By Samuel Saint-Ayisi
Protestors, with the name, Coalition of Concerned Ghanaians, have poured onto the streets of Accra-Ghana, to express their opposition to the Electronic Transaction Levy Bill (E-Levy), which is before Parliament for consideration.
The demonstration dubbed: ‘Yentua’, a Twi word meaning ‘We won’t pay’ was led by the youth wing of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), also saw groups such as Justice 4 Ghana advocacy group, Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Coalition of Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) trainees, Coalition of Concerned University Students, head porters and okada riders participating.
The demonstration was also made up of other participants, demanding an end to the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) strike, highlighted the grievances of NABCO trainees and the high taxes on petroleum products.
The Obra Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, the traditional starting point for demonstrations in the national capital, was full of men and women in red outfits at about 8 a.m. yesterday, amidst drumming and dancing.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Aseidu Nketia; the National Chairman of the NDC, Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; the Deputy General Secretary of the NDC in charge of Operations, Mr Peter Boamah Otokunor; the NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo-Prampram, Mr Sam Nartey George; the MP for Madina, Mr Francis Xavier Sosu; the MP for Sagnarigu, Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini, were some of the NDC bigwigs who joined the demonstration.
The protesters walked through the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue to Tudu and Kinbu and further through the National Theatre and Ridge Roundabout and ended at Parliament House, where they presented a petition to the leadership, led by the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu.
The National Youth Organiser of the NDC, Mr George Opare Addo, whose office spearheaded the demonstration, explained that the protest, which was the first in a series of actions to be undertaken by the party, was to give backing to the Minority in Parliament in their bid to kick against the E-Levy and call for better reforms.
Inscriptions on placards displayed by some the demonstrators were: “Bawumiah’s silence on E-levy is alarming”, “E-levy is equal to E-fraud”, “Propaganda NABCO jobs”, Unemployed youth chased out like dogs”, “Four more but we have cried more”, “Regulate okada with an okada act in Parliament” and “Pay UTAG, students are suffering”.
Some traders took advantage of the protest to sell NDC party paraphernalia.
The bigwigs of the NDC addressed the demonstrators before they hit the streets at 9:52 a.m.
Taking his turn to address the crowd, the NDC General Secretary described the levy as “daylight robbery” and suggested to the government to look for other alternatives to raise revenue.
According to Mr Nketia, a future NDC government would abolish the E-levy should the NPP government succeed in passing it into law.
For his part, the NDC national chairman said the E-levy could not be the only solution to the country’s revenue challenges, as the government had not been able to demonstrate and account to the people what it used the revenues generated for.
Petition to Parliament
The NDC National Youth Organiser, who read details of the petition submitted to Parliament, said since the government had not demonstrated any commitment to withdraw the e-levy, Parliament must listen to Ghanaians, since they represented the voice of the people.
“We elected you to be in his House on our behalf; you are the representatives of the people and we urge you to reject the e-levy and represent us in our best interests. If Ghanaians say no to the E-levy, Parliament must equally articulate the views of Ghanaians by rejecting the bill; Ghanaians are not interested in the reduction of the levy to any amount,” he added.
Mr Addo called on the government to pay the arrears of NABCO trainees and provide them with permanent jobs, as promised, get UTAG back to the lecture halls, reduce the prices of petroleum products and restore the value of the cedi through proper and sound economic management.
Respecting all views
Receiving the petition, Mr Annoh-Dompreh said it was important to respect the views of all.
He promised to forward the petition to the appropriate authorities and urged the protesters to remain disciplined as they had exhibited throughout the demonstration.
The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, commended the protesters for a peaceful demonstration.
“This is what happens in a democratic society. There must be avenues for civilians to articulate freely their legitimate concerns,” he said.
Asked why they had joined the demonstration, the lead convener of the Coalition of Concerned University Students, Mr George Kofi Aboah, said it was not only because of the e-levy but that students who had paid fees to study were just on campuses, hoping that the government would pay teachers in order for them to get back to the lecture halls.
Ms Cynthia Osei, a trader, stated that already prices of goods had shot up as a result of the frequent increase in fuel prices.