Hundreds of Ghanaians in the Western Region who invested in a tilapia farming business fear losing their investment in the sector and are thus asking government to intervene.
A company by name Safeway Tilapia Cooperative is reported to have used an endorsement of its activities by the South Dayi District Assembly in the Volta Region as bait for its Western Region customers.
But years on customers who say they have pumped thousands of Ghana cedis into the business say they cannot even locate the directors of the entity to retrieve their monies.
Pensioners inject pension cash
Citi News’ Western Regional correspondent Obrempong Yaw Ampofo reported that the elderly among the customers committed their lifetime pension benefits while the middle-aged and youths invested their savings and start-up capitals respectively some three years ago.
He said the company had promised to pay its customers between 80 -100 percent returns on their investment in the first to third years respectively.
Obrempong explained that the company is said to have won the hearts of residents in the Western Region because of its connection with the South Dayi District Assembly in the Volta Region.
Over GHC4 million paid to GCB bank account
“On documents and certificates obtained from a few of the investors by Citi News, a total of over GHC4 million were paid to the GCB bank account of Safeway Tilapia Cooperative.” he added.
One of the disgruntled investors who spoke to Obrempong at Takoradi in the Western Region said he was introduced to the business by a friend who told him it was a good investment and “that when you invest your money they will pay you an interest of 80% the first year, 90%, the second year and 100% the third year.”
“So I invested GHC50, 000 with the view that the money will come back with interest but nothing came. Now the office is closed, when you call the office, nobody is receiving the call. They promised us in January that a company in England is buying Safeway and is coming to pay all the investors and they will send SMS to everyone. We waited and at the end of the month, there was no SMS. I went there in February and the office is closed.”
Another angry investor explained how his investment was locked up. “I went to their website and realized that they were working in conjunction with the South Dayi District at that time and I realized that they were in estates too.
I also saw that there have been news items that government officials have gone to commission some of their hatcheries and cages. It has even been an agenda from government officials that government was going to expand the agro industry and they are going to expand the sector. So I concluded that this was genuine.”
He added that “I invested GHC15, 000 in installment. What I made after some savings within a period of time, I put it into that saving with an idea that it will mature and with the final output I will go and set up something of my own.”
Ultimatum to President Mahama
Leader of the aggrieved investors who is also a pensioner, Francis Affizie at a press conference called on President John Dramani Mahama to call the South Dayi District Assembly to order and use his good office to help them retrieve their monies. He said “your Excellency, we appeal to you to come to our aid because Safeway Tilapia and Shrimps Company is a public private partnership between the Safeway group and the South Dayi District Assembly. By this relationship, they claimed to boost investors’ confidence by involving the assembly directly in their operations,” he said and further accused government saying it “has a hand in the company’s operation through its appointed officers.”
Mr. Affizie further gave government “up to the end of May 2016 to summon Safeway Tilapia Company and South Dayi District Assembly to meet all the affected investors and give us a clear cut payment plan.” “Failure to hear from government will give the affected investors no other choice than to hit the street with a massive demonstration,” he added.
However, several calls to Safeway Tilapia Cooperative for their response were futile.
South Dayi DCE speaks
Meanwhile the District Chief Executive (DCE) for South Dayi, Kafui Semenyo Bekui, has denied any foul play by the district. Speaking to Citi News’ Volta Regional Correspondent, King Norbert Akpablie, and the DCE said the assembly was approached by Safeway Tilapia Cooperative with a proposal the assembly deemed beneficial to its people.
We’re willing to meet victims
He said the partnership between the assembly and the tilapia firm was partial and that district officials are willing to meet victims of the alleged scam to discuss their concerns.
“It came to our notice and we started questioning but unfortunately after some time, we can’t actually get them to talk to but we are still making the efforts to get them on the round table to talk. It was about a year ago and later through efforts, I got an insight into the one I should contact and I did. That was during the Christmas festivity break but we are yet to meet quite soon. They are not operating their office in the Volta region. When I call, it doesn’t go through. The need to get them is important because without them it will be difficult to do anything.”
A similar incident happened in the financial sector where scores of Ghanaians lost millions of cedis after DKM micro-finance Company run into financial challenges.
The company had promised its customers mouthwatering interest on their investments. But millions of cash deposited by the customers were locked up, following the Bank of Ghana’s move in 2015 to stop the company, including others from operating over concerns that there were violating the microfinance regulations.
The company was alleged to have invested about GHC77 million of its customers’ deposits in its subsidiary companies – DKM Airlines Company, DKM Fuel Station, DKM Transport, DKM Shea Butter Company and DKM Mining Company, among others.
Meanwhile, the investors have been struggling since 2015 to recoup their investments but to no avail.