Sophia Akuffo opens more fire
The recently-retired Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, has countered Gabby Otchere- Darko’s statement that she “erred big time” in her understanding of the issues surrounding the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP).
The former CJ asserts that Gabby Okyere Darko was unable to make decisions for her regarding what to do and what not to do.
“He doesn’t decide for me on what I need to do and what I don’t need to do, it’s as simple as that. You know I don’t. I don’t have time for things like that. People like that are not important to me or to my life. He is a disturbance,” she said.
The former CJ made this assertion yesterday at the Finance Ministry when she picketed there along with irate pensioners to urge the exclusion of the retirees’ investments from the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme.
According to her, she was unconcerned with being referred to as paranoid by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) leading member, adding that “we talk about people; we talk about human beings; we’re talking about people who have served this country and have served well and have served hard, not easy service. When you are not a member of government and you are calling yourself a member of government; so that’s all I have got to say about this matter.”
Justice Sophia Akuffo’s take on the DDEP initiative
Making her comments on the initiative, the retired CJ believes it is unjust that her colleagues would go through this agony because of the DDEP initiative initiated by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta. For her, the word “bond” does not have a casual connotation, rather it refers to a tie, and it is a serious matter when a government bond may flip-flop or be tossed around in such a manner.
She said the pensioner bondholders chose not to sign onto the DDEP simply because they just want to stand by the original bond they had with the government. According to her, the pensioners submitted a letter to the Finance Minister on January 10, 2023, and till date the government had not responded to them.
Meanwhile, a few days ago similar letters were written to the Minister and had been responded to whereby he had categorically exempted other groups.
“Now, the way things are going, what I sense and smell is the creation of two categories of people or two classes of people. Those who have been exempted by the issuer – now they are calling those who refused to sign onto the Debt Exchange…
When I cannot fathom the realism for something being done in a particular way, especially when it is being done for others, I start getting suspicious. I have grown to the age where I have seen it all, and, therefore, I easily become suspicious,” Sophia Akuffo said.
Justice Sophia Akuffo’s issue with the whole affair is that it distorts the country’s image, because something was being done that would benefit future generations, but it took a long time for typical Ghanaians to even purchase anything from the government.
The former CJ said she mistrusts the government, saying, “paper talks; paper talks; empty talks fly with the wind, yes. So a press release is one thing, a letter in response to a specific request is another thing all together, because we have reached a point where we are feeling uncomfortable, even though we are holding government bonds; listen, it is a trust issue, yes.”
Once more, she said, that pride was to blame for the failure of the Finance Minister to respond to the letter. She told journalists that they would wait till the administration replies to the letter addressed to them.
Gabby Okyere Darko’s Comment
The President’s cousin alleged in a series of tweets last Sunday that the former Chief Justice should have learned more about the issues with the ongoing Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DEEP) before supporting the pensioners.
Gabby claimed that since pensioners had been given the option to self-exempt, there was no reason for them to picket when they could just do so.
“For a former CJ to take up a noble cause such as she did, but at such [a] late hour when all was done; and for all that publicity, she owed it to herself and her social standing to have understood the issues far better than what she exhibited last Friday. She is bigger than that,” Mr. Otchere-Darko tweeted.
But Mr. Otchere-Darko was of the view that Madam Akuffo “erred big time in her basic appreciation of the issues.”
“Why picket over something you don’t like (the improved offer) when you have the right not to sign up? Sorry, but I struggle to get her emotional outburst over-exemption!
“I hope she won’t volunteer to picket tomorrow and on the same issues when the time to sign up has expired,” he wrote.
The government has revised the terms of the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP) for individual bondholders who wish to participate in the programme. Individual bondholders who are under the age of 59 will now be provided with instruments having a maximum maturity of 5 years, as opposed to 15 years, and a 10% coupon rate.
Additionally, instruments having a maximum maturity of 5 years rather than 15 years and a coupon rate of 15% will be made available to all retirees (even those retiring in 2023) as well
In relation to this, bondholders who may want to transfer their bonds will not be able to get the full principal they initially invested as bonds.
The announcement has, however, been rejected by many bondholders who have expressed frustration about the development because their livelihoods depend on the proceeds from these investments. They have asked government to immediately withdraw the bonds of pensioners from the program.
The members of the Pensioner Bondholders Forum began picketing last Monday at the Finance Ministry to demand a total exemption of their investments from it.