Ghana’s former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, in 2006, sued the Daily Guide newspaper for libel following a publication about her owing the state GH¢2.8 billion.
According to Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, she did not owe the state any money and prayed the court to restrain Daily Guide from further publishing similar or other libelous statements or stories about her.
In the publication titled “Milking the Sacred Cow – Konadu owes 2.8 billion to the State”, the former First Lady was accused of being connected to the Carridem Development Company (CDC), that owed the Government.
Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the Former First Lady, on Monday told an Accra Fast Track High Court that she did not owe the Government of Ghana any money, “not even one cedi.” Mrs Rawlings led by her Counsel, Mr Tony Lithur denied owing the Government of Ghana 2.8 billion cedis.
Mrs Rawlings made this known when she testified in a case in which she has sued the “Daily Guide” newspaper and Mr Ato Sam, alias Baby Ansabah and Mrs Gina Blay, Deputy Editor and Editor, respectively, of the “Daily Guide” and Western Publications, publishers of the “Daily Guide” for libel.
The newspaper, in its Wednesday, July 6, 2005, edition published a story titled, “Milking the Sacred Cow – Konadu owes 2.8 billion to the State.” Nana Konadu further stated that she was not connected to any entity that owed the Government but indicated that she knew about an entity that managed monies for the Government.
She said Carridem Development Company (CDC), a limited liability entity, owed ECOBANK some money.
The Former First Lady, who was accompanied by Ms Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Coordinator of CDC, said in 1997, CDC applied for a facility from the Trade and Investment Programme (TIP) managed by the ECOBANK through the then Ministries of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Finance.
According to her the CDC, coordinated by Ms Ayittey accessed funds from TIP after it had come across adverts in the media. She explained that before one could access funds from TIP, one needed documents, which CDC had.
Nana Konadu said ECOBANK on November 4, 1997, after critically examining CDC’s documents, offered it 750 million cedis intended for non-formal traditional exports.
Ms Ayittey signed for the Company while a director of ECOBANK, signed for the Bank.
She said the 750- million-cedi facility was to rehabilitate the Nsawam Food Cannery and to provide the factory with some capital. Nana Konadu said as part of the conditions of the loan, CDC opened local and foreign accounts to cater for proceeds of its products. Asked whether she knew the Defendants in the case, she responded in the negative but she pointed out their designations. Nana Konadu is the President of the 31st December Women’s Movement, a non-governmental organization that owns CDC.
According to her at the Register-General Department, Ms Ayittey, the coordinator of CDC owns 100 per cent of the shares in trust for the Movement.
The Court realized that solicitors of defendant and plaintiff had not complied with its order to list and file documents intended to be used during the trial and adjourned the matter to Thursday, February 2.
The Former First Lady in her November 23, 2005 suit demanded general damages including aggravated and/or exemplary damages for libel in respect of the words published by the Defendants on the front page of the July 6, 2005 edition of the paper.
She is further praying the court to restrain the Defendants from further publishing similar or other libellous statements or stories about her.
Defendants in their statement of defence contended that the words together with the story that followed them were fair comments on matters of public interest.
The statement said in May 2005, the Auditor-General in a letter to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice suggested the commencement of legal proceedings to recover the loan and its accrued interest which was part of funds provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to finance non-traditional exports but had been lent to CDC.
The Auditor-General indicated that the money in question formed part of the TIP programme managed by ECOBANK on behalf of the Government of Ghana since 1997.
The statement said according to the Auditor-General, in November 1997, a principal amount of 500,000 dollars (750 million cedis) was approved as medium term loan to provide working capital for CDC. It added; “the tenure of the loan period was 18 months expiring on 1999”.
“However, since 1997, CDC had made no effort to repay the loan thus making it indebted to the Republic of Ghana to the tune of 2,880,518,972.17 cedis,” the statement of defence said. The Defendants apologized in the August 29 2005 and August 30, 2005 editions for any damages caused to the Plaintiff’s reputation and to the public for wrong impression created by the story’s headline. Plaintiffs, however, presented an application for directions, which the Court upheld.
The Court, therefore, directed plaintiffs to file and serve exhibits they intended to use during the trial. Mr Freddie Blay, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and husband of Gina, was in court.