2016 has been an eventful year. From the banter, controversies and politics preceding the December elections, events on the election day itself to the Woyome saga. The list is endless.
This action-packed year opened with the Gitmo two saga, built crescendo with President Mahama’s Ford gift story, then it broke our hearts many times over with the passing away of famous people, entertainers and politicians alike. Then finally it broke out with full force in the lead up to the elections.
Many of these stories were clicked more than 200,000 times, but others too received fewer clicks – demonstrating that they did not interest the public very much.
However, whether they made it to our ‘most popular story’ list or not, their significance have been etched in the annals of Ghana journalistic history.
Read 2016’s biggest stories below.
January: The ‘Gitmo two’ starter
President John Mahama’s decision to accept and resettle two former terror suspects from its ally, the United States, angered the public and set in motion a controversy-filled year. The sentiment of the general public was heightened by revelations that a 2007 assessment by the US found at least one of the detainees to be of a high-security risk.
The US government, however, dismissed that report insisting an updated assessment clears Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby for resettlement in any country. A US diplomat will later tell Joy News after she was pushed by the host of Top Story on Joy FM (Evans Mensah) on details of the report that indeed the former terror suspects posed some risk.
The government was sued for risking the lives of Ghanaians by accepting the two, however, the Supreme Court threw out the suit but ordered the state to release the agreement it made with the US.
February: Kintampo tragedy
Fifty-three people died on Wednesday, February 16 when a Metro Mass bus and a truck rammed into each other in a fatal accident at Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo Region. Among the deceased was a 3-year-old child.
Twenty-three others sustained severe injuries.
The accident happened around 20:00 GMT when the Metro Mass bus had a head-on collision with the truck that was carrying tomatoes. The track was believed to be travelling from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso heading to Accra.
This tragedy was preceded by the death of three people in a car crash on the Kumasi-Obuasi road in the Ashanti Region on February 3. Thirteen others sustained severe injuries. The incident happened on a stretch of road between Trede and Pekyi number 2 around 6:00 pm, Wednesday.
March: Error-ridden, embarrassing Independence Day brochure
Organisers of Ghana 59th Independence Day celebrations were criticised for the grammatical, typographical and factual mistakes found in the official independence brochure. One of the poignant errors in the brochure referred to Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyata — who was invited to the Independence Day anniversary — as the President of Ghana.
Four days later, the Acing Director of the Information Services Department (ISD), Francis Kwarteng, was sacked after he owned up to authorising the printing of the error-ridden brochure.
April: EC’s controversial rebranding
Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) unveiled a new logo as part of a re-branding campaign, a move that was met with fierce criticism especially by New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The logo was later said to have been plagiarised from a Turkish educational institute, Yedi Sistem. Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Charlotte Osei rejected the claims and hinted that the institute is free to assert its “rights under the law” if it feels its artistic work has been plagiarised.
The logo stayed.
May: Stinky Smartty’s deal
The cover was blown off the scandal involving the branding of 116 Metro Mass Transit buses with the photos of past Presidents and President Mahama at the cost of GH¢ 3.6 million in May this year. The deal, however, was signed in 2015. The scandal caused public outrage and resulted in the resignation of the then Transport Minister, Dzifa Attivor.
A committee set up by the Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, to look into the sole-sourced deal found that there was excess payment to the contractors, Smarttys. The report, part of which was made public, recommended that Smarttys refunds about GH¢1.5 million which was an over-payment for the deal.
OccupyGhana, which exposed the scandal, believes the scandal is a unique example of an institutional corruption.
June: Mahama Ford Saga
President Mahama took a 2010 Ford Expedition in 2012 from a Burkinabe contractor and friend, Djibril Kanazoe. The Presidency, however, explained the gift is not being used by the President personally. It has been donated to the state and is now part of the Presidential pool of vehicles.
The Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) was petitioned over the matter, but by September it had come to a close. CHRAJ said the President breached the country’s gift policy in accepting the controversial Ford gift given by a Burkinabe contractor, however, the Commission said its preliminary investigations show that the president’s action did not breach the bribery, corruption or conflict of interest laws of the country.
July: ‘Montie 3’ conviction
The host of a political talk show on Accra-based local language radio station, Montie FM, Salifu Maase and two of his panelists, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn were handed a four-month jail term after they were found guilty of contempt charges following threats by the panelists to kill Judges.
