TDC’s Demolition Of Houses Epitomizes A Systemic Failure

Using my profession, I tackle the issue by testing readers’ memory of governance with this simple question:

As societies increase in complexity from folk to industrial, social control is more likely to be invested in the A. family. B. school. C. state. D. peers.

Obviously, your answer is Option C, state. Referring to the Tema Development Corporation’s (TDC) irresponsible act, what were the good people of Ghana expecting the state to do? To start, I refer readers to a press statement issued by TDC on somewhere 25 to 27 January 2014. The press release incriminated many state agencies in the destruction; an event which is most likely to stand out as the worst human-induced disaster for the year 2014 and beyond.

The first state agency, an autonomous arm of the govt, incriminated in the action is the Judiciary. Daily Graphic report of January 23 questioned the whereabouts of TDC seven years ago when development started in the affected areas. And this is TDC’s response in its press release, ‘[I]t would have known by a simple check of the facts that seven years ago the case was in court and an injunction had been placed on both parties from going to the area’. The ‘it’ refers to the Daily Graphic and the parties are TDC and presumably the chiefs of the area.

Now, I ask this question: when TDC was complying with the court order but noticed that the other party blatantly flouted it, did it notify the court? Indeed, some official of TDC who spoke to me on condition of anonymity said his corporation did. Therefore, the court was fully aware that its order was flouted for all these seven years and yet it (the court) never enforced it. If not in an irresponsible state, can an individual flout a court order as TDC is purporting? I wish someone else informs her Ladyship Georgina Wood to launch fresh investigation into this case. The public is suspicious and mistrust is about reaching disproportionate levels.

The second and most irresponsible group is the TDC itself. This tactless corporation claimed that when the court eventually ruled in its favour, it could not control development in the area because its unarmed task force often came under attack by the heavily armed landguards. It went on to mention an incident on Dec. 16, 2013, when one member of its force was severely butchered. Common sense ignites two issues: That the courts of the land have no capacity to enforce their ruling and that the landguards are more armed than the Ghana Armed Forces.

The ruthlessness of TDC’s flattening of the house is evidenced by the fact the corporation itself knew that the landguards were more heavily armed but it kept on deploying its poorly armed task force to monitor the said area. TDC also knew that the Ghana Armed Forces could have driven the landguards away in a matter of seconds at that opportune time. Therefore, TDC’s deliberate refusal to use the right people to protect the land meant that some people within corporation were engineering the landguards to continue encroaching the area. The good news is that those people are known.

Another incidence manifesting the existence of known persons in TDC who are behind the land encroachment is found under a section of its press release captioned Project Site. Under this section, the corporation claimed that a similar invasion led to a demolition exercise last year. It further mentioned that it mitigated the issue by deciding to build rental terrace house for some affected persons while some of the victims were given pieces of land. And that the said encroachment reduced its project site from over 905 acres to below 350 acres. Clearly, this shows that the corporation’s own activities are motivating people to encroach the land. The TDC-motivated encroachers know that the more they encroach the more TDC will regularize the sites for them.

The third state agency incriminated in the TDC’s iniquitous destruction is the National Security. The official of TDC who spoke to me on condition of anonymity said that his outfit did not invite the police and the military to supervise the demolition. If so, who authorized the state armed personnel to be present at the event as was widely captured by all the media houses? The corporation pretended as if it was National Security that sensed an apparent danger and deployed personnel there. And if this were so, why didn’t the same National Security sense danger when the victims were putting up those ‘illegal’ structures—the best time for the national security to have acted.

The failure of National Security and/or the military or the state at large to protect people who are genuinely building their houses has eventually made landguardship a very lucrative occupation in most cities of Ghana particularly Accra and Kumasi. These root causers of land encroachment—chiefs and landguards—have hardly been targeted by state authorities. And in the case of the TDC’s reckless action, both the landguards and chiefs are comfortably sleeping in their homes, whilst the victims were left onto the mercy of the weather.

The fourth state agency in the aforementioned act is the Tema Municipal Assembly (TMA). TMA and AMA are the state institutions that are publicly promoting the construction of the illegal structures. For instance, the artificial bureaucracies introduced by the Lands Commission and the assemblies for issuing land permits indicate that one must use ‘intermediaries’ before one gets one’s land documents—this is clearly the cause and the source of the so-called fake documents.

On the day of the demolition, the Greater Accra Lands officer Alhaji M.A. Alhassan said that some of the documents possessed by some of the victims were fake. This assertion unmistakably shows that his outfit and for that matter the TMA as well as TDC are fully aware that some people were and are still issuing fake documents to victims. What has the assembly and the office occupied by M.A. Alhassan done to fish out and to discipline these people?

The final and most important state agency incriminated is the larger STATE. The state allowed its armed personnel to supervise the destruction of houses its own citizens toiled to build. Aside this thoughtless demolition, the government is fully aware that no employer pays annual salary in Ghana, yet landlords are allowed to take rent advance for 2, 3 or even 4 years.

Some landlords even demand another carry-forward rent when the first advance has not expired. In many houses, a tenant dare not demand to see light bill or water bill—all that is given to them is a flat rate or amount to pay. The whole of Accra has one Rent Control Office to deal with over millions of landlords and several millions of tenants. This over-exploitation of tenants and many more are driving every worker to try to own his/her residence.

To worsen accommodation problems, govt itself is selling its bungalows. (I don’t want to remind anybody of the most recent bungalow sale and resale.) This continuous and needless sale of state houses implies that in the next few years, no govt worker will have accommodation—this appears to be the single most important factor motivating everyone to own his/her house.

The above and many more issues yet to be unearthed tell us (particularly the youth) that the state institutions can no longer be trusted. Every day, we are told of how police and soldiers often in uniform are caught robbing people. We hear of govt ministers and MPs doling large sums of state monies to themselves (mention not to be made of the recent GYEEDA scandal).

Thus, the more we remain silent the more we have nothing to tell our children who will be born just in the next 20 years. By now, Kwame Nkrumah has exhausted his maximum number of turns in his grave—for all his hopes, dreams and efforts of liberating Ghana and transforming it have been multiplied by zero. His industrial city is now ground zero.

Our grandchildren who might not meet us will be insulting us for allowing Osagyefo’s Ghana to be converted in a tenant state. Our great grandchildren will be cursing us because every evidence suggests that we can fight and hold these corrupt state officials and institutions responsible.

The hope for us (the youth) is that some few concerned people in state apparatus are more than willing to help us fight. Let’s never sleep! Let’s never sleep! Let’s not join political parties because of the fat allowances associated with the executive. Let’s be nationalistic so that we have something to tell and to leave behind for the generations to come after us. Your contribution ranges from reading these articles, writing more and attending meetings when called upon.