama's younger brother, who allegedly held the most toxic of MBG's debt stock, has reportedly given instructions to liquidate his indebtedness in full? If it is the issue of the Fortiz' deal being inferior to First Rand's, Mr. Andrew Awuni , Executive Director, Centre for Freedom and Advocacy , who first alleged the gifting of MBG to Fortiz, adopted the proper approach and went to court to challenge the SSNIT-Fortiz deal. The Chronicle think's Awuni's misfortune at the court should become Labour's fortune. The court said Awuni is not a trustee of SSNIT, so he could not question the decision of the SSNIT Board to sell MBG to whomsoever. Luckily, a SSNIT Trustee is what Labour is. Kofi Asamoah , TUC Secretary-General, sits on the SSNIT Board in the name of Labour. We, therefore, back Awuni's call on Labour to be the new arrowhead in the fight against the alleged smuggling of MBG to Fortiz. Cases on appeal are decided on points of law only. Unless Awuni can prove that the law allows him, as a contributor, to sue SSNIT he would go up to the Supreme Court and come back a loser. This is a fine opportunity for Labour to demonstrate to the court why it supported the First Rand offer and why it is opposing Fortiz's: the court would dissect the two offers to their minutest detail so that interested Ghanaians can form their opinions on the Merban sale based on facts and not emotions. The Chronicle would also call on Labour to issue new instructions to its representatives on various state boards on how to conduct themselves post-board room decisions. They must be told clearly that Labourcannot be seen hunt with the wolves and run with the hares at the same time. Labour representatives on boards should announce their positions on nationally-sensitive issues shortly after the vote. They should not wait until there is public outcry, at the beginning of which they keep quiet, before reluctantly coming out to support the side which is shouting loudest or seems most popular. This flip-flopping paints a certain unflattering picture of Labour which must not be allowed to persist.
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