The theft of Ghana’s rural treasure

Computer CrimeOn a wet and cold morning, when overhanging leaves and the trampled blades of grass were still drippy around Nkoranza, Maame Akosua Saa had an unusual company as she trekked to farm.

Adwoa Bonsra came to her house before sunrise to convince her cousin to invest in the new micro finance in town.

They had heard their wonderful and messianic messages on local radio. Incidentally, a loud radio set held by a man who was ahead of them in the dense mist, also told them about the new scheme as they carefully walked the narrow path to tend their young crops fed by the previous night’s rain.

Maame Adwoa had convinced friends and relatives to take advantage of the new scheme in town because she reaped a fortune on her first investment.

With no financial desk at the local assembly and no reading skills, most of her contemporaries relied on oral testimonies reinforced by the media advertisement to process and digest messages on the micro finance scheme.

With very little formal education, they find it difficult to distinguish between fake and authentic company certificates let alone appreciate what is legally permissible.

So they thronged the micro finance offices and literally heaped on them all their savings with the hope of reaping the promised dividends to improve on their lives.

The day of the financial harvest did not tarry. Maame Akosua resplendent in her “aboboro nkosua” cloth, strolled to the office to cash the promise.

An hour later, word got to her household that she had missed a heartbeat and was receiving medical help somewhere in town.

The reason for the fainting of a healthy woman was immediately realised; the doors of the micro finance company were locked and none of its workers could be seen.

She had given them all her life savings and that of what her only child abroad had sent to purchase a house.

Most of her friends were caught in the perfectly authored grand fraud scheme.

Conservative estimates put what was lost in Brong Ahafo Region alone at more than five million dollars.

Anxiety, anger and mistrust seized the hitherto communal and serene community whipping relationships into destruction, ripping marriages asunder as death stalked young lives.

In the lush fields, farmsteads stood unoccupied as their thin roofs shook with each passing wind. Animals in traps decomposed and the palmwine tapper’s pots overflowed. A group of people came to town and tore their hearts and souls into pieces.

A lot of views have been expressed on the unprecedented micro finance fraud as it stole the peace and shattered the socio-economic life of Ghana’s rural and peri urban settlements.

While some have been less charitable to the victims by describing them as “not being financially savvy”, President John Mahama had cause to express worry and insisted that it should not have happened.

Although plans are said to be in place to get the matter resolved, it should be told that if the Bank of Ghana is indeed the supervisor and regulator of the financial sector, it cannot distant itself from this grievous transgression.

What happened to the industrious rural folks should be seen as a national disaster since it could completely ruin the rural economy and psychology.

Compensation fund

It would be appropriate to have a fund to address their financial concerns.

Paying them what they have lost would not amount to rewarding recklessness but would rather result in a historic reconstruction of our rural agrarian economy and culture to withstand the vagaries of the weather and the sheer atrocities of humans.

This misfortune is certainly a fortune in disguise because we can take advantage of the situation to deepen financial literacy in the rural areas.

District Assemblies which allowed such operations on their soil should be surcharged to serve as a deterrent to others. They should be told to monitor whatever goes on in their jurisdictions.

And the long arm of the law should not spare the perpetrators of this vicious scheme.

While each and every one of us is responsible for his or her own safety and wellbeing, let us not forget the complexities of the financial market and its implications for the ordinary financial mind.

These markets are exploitative in nature that is why the Bank of Ghana should secure enough guarantees from would-be deposit takers, monitor and ensure that our citizens especially rural folks are protected from ruthless profiteers.

The Central Bank should take a hard look at its enabling legislations and strengthen its structures or create new ones if need be to research into strategies to monitor all those in the deposit gathering and lending business to save the naive from undue exploitation.

Bank of Ghana should also collaborate with the Registrar General’s Department and take advantage of the formidable network of local government structures as well as the security agencies to do the monitoring.

The primary task of state institutions and personnel is to husband the population. That is to provide for and to protect.

Rural life is the wetlands of every nation. It stores and nurtures the flash floods of culture, economy and our very beliefs. It should not be over exploited because after losing our very existence in the harsh realities of an unforgiving and alienating urban living, we would have nowhere to turn to.

 

Source: Samuel Osei Frimpong