Directors of Network Broadcasting Company, operators of Montie FM – Edward Addo, Ato Ahwoi and Kwesi Kyei Atuah — were also fined 30,000 cedis. The company is a known affiliate of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). The panelists on the discussion programme threatened to kill judges, with specific reference to Justice Sulemana Gbadegbe and Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.
However, their conviction scraped the nerves of many supporters of the governing NDC. Then lobbying for the President to pardon the three started.
In August, barely a month into their sentence, President Mahama pardoned the three persons – a decision that many say is among factors that caused the NDC’s defeat in the December 7 elections.
August: ECG workers deny service to consumers
Consumers were denied service at various offices of the Electricity of Company of Ghana (ECG) as a strike declared by workers of the company entered the third day. The aggrieved workers began a sit-down strike on Wednesday, August 24 to protest a planned privatisation of the power distribution company.
By September, the workers were calm. They explain the nationwide suspension of services was not a strike. According to them, they have only been protesting the unfair privatisation of the nation’s energy distributer by the government. The government insisted that the ECG was not going to be privatised.
In October, the Chief Executive of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Dana Hyde, explained that the support for Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) under the second compact programme will not result in its privatisation. Could it have been poor communication?
September: EC’s ‘outrageous’ filing fees
The Electoral Commission hiked filing fees for presidential and parliamentary aspirants contesting the December 7 general elections, a move that angered some political parties.
The Commission pegged filing fees for presidential candidates of the various political parties at GH¢50,000. The filing fee for parliamentary candidates was increased to GH¢10,000.
Nomination fee for parliamentary candidates during the 2012 election was GH¢1,000, while that of the presidential candidates was 10,000. The new charges represented an increase of 1,000 percent.
The PPP and other smaller political parties were outraged. The PPP hauled the EC to court. The Supreme Court threw out the case.
October: Eva Lokko dead
2016 recorded the death of many celebrities worldwide and Ghana was not left out.
Progressive People’s Party parliamentary aspirant for Klottey Korle constituency Mrs Eva Lokko died in October. Until her death Mrs Lokko was a vociferous female voice in Ghana’s politics having been named a vice presidential candidate of the Progressive People’s Party in the 2012 elections.
Her passing away came shortly after a former Member of the Council of State and former member of erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), Dr Mary Grant, passed away in September.
The year also swept away Danny Nettey, Bob Okala, Nkomode, George Wiliams, Nii Odoi Mensah, Vybrant Faya, Katawere, Kofi Middleton Mends and Daasebre Gyamenah and the 111-year-old queen mother of Asanteman, Nana Afia Kobi, to eternal rest.
November: SC settles storm over disqualification of political parties
The Supreme Court ordered the EC to allow some 12 disqualified candidates to correct errors on their nomination forms, errors that formed the basis for their disqualification. The judgement froze five other suits in which presidential candidates are challenging the disqualification. The candidates were disqualified after the EC said it found anomalies on the presidential nomination forms.
The EC finally pruned the number of presidential candidates to 7.
The Presidential candidates of the PPP, National Democratic Party (NDP) and People’s National Convention (PNC) were given the go to contest the election, setting the tone for a smooth election after a hectic period for the EC, which was mired in controversies and lawsuits.
But not before the last-minute damaging ‘Bugri Naabu allegation’. The Northern Region Chairman of the NPP claimed that the President and his brother, Ibrahim Mahama, offered him the sum of GH¢3.3 million and a V8 Land cruiser to denigrate the reputation of Nana Akufo-Addo as an ethnic bigot.
The NDC denied the allegation, however, on the back previous reports of bribery and corruption allegations against the incumbent party, the damage had already been done.
Woyome vs Amidu: The Supreme Court granted former Attorney General Martin Amidu’s request to orally examine businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome from whom the state is trying to retrieve 51.2 million cedis wrongfully paid to him. Mr Amidu was forced to file the application after the Attorney-General, Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong filed processes to discontinue her own application for an oral examination of the businessman.
December: The Election that shook the NDC
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate, President John Mahama was trounced by the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo in a fiercely contested election. Nana Akufo-Addo, a three-time lucky aspirant, polled 5,716,026 to beat the incumbent President, who got 4,713, 277 votes. The declaration by the EC confirmed Joy News’ projection which predicted a win for Nana Akufo-Addo with a margin of 53.35 percent.