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Farmers call on “incompetent” ICOUR director to proceed on leave

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Farmers at the Tono Irrigation Scheme have expressed their dissatisfaction with the management of the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), specifically calling for the departure of the Managing Director, Dr. Benedict Bonaventure Aligebam.

The farmers noted that their relationship with ICOUR had been positive for many years until the appointment of Dr. Aligebam. Since his tenure began, the farmers say they have observed a shift from collaborative management to an autocratic style, which they claim has excluded stakeholders and farmer leaders from critical decision-making processes.

“He sidelined all stakeholders and farmer leaders on every issue concerning farmers and project well-being, and he presides over everything in the scheme,” Robert Atijona, Organizer of the Federation of Tono Water Users Association, said this during a press conference at the scheme.

A farmer, Francis Ayaga, criticized Dr. Aligebam for his lack of understanding of the operational skills necessary for the scheme, particularly the cropping calendar. “His refusal to release water on time for nursery establishment has affected crop growth and yields. So, we are asking him to go so that a competent person will take over.”

Dr. Aligebam was also accused of unlawfully seizing farmland in Zone B/O, displacing some communities. The farmers urged authorities to intervene and reverse these actions to maintain peace within the project. Dr. Aligebam, who was due for retirement on December 7, 2023, wrote to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, requesting a two-year post-retirement contract. However, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Bryan Acheampong, on February 2, 2024, wrote to the Board Chairman of ICOUR not to extend the stay of the embattled ICOUR Managing Director. The minister, however, granted him a 3-month contract.

The former Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, who was the Board Chairman of ICOUR, in March 2024, wrote to Dr. Aligebam, directing him to “hand over his duties to the next Senior Management Officer while steps are being taken for a replacement.”

It is against this backdrop that the farmers argue that Dr. Aligebam’s continued presence is detrimental to the scheme’s success and called for immediate action to remove him from office.

“Tono farmers are tired of the MD and his style of leadership, and this is the time for him to be on retirement, but he still wants to hold on to the office with his poor performance. We plead with concerned authorities to expedite actions by removing him from office to save the scheme from total collapse,” Robert Atijona, Organizer of the Federation of Tono Water Users Association, said this during a press conference at the scheme.

The Chairman of the association, Robert Kwame Aboko, said farmers have paid annual levies to ICOUR management and have also redeemed some outstanding debts totaling GHC905,921.63, yet the road network and the canals are in a deplorable state, which affects farming.

Efforts to get his response proved futile as Dr. Aligebam was not in the office when the media visited the ICOUR office for his response. Again, when he was contacted on the phone by this reporter, he declined to speak but said he would respond to the allegations only after he got approval from the ICOUR board to speak to the media.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Dr. Hafiz Bin Salih, who is the Board Chairman of ICOUR, said petitions have been submitted in his office regarding the embattled ICOUR MD. “But I don’t rush to do things, I always want to take my time, and when I am cracking the whip, I hit my target.”

The minister, who made this remark during a media engagement, gave the assurance that “not under my watch shall we allow anybody to toil with the lives of anybody or drag any agency activity to a halt.”

Source: A1Radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Joshua Asaah|Tono|Ghana

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