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Finance Minister, Ofori-Atta ordered my resignation – Former 2nd Deputy Governor

By: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
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Dr.Johnson P. Asiama, Former Deputy Govenor BOG
Dr.Johnson P. Asiama, Former Deputy Govenor BOG

A Former Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Johnson P. Asiama, has alleged that he was ordered by the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, to resign to enable President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to appoint his "own person.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Dr Asiama, who resigned in January 2018, said: "I was called and asked to resign from office by the Finance Minister, Hon. Ken Ofori Atta."

"The reason he gave me that day was that the President wanted to appoint his own person in my place," he said in the statement.
President Akufo-Addo appointed Mrs Elsie Addo Awadzi to replace Dr Asiama as the Second Deputy Governor in line with the Constitutional provision governing the appointment of Governors of the central bank.

The BoG, a creation of the Constitution is an autonomous regulator of deposit-taking institutions in the country.

MenzGold debacle
Dr Asiama was responding to comments by a 3rd Vice Chairman of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Omarie Waadie, to the effect that he, Dr Asiama resigned partly for his involvement in the MenzGold issue.

The former Second Deputy Governor, however, said his resignation "never had anything to do with Menzgold whatsoever.

In the statement, Dr Asiama said such comments were untrue as he, Second Deputy Governor with responsibility over the Other Financial Institutions Supervisory Department (OFSD) that regulated the microfinance institutions, rather took key steps to help formalise the operations of Menzgold.

Midway, however, he said he was asked to resign and that disrupted the measures being championed.

"Certainly, if my efforts had continued even after my exit, we would have succeeded in restructuring MenzGold or resolving them entirely before end-2017," he said in the statement.

Menzgold was ordered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to stop operations in September 2018 to stop operations.
Since then, its customers have been unable to withdraw their funds, prompting demonstrations, court cases and a manhunt for the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Nana Appiah Mensah.

Below is the full statement from Dr Asiama
 RE: RECKLESS STATEMENTS BY MR. OMARIE WAADIE, 3RD NATIONAL VICE CHAIRMAN OF NPP ON JOY NEWS LINKING ME, JOHNSON P. ASIAMA (DR.) TO THE MENZGOLD ISSUE

My attention has just been drawn to a panel discussion that took place on JoyNews Live at around 18:30hrs today (January 16, 2019). In the said discussion, Mr. Omarie Waadie, 3rd Vice Chairman of the NPP is alleged to have stated that I, Johnson P. Asiama (Dr.), former 2nd Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana had to resign due to my involvement with MENZGOLD. I wish to categorically deny this wicked assertion as an attempt to damage my reputation for whatever reason he has. Mr. Waadie further asserted that I was being groomed to be a running mate for the NDC flagbearer. This also is a palpable falsehood, which the gentleman is known to engage in all the time.

I have referred the matter to my lawyers and we will follow up to the letter to seek redress in court. I wish to sound a strong warning to Mr Omarie Waadie not to involve me in the kind of dirty politics and uncouth behaviour he is engaging in. He is rather doing a big damage to his party and I hope that leadership of the NPP would call him to order. I have absolutely no political ambition at this time, contrary to the unfortunate statements he has made about me.

As someone who held high office, I hesitate to talk openly about such things, but I am compelled in the circumstances to explain the issues particularly about my resignation from office, for purposes of clarity.

I was called and asked to resign from office by the Finance Minister, Hon. Ken Ofori Atta, and the reason he gave me that day was that the President wanted to appoint his own person in my place. It never had anything to do with Menzgold whatsoever. The rest is history. I therefore wish to state as follows:
1.    Somewhere around August 2017, I led a team of Bank of Ghana staff to appear before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to respond to certain issues in the Auditor Generals 2016 Report. The report had nothing to do with MENZGOLD.

2.    During the deliberations however, an MP asked about the status of MENZGOLD and enquired whether we were regulating their activities. I took time to explain to the meeting that we were not regulating MENZGOLD and we had not licensed them to accept deposits from the Public. Hence the Bank of Ghana would not be liable to anyone who engaged in any such business with them. I further explained that they had a license issued by the Minerals Commission (and PMMC) to buy and export gold; and hence we couldn’t just storm their premises to lock them down.

3.    I was then the Supervising Governor for the Other Financial Institutions Supervisory Department (OFSD) that regulated the Microfinance institutions.

4.    About a week after, I called a meeting with leadership of the other regulators (PMMC, Minerals Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and we took a number of decisions to address the MENZGOLD issue. Unfortunately there were sudden changes in leadership in all the three (3) institutions (SEC, Minerals Commission, and PMMC) the same week, and hence I decided to reconvene the meeting at a later date.

5.    I then requested a meeting with MENZGOLD, and their lawyer and two other staff came to my office. During the discussions, I realized that they did not appear to understand what they were doing. I took time to explain to them that the products they were offering (apart from the gold exports) were all akin to Ponzi schemes.

6.    At the end of the meeting, they understood and they appealed to me to help them restructure so that BoG could regulate them. I told them they had to apply for a financial institutions license (in the minimum) before we could engage them. In the meantime, I instructed that they halt the Bullion Banking products and to advertise in the newspapers to that effect, which they subsequently did. 

7.    Staff of OFSD were present in that meeting and I instructed that they visit the company and to inspect their vaults. I was particularly interested in the safety of the database, learning from the DKM experience. Hence, I told them to ensure that MENZGOLD had data backups and to also obtain copies for our keeps. My plan was to check whether the value of gold in their vaults was equivalent to the monies they had received through their sister company, BREW MARKETING.

8.    Unfortunately, that same week was when I was called by the Minister for Finance and told that the President had decided to replace me with his own person, which I obliged. Certainly, if my efforts had continued even after my exit, we would have succeeded in restructuring MENZGOLD or resolving them entirely before end-2017.

9.    I therefore wish to emphasize again that my engagement with MENZGOLD officials prior to my exit was in line with my responsibilities as the Supervising Governor for OFSD which supervised the non-bank financial institutions such as the Microfinance Institutions. Clearly, if someone had followed through with what I started, we perhaps wouldn’t be here today.