The much awaited dream of members of the Ashanti Region chapter of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), of having a Press Centre constructed in Kumasi, may be a mirage.
The 13-year-old abandoned press center, if completed, would facilitate the activities of journalists within Kumasi, the Bono enclave and the entire northern Ghana.
Calls continue to mount on authorities to get the abandoned press center in Kumasi completed.
Journalists in Kumasi fear the project could turn into a death trap if its not given the needed attention.
The project, which was estimated to be completed in six months’ time, has stalled for more than a decade for obvious reasons.
Akoma FM‘s visit to the project site revealed the entire facility is now a peaceful abode for squatters, weeds and reptiles.
Nana Asenso Mensah, who has been monitoring the state of the abandoned press center, led the Akoma FM news team to the project site.
If completed, the Kumasi Press Center would serve as office for journalists within the middle belt and northern part of Ghana.
The supposed press center project sits few meters away from the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council, specifically located at the Pine Avenue, Danyame.
The over GH¢583,000 facility would comprise a reception, a well-furnished Computer Room of 200 seating capacity, 2-Syndicate Rooms, five Administrative Offices and a 200-capacity Conference Room.
How it all started
Before 2013, several calls by Ashanti Region chapter of GJA had been made on the then Ashanti Region Minister, Eric Opoku, to build a befitting office complex for the Association to meet, operate and work effectively as the fourth estate of government.
Fortunately for the Ashanti Region GJA, their long-lasting cherished dream of having a Press Center constructed in Kumasi came into fruition.
On August 1, 2013, a colorful ceremony was held to cut sod for the commencement of the press center.
Back in 2013, the project was estimated to have been completed within six months at a cost of GH¢583,000.
If completed, it would have been second to the Accra International Press Center.
Current state of the press center
The former Ashanti Region Minister, Eric Opoku, who is currently Member of Parliament for Asunafo South, who spearheaded the project in 2013 during an exclusive interview with Akoma FM’s Nana Asenso Mensah, was disappointed at the current state of the project.
He explained that “the whole idea of this project was to bring together all journalists in Ashanti Region and beyond so they can work together and bring out the undiluted truth but when we left power our successors never attended to the project and has been left to rot”.
Mr Opoku expressed worry over how successive regional ministers ignored the project to the mercy of bad weather and squatters.
After speaking with the former Ashanti Region Minister, Nana Asenso Mensah snowballed to the Chairman of the Ashanti Region Chapter of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Kingsley Hope, who described how the press center would have helped the operations of Journalists.
“In journalism, we work as a team to unfold the truth and report the accurate facts. For example, when one is working on an investigative piece, there is the need to collaborate with other journalists so if the press center was completed it would have served as converging point for journalists especially those without offices to operate and work effectively.”
The Ashanti Region GJA chair lamented how subsequent regional ministers have neglected the project as the supposed press center has since been at the lentil level for a decade.
Project taken over by squatters
Akoma News team checks at the project site revealed that parts of the lentil is falling off, making the abandoned project a death trap.
Our investigations also found out squatters have taken over the facility, where some occupants have even lived there for over 5 years.
There was a 54-year-old man who goes by the name Bombadi. To him, finding a place to lay his head was pilgrimage until he made this building as his place of abode. He told me he has been living at the abandoned press center for the past five years.
Just as I was about to end the interview with Bombadi, I saw another squatter, Joshua Lamo. He has been living in the abandoned press center with his wife and two kids for the past three years.
Member of Parliament for Asunafo South Constituency and the former Ashanti regional minister under whose tenure the press center was birthed is disappointed at the current state of the press center.
National Media Commission worried
Chapter Twelve of the 1992 Constitution provides an ACT to establish a National Media Commission (NMC) to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication and information. In this light, the view of the NMC on the abandoned press center that has turned into a death trap and abode for squatters was sought.
Chairman of the National Media Commission Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh believes there was no clear cut allocation of budget to fund the project hence the delay of the project.
“I believe the then regional minister Mr. Eric Opoku had good intentions but he didn’t set out a clear-cut budget lines to fund the project that is why the press center has been abandoned, because after Eric Opoku left Ashanti Region in 2014, his successor was also an NDC appointee so why didn’t he continue the project?” Mr Ayeboafo after quizzing added that “I can only conclude that there was no clear cut budget for the project that is why successive regional ministers found it difficult to continue the project”.
Mr. Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo further questioned why journalists believe it’s government’s role to build office complex for them.
“Journalists are not the only professional bodies in this country. We have Ghana Bar Association, Accountants have their association and lot of professional bodies existing but none of them have been calling on government to build office for them, so I don’t understand why the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) believes it is the role of government to build the press center. I believe the way forward is that the journalists in Ashanti Region have to device a funding scheme or a way of raising fund to complete the project,” Mr. Ayeboafo urged.
He called on the GJA to come up with a funding plan especially from businesses and individuals to complete the project.
Well, journalists are not only crying they are also talking.
After several calls on subsequent governments to complete the project have proven futile, the GJA contemplates handing over the project to a private entity on Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.
Kingsley Hope, the chairman of GJA in Ashanti Region, explained all avenues have been explored and it seems the Association is on their own hence the idea of BOT is imminent to salvage the rotting press conference from the grips of squatters, weeds and reptiles.