Blows At Judgement Debt Hearing
Officials of the Land Valuation Board and Office of the Administrator of Stool lands on Wednesday came face-to- face with uncompromising disagreements over compensation for stool lands at the ongoing investigation into payment of huge judgement debts and compensations to institutions and individuals.
The Chief Valuer in Charge of Compensation Schedule at the Land Valuation Board, Kwesi Bentsi-Enchil, insisted his outfit had been mandated to collect and pay compensations for stool lands, which had been compulsorily acquired by the state.
He indicated that the then Attorney-General, Joe Ghartey, through a letter in 2008, gave the mandate to the Land Valuation Board to be in charge of such compensation payments.
According to Mr. Bentsi-Enchil, some solicitors to the claimants had written to the Land Valuation Board, which values lands for compensation that they did not want the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands to disburse compensations to their clients.
In a letter addressed to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice dated April 1, 2008, Land Valuation Board indicated that the solicitor representing the allodial owners of state acquired lands, John Kodua of Twere Nyame Chambers in Kumasi, had strongly objected to the decision of the Board to pay land compensation sum directly to the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL) for disbursement in accordance with the provisions of Article 267 (2) of the 1992 constitution.
“The solicitor’s contention is that, it is only when a stool/skin land is taken for use and occupation as required under the Administration of Land Act (Act 123), 1962 that it becomes the responsibility of the Minister through the OASL to pay all revenues received into the appropriate stool/skin land account in accordance with the provisions under section 267 (2) of the constitution.”
The solicitor further averred that “in the case of a claim and receipt of compensation for land compulsorily acquired by the state under the State Lands Act, (125), 1962 and under Article 20 (2) of the constitution, the compensation sum is paid by the Minister directly to the owner and not subject to any disbursement formula.”
This, according to the solicitor, is to ensure that the dispossessed is put in the same position he was before and after the acquisition under the principle of equivalent re-instatement.
Mr Enchil said it was based on the solicitors’ protest that the Attorney-General issued the directive that his outfit should handle the compensation payments.
However, the Administrator of the Office the Stool lands, Christina Esi Bobobee disagreed, stating her office had been statutorily mandated per Article 267 of the constitution to collect and pay all revenue on stool lands.
She argued that the action taken by the Attorney-General was an affront to the provisions of the constitution and usurpation of the powers of the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands.
The Attorney-General’s Department, Mrs. Bobobee suggested, should be invited to tell the judgement debt commission whether its conduct was in tandem with the provisions of the constitution.
The two public officials in cross-fire had been subpoenaed by the judgement debt commission over payments of compensation for about 14 stool lands in the Ashanti Region.
Mrs. Bobobee saw it ‘‘very strange” as to why solicitors of claimants should protest to the Land Valuation Board that Administrator of Stool Lands should not disburse compensations to their clients and yet the issue was not brought to their attention.
She submitted that the Land Valuation Board was in a conflict of interest position because they determined the value of the lands and turned around to pay compensations.
According to the Administrator of the Office of the Stool Lands, it was precisely because of the potential conflict of interest that the framers of the constitution defined the roles of the two state institutions.
She said the Land Valuation Board was due to determine the value of the lands acquired by the state and to allow the Administrator of the Office of the Stool Lands to pay compensation for such lands.
Mrs. Bobobee quoted provisions of the constitution to buttress her point.
Counsel to the Sole Commissioner, Kofi Dometi Sokpor, said the case would have to be taken to the Supreme Court for the highest court of the land to interpret the provisions of Article 267 of the constitution.
This, according to him, will settle the matter as to who should be in charge of payment of compensation for state- acquired stool lands.
Article 267 (2) of the constitution states that “there shall be the establishment of the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands which shall be responsible for -
(a) the establishment of a stool land account for each stool into which shall be paid all rents, dues, royalties, revenues or) other payments whether in the nature of j income or capital from the stool lands;
(b) the collection of all such rents,| dues, royalties, revenues or other payments; whether in the nature of income or capital, and to account for them to the beneficiaries specified in clause (6) of this article; and
(c) the disbursement of such revenues as may be determined in accordance with clause (6) of this article.
Mrs. Bobobee reiterated that even though the constitution had stated categorically that the Office of the Administrate! of Stool lands handled matters relating to stool lands, her outfit was mostly bypassed when compensations were being paid for such lands.
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