The State of the Nation address delivered to Parliament by President John Damani Mahama on Tuesday and the embarrassing disclosure of the disappearance of five babies from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Ghana’s second biggest hospital, on only one night were some of the stories highlighted during the week.
Newspapers also gave prominence to the 48th anniversary of the overthrow of the country’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, on 24 February, 1966.
President Mahama's address touched on various sectors and, as usual, while the president’s supporters hailed it as splendid and factual the opposition’s chorus described it as hollow.
One of several stories published by the state-owned Graphic on the address had headline “President assures of better days ahead.”
It said a confident President Mahama assured Ghanaians of better days ahead, in spite of the current economic challenges.
It said the president sought to inform Ghanaians, who were worried about the economic challenges, that his government understood the situation and was moving fast to reignite the economy.
However, he was not happy with the 'pettiness of politics' that drew some people to wish for the failure of the government.
In that regard, he called for a change that would see everyone playing his or her part in propelling the economy forward.
President Mahama said one of the fundamental problems of the economy was over-reliance on exports, adding that last year the nation spent as much as US$1.5 billion in foreign currency on the importation of rice, sugar, wheat, frozen fish, poultry and vegetable cooking oil.
“Economy must reflect taste for local products – Prez,” was another headline with the story saying the president called for the transformation of the structure of the Ghanaian economy to reflect a taste for local products.
'The basic structure of our economy has not changed from colonial times. The Gold Coast (now Ghana) was designed by the colonial masters to be an exporter of raw materials and importer of finished goods. That was what served their needs and purposes,' he said.
The state-owned Ghanaian Times had a headline “Free SHS 2015/16 academic year” with the story saying President Mahama indicated that the government would abolish the payment of fees in public day Senior High School (SHS) by the 2015/2016 academic year.
He said the only fees that would be paid at the secondary school level would be fees payable by students in the boarding houses.
Consequently, he said, government would be absorbing about 71 million Ghana cedis in school fees annually, starting from the 2015/2016 academic year. (US1.00=GH¢2.52)
The president said the decision, which was taken in consultation with stakeholders, was in line with provisions of the 1992 constitution which state that secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education.
As part of efforts to rebrand technical and vocational education and give it the important attention it deserves, President Mahama said he would announce the formal process to convert 10 polytechnics into technical universities before the end of the year.
The Ghanaian Times, in a story with the headline “Economy on track – President”, said the president told the nation that the economic fundamentals remained sound and the mid-term prospects were good, despite the current turbulence it had encountered.
He said growth continued to be robust at an estimated 7.4% last year, adding the government still retained its vision to accelerate and maintain GDP growth at above 8%. The non-oil sector grew by 5.8% while agriculture, which faced challenges the previous year, posted a significant growth of 3.1%.
The pro-opposition Daily Guide in a story under the headline “Mahama hijacks NPP free SHS” said the president announced that his government would progressively introduce free Senior High School (SHS) education as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution from the 2015-2016 academic year.
The newspaper said the announcement sent the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) into a state of prolonged ecstasy amidst boos and chorus of “We told you so”, as the issue of a free SHS, was the campaign message of the party in the 2012 election but was attacked by President Mahama's ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The ruling party argued that free SHS was a constitutional requirement and could not be claimed by any candidate. The NDC said the priority should be access and quality followed by a progressive introduction of the free SHS, adding that the more than 700 million Ghana cedis required under the NPP's proposal could not be supported by the budget.
“Address was empty - Minority leader,” was the headline of the Graphic with the story saying the leader of the minority in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, described the address as “empty” and “a rehash” of last year’s address.
He said the President virtually repeated all the promises he made when he appeared on the floor of the House in 2013 and which the government had failed to fulfil.
On the directives of the ministry of Health (MoH), following embarrassing revelations of the disappearance of babies at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), the Ghanaian Times had a story with the headline, “MoH cracks the whip.”
It said the Ministry of Health (MoH) had given the authorities of the hospital 14 days to produce the corpses of five missing 'stillborn' babies on 5 February, including that of Suwaiba Abdul-Mumin, 42, for burial by their families.
A committee set up by the Ministry on the disappearance of Suwaiba's baby found that out of 16 births on the day she gave birth, a whopping five were recorded as 'stillbirths' but their bodies cannot be traced.
This is leading to public speculation of a baby stealing ring at the hospital, a tag that is being vehemently denied by the hospital authorities.
The MoH also ordered the interdiction of the cleaner, who claimed he collected the box containing Suwaiba's baby and burnt it.
The Ministry directed the doctor and midwife on duty that night to proceed on their accumulated leave while their actions have been referred to the ethics and disciplinary committees of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and Ghana Midwives and Nurses Council respectively.
The police have been asked to expedite action on the case of assault on doctors when a mob descended on the hospital following news of the disappearance of Suwaiba's baby. Staff of KATH subsequently went on strike for one week to protest the attack and demand protection.
The disturbing revelations were triggered by the mob which demanded the body of Suwaiba's baby to be buried according to Islamic rites.
The Graphic in a story with the headline “7 KATH officials charged over missing stillborn baby,” said seven officials of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) had been arrested in connection with the missing body of the stillborn baby.
All the seven, who have been charged with two counts of stealing and conspiracy to steal, have been released on police enquiry bail, while the docket has been sent to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice.
But the action of the MoH has angered doctors at the hospital who say they will henceforth work according to 'international standards which require that each doctor attends to only three patients a day'.
'KATH doctors to treat 3 daily,' was the headline of the Graphic on Saturday with the story saying the doctors had decided on the action to avoid overworking, which disposed them to mistakes that incurred the displeasure of the public.
They say it will also improve the quality of health care and ensure the safety and security of patients and staff.
The Ministry says it is unaware of this intention of the doctors.
“CPP marks 48th anniversary of Nkrumah’s overthrow,” was the headline of the Graphic on Nkrumah's overthrow.
It said the Convention People’s Party (CPP) marked the 48th anniversary of the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, with a vigil last Sunday in Accra which was attended by party elders, executive, members, well wishers and sympathisers.
The Chairperson of the party, Ms Samia Yaaba Christine Nkrumah, who is the daughter of Dr Nkrumah, said so far no achievements of any party could match those of the CPP in the economic development history of Ghana.
“We will not on this day mourn and shed tears for the overthrow of the selfless CPP government of the First Republic but hold our heads high and shoulders up for the development achievements of the CPP.