Parliament, the law making body of Ghana, has been caught in an embarrassing conflict of interest situation, over its decision to investigate the demolition of illegal structures on a state-owned land in Adjei Kojo near Ashaiman in the Greater Accra Region by the Tema Development Corporation (TDC).
The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, last week Thursday, ordered three Select Committees; the Works and Housing, the Constitutional and Legal and Land and Forestry Select committee to probe the demolition of some illegal structures built on a state land, under the care of TDC, but hijacked and sold to foreigners, land guards and disputed chiefs.
Interestingly, four Members of Parliament (MPs), whose identities is only known to two of their colleagues, Irene Naa Torshie Addo and Dr. Anthony Akoto-Osei, also had their houses on the Government owned land demolished during the exercise carried by the TDC three weeks ago.
Mrs. Addo, who is MP for Tema West Constituency in the Greater Accra Region, showed pictures of four houses on the floor of Parliament last week, when she read statement on the demolition exercise on the floor of the House, but did not mention the names of the four legislators, who obviously had built without building permits.
Dr. Anthony Akoto-Osei, who is MP for Old Tafo Constituency in the Ashanti Region on Joy FM’s Newsfile Programme on Saturday with Kweku Baako, Mahama Ayariga and Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, revealed that indeed, four MPs had their houses demolished during the exercise. He also did not mention the names of his colleagues, but was incensed at the exercise.
Meanwhile, The Herald is informed that some workers of Parliament, had also built on the Government land, and might have had their buildings either razed down or about to be razed down by the TDC.
This means, Parliament, will be investigating a matter in which it members, as well as staff have an overwhelming interests.
There have been several demolition exercises embarked upon in the country by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), others by the National Security Secretariat in and around the Weija dam site and the recent one by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) at Ashalley Botwe in the Adenta Municipality that saw one person losing his life.
In all these situations, no single mention was made of the predicaments of the victims of the said demolitions on the floor, let alone a call for an
The TDC went ahead with the demolishing exercise, having secured two court judgments from the Tema High Court and the Court of Appeal respectively.
While, the High Court judgment was given in 2004 that of the Court of Appeal came in 2008, authorizing TDC to take possession of the land, earmarked for construction of Tema Communities 23 and 24.
The Herald is also informed that a large tracts of land belonging to the Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), reversed for the construction of specialized houses by the statutory body to woo investors into Ghana, under a tax-free holiday scheme, have also been encroached upon by land guards, foreigners and chiefs, whose status have been challenged.
The Herald has meanwhile, landed a law on the protection of public lands, called Public Lands (Protection) Act 1974 promulgated by the military junta (National Redemption Council (NRC) Decree 240.
Section 1 of the law warned that “any person who, without reasonable excuse (the proof of which shall be on him) sells or purports to sell, lease or otherwise dispose of public land, or any interest in or right over public land shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment not exceeding five years, or to a fine not exceeding ¢5,000.00 or to both”.
Section 2 of the law also warned “Any person who, without reasonable excuse (the proof of which shall be on him) occupies or in any manner encroaches on or interferes with public land, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment not exceeding three years, or to a fine not exceeding ¢3,000.00 or to both.
Section 3, which deals with ejection of trespassers, said “Where any person (in this Decree referred to as “the trespasser”) has unlawfully occupied or in any manner encroached upon or interfered with any public land, the appropriate authority or any duly authorised agent of such authority may, in writing, serve a notice on the trespasser, either personally or by affixing the notice to any part of the land affected, requiring the trespasser to vacate that land within twenty-one days from the date of the notice”.
It went on to say “Where a trespasser refuses or fails to vacate the land within twenty-one days from the date of the notice referred to in subsection (1), the said authority or any duly authorised agent of such authority may— (a) eject the trespasser forthwith from that land; and (b) confiscate or remove all goods of the trespasser from that land;…”
It further said “(c) abate any nuisance or terminate any interference caused by the trespasser on that land; and (d) confiscate, demolish or remove any structure or obstacle on that land” and (3) The authority or its duly authorised agent may use such reasonable force as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying out any of the measures specified in subsection (2)…”
Other portions of the law said “(4) No civil action shall be brought against any person acting under this section in respect of any act done by him in good faith in the execution or intended execution of the provisions of this section…”
Section 5- explains the meaning of Public Land as “…land vested by any means in the Republic, the Chairman of the National Redemption Council on behalf of the Republic, the Government, any organ or agency of the Government, or any statutory corporation, whether such land is vested in trust or otherwise”.
Section 6- deals with “Obstruction of Authorised Persons” and said “any person who (a) obstructs or insults a person acting in the exercise of his powers or duties under section 3 of this Decree; or (b) refuses or fails to comply with a requirement made by any such person in the exercise of those powers or duties; or (c) gives to any such person any information which he knows to be false in a material particular, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding ¢500.00 or to imprisonment not exceeding twelve months or to both”.
Section 8 on recovery of expenses said “Nothing in this Decree shall prevent the appropriate authority from recovery from a trespasser any expenses reasonably incurred by it in taking action under section 3 of this Decree”.
Section 9 on the Interpretation of the Decree said “authority” means any organ or agency of the Government or any statutory corporation in which land is vested, or any organ or agency of the Government which administers land vested in the Government or the Chairman of the National Redemption Council on behalf of the Republic.
The MP for Tema West Constituency, is seen by many as using the demolition exercise to campaign for her reelection come 2016. She almost lost the seat to the NDC’s Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, with only three votes.
Indeed, despite a claim that over 500 houses were demolished, leaving 2000 people homeless, only 80 people turned up for a medical screening exercise last week carried out at Adjei Kojo, when a health institution called New Crystal Health Service, went to the site to provide health support to the people.
Dorothy Asare-Kumah, Head of Communication for TDC, has said that only 65 houses were demolished, not 500 as claimed by Mrs. Addo.