I call the Chief Transport Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday to say I that I was interested in learning about the history of the vehicle I had bought, and that I needed a signature on a Form C transferring ownership from EPA. Of course he was rather suspicious about who I was and what I was after exactly, but accepted my offer to come by the following week to see him. His unease was perfectly understandable, he was only being professional. When I visited is small office in the basement of the EPA building the copy of the letter I had from the EPA Director to DVLA asking them to transfer ownership, together with the picture I brought of me standing with the unrestored Defender with the EPA logo still on the side helped put him at ease. It did take some explaining why Mr. Andy had not come himself, but I just said that as a diplomat and ultimate owner of the Defender I was the one in whose interest it was to get this done in a legal and transparent manner. His primary concern was actually that the EPA markings had to be removed before he would sign the form, which also made sense. I did not have it with me so had to return a couple of days later. Mr. Orgle was delighted see the restored Defender and talked to me about an internal debate going on in EPA about the pros and cons of maintaining vehicles beyond a certain point. He sounded as if he was partial to the “sell it before it gets too old” option, while the Director apparently has a soft spot for a couple of other old Defenders they have and wants to restore them. Mr. Orgle seemed very impressed by the condition of the vehicle and when I told him how much I had paid to have the work done he took Opere’s contact info and said they might go see him. He then signed the Form ‘C”’, had me take his picture with the vehicle and we shook hands.
Armed with the signed Form C from EPA I returned to see “Sam” at DVLA. I needed four photos for the paperwork, which were readily available from a few photographers set up under trees around the DVLA grounds, and was treated to a long period in a cubicle with three women who were filling out forms, mine among them, asking me if I was married, and when I said yes inquiring if “mummy” would beat me if they took me home with them. After paying GHC 60 to a cashier I finally had the registration and the windshield sticker to prove it. They did not change the plates, which did not bother me at all as I rather like have plates that have the same number as the year of the vehicle – 1995. I inquired about getting diplomatic plates but Sam explained that this had to be done through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which makes perfect sense. I just don’t know if we will have time to go through the process, although it would greatly reduce pullovers by police and facilitate border transfers.
After the initial discouraging visit to Sam at DVLA I was left with the command to return with Mr. Addy, the person from whom I had apparently purchased the Landy but whom I had never met. I was not confident it would lead anywhere but I called Gomez, who actually gave me a number for Addy, who I called immediately. I was unnerved a bit because the voice I got when I called Andy sounded just like Gomez, it was really wierd talking to this guy as Addy when I really thought it was Gomez pretending he was Addy. At any rate, he did say we could go to DVLA together, he suggested the following Wednesday morning, and asked me to call him when I was on my way and he could meet me there. That in itself is problematic because depending where he lived it could take well over an hour for him to get to DVLA so I called him well before I left and he said he was “on his way”. I had leaned that that “on my way” is a very elastic concept in Ghana, and could mean they are thinking about leaving an adjacent town soon, or that they are thinking about leaving soon and have three stops to make en route. It was also pouring rain that morning, and traffic was bad. Despite this I arrived at 8:30 and spent a very uncomfortable hour sitting outside Sam’s office alone, managing work email on my blackberry and wondering what I would do if Andy did not show. Until a husky, distinguished looking man sporting a colourful African print shirt came in. He did not smile, but acknowledged me right away, shook my hand and said “shall we go in?” We had to wait for Sam to finish with someone, during which time Addy was on his phone constantly. Then when we were invited in we sat down in two little chairs in the corner of the small office and watched Sam stamp some more other people’s forms and bark orders to staff for five minutes before he turned to me and said, “so where are we at…did we pull your file?” That would be the file we had been looking for for two months. He sent someone looking for it and while we were waiting Sam handed us each a sheet of paper that extolled the virtues of a fuel additive called “EXtreme”. When I asked where you get this wonder product he reached under his desk and pulled out a boxful of sachets and bottles. Mr. Addy and I both bought some, Addy said he would give it to his ‘engineers” to test and perhaps come back for more.
Both were absolutely professional and efficient from that point. Sam turned to Addy and said he was very pleased to meet him, that he had seen his name on many Form Cs. Mr. Addy explained that he turned over hundreds of vehicles in a year , and that in fact he had come to DVLA many times. Sam asked him what the ‘S’ for his given name stood for (Solomon) and asked Mr. Addy to please put his name in full on all the forms in future so he knew who he was dealing with. “Obviously you are a man of some status”. Sam explained that he wanted to execute both transactions simultaneously, from EPA to Addy and from Addy to me, and to do that he needed not only the Form Cs, but also a letter from Addy to DVLA saying had sold the vehicle to me and requesting the transfer of ownership. It was at this point that we learned that the signed Form C Gomez had given me was forged, Addy simply said, hey, that is not my signature, where did you get that? No problem, says Sam, we can do another now. Then Addy went off and said he would be back in five minutes with the letterSam needed to formalize the transfer to me.
At that point Sam said he needed to see the vehicle. I had not brought the Defender with me because I was reluctant to show it in the now quite impressive restored condition to anyone having some official role in the transfer unless I absolutely had to lest they see some advantage in slowing the sale. In this instance I had anticipated the possibility of being asked to present it and Laura was on standby to bring it and she had it on the DVLA lot in 10 minutes. Sam went out himself, in the rain, to confirm the chassis number located on the brake servo under the bonnet. By that time Addy had brought the letter that he must have had typed under a tree in the rain somewhere, signed two Form Cs and left. We still did not have an EPA signature on the Form C transferring ownership from EPA to Mr. Addy, so I quickly volunteered to get the requisite signature because I had some contacts there through my work, and because by this point I was so relieved that Solomon Addy was a real person with a sense of responsibility and a degree of interpersonal skills. It was my pleasure to go to EPA to do that part and save him the trouble. I could now see the light at the end of that long tunnel and would not have to throw myself from the rocks in the ocean off sewage hill.
I just realized I do not have a single post in the fifth category in this blog, the title of which I have also given to this post. The ultimate objective in this whole project is to use the seventeen year old Land Rover Defender we are restoring and outfitting for a sojourn into some of the countries that neighbor Ghana where we live now. The original idea was to perhaps go as far as Morocco, but we have decided that would take more time that we have, and it wold present some very difficult challenges with respect to what to do next with the vehicle. When I first articulated the project there was a category of “disposal” which was meant to cover what exactly we would do with the Landy once we had done our trip. After weighing all the options over the course of the past few months we have now decided:
we will not sell it in Morocco, which was option A. The rationale behind that option, and a variant of it of selling it in Spain or another European country, was to tax situation could get very tricky;
we will not sell it in Ghana, I am not sure we would get the money out of it, and we are rather keen on keeping it;
we will not ship it back to Canada. The would be the easiest and perhaps the most economical thing to do, the Canadians who sent there Defenders back to Canada did so on in confidence that they would be a good market for them. Unfortunately, Canada is not the most sensible place to own a 17 year old diesel vehicle designed for the tropics.
What we are now thinking of doing is to ship it to South Africa as a jumping off point for a tour of East Africa to discover a whole bunch of places we have not seen yet.
But before we do any of that we are going to discover some pieces of West Africa that we have not gotten to. Once the vehicle is mechanically ready and outfitted driving it to Mali is something we would very much like to do. I have a great deal of accumulated leave and we are hoping to be able to take six weeks in June and July for this.