Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga has told Morning Starr host Kafui Dey that his Ministry has no involvement whatsoever in flying Ghanaian fans to Equatorial Guinea to watch the Senior national team, Black Stars play at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Speaking to Starr 103.5FM all the way from Equatorial Guinea, Mr Ayariga said: “I’m not working on those issues. I’ve been here all this while. Generally I’m managing the safety of all fans who were in the stadium and once they all disperse and get to their various destinations, I’m sure those who handled their transportation here will deal with that.”
Pressed further by Kafui Dey for clarity on the matter, Mr Ayariga retorted categorically that: “The Sports Ministry is not at all involved in that and I don’t think that is an issue that you want me to spend time on this morning when I’m struggling to make sure that everything is sorted out, and everybody continues to be safe.”
Investigations by Starrfmonline.com have revealed that Government spent at least $165, 000 to fly 250 fans in two chartered flights to the oil-rich country to watch the Black Stars’ semi-final game Thursday night.
Starrfmonline.com investigations have also revealed that the travels were coordinated from the office of the Chief of Staff which has angered workers of the Sports Ministry, who feel sidelined.
Checks have revealed that travel agencies are charging between $650-$700 for a round trip from Accra to Malabo per head. The government, according to highly-placed sources, is using the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) as a smokescreen to avoid any public flak.
Our sources within the Flagstaff House say the amount involved hovers around $300, 000. The sources said some people within the Flagstaff House and also in Government are angry over the situation, but there is little they can do or say about it, especially when the Chief of Staff’s Office is at the helm of all the travel arrangements.
Starrfmonline.com can also confirm that government on Sunday enplaned over 300 supporters including Ministers of State, officials of the GNPC, football administrators of some clubs in the country and fans of the various supporters unions to watch the quarter-final clash against Guinea Conakry.
The move is contrary to a view shared by the World Cup commission probing Ghana’s participation in the 2014 World Cup that it was unnecessary for government to sponsor fans to tournaments, since it is just a waste of public funds.
A section of Ghanaians have expressed their indignation at the decision to carry fans to the continent’s football fiesta as Ghana is currently before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a three-year programme to stabilise a staggering economy as well as boost domestic reform.
Ghana is currently reeling under a litany of economic hardships. The local currency, the Ghana Cedi, plunged by about 40 percent in value against the US dollar in the first three quarters of 2014 but picked up in the last quarter after the Government infused $2.7 billion into the economy through a $1-billion Eurobond flotation and a $1.7-billion cocoa syndicated loan.
According to information picked up by Starrfmonline.com, Travel Matters – a travel and tour agency – owned by an NDC MP and which was heavily involved in transporting fans to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup, is the sole agency handling the travel arrangements of the fans to Equatorial Guinea.
Some fans who spoke to Starrfmonline.com on condition of anonymity revealed that they were called by the Sports Ministry to submit their passports and other details for their travel arrangements to be finalised.
It is, however, unclear whether the two planes that conveyed the fans to Equatorial Guinea would return with them after Thursday’s game in Malabo, or wait until the finals on Sunday, since the Black Stars have qualified for the grand finale of the continental showpiece.