SHC Fights Adenta Chiefs Over Judgement Debt

The State Housing Company (SHC) Limited has taken a legal step to set aside a 1994 judgement for compensation claimed by the chiefs of Adenta, Accra, led by Nii Sowah Okataban II.

Dr. Mark Nii Akwei Ankrah, MD of SHC yesterday told the Commission of Enquiry investigating the payments of judgement debt that, after restructuring the state-owned company, they realized the claimants had not followed the right processes to get judgement in respect of the acquisition of Adenta lands by the government for the SHC and hence the decision to contest the matter after almost 19 years.

Dr. Ankrah had been invited by the Commission presided over by Sole Commissioner Justice Yaw Apau of the Court of Appeal because a lawyer for the Adenta chiefs had petitioned the Commission to look into the case.

How things Unfolded
Lawyer B.B. Quaye, who is leading Nii Sowah Okataban II, was the first to appear before the Commission to state that in view of the SHC’s fresh move, his clients were withdrawing their petition and rather face SHC in the law courts.

Giving a background to the matter, Mr. Quaye said on December 14, 1994, an Accra High Court entered judgement in favour of his clients led by Nii Sowah Okataban II against the Attorney General and the then State Housing Corporation for the acquisition and subsequently took steps to enforce the court’s order.

Amount Involved
He said the court had awarded ¢600million (GH¢60,000.00) in 1994 and after the SHC admitted liability, the amount stood at ¢750million (GH¢75,000.00) and decided to pay his clients.

‘The corporation made a payment of ¢100million (GH¢10,000.00) and pleaded with us to seek the government’s intervention because they did not have enough money and we agreed.’

He said in spite of different MDs coming into office, they realized that the rest of the payment was not forthcoming and therefore went to court for a garnishee order but before the Commercial Bank could pay, transferred SHC’s money to an account in the then Bank for Housing and Construction.

‘After two years, the Bank for Housing and Construction transferred the money back to Commercial Bank. We had notice and went for another garnishee.’

He said as a result, an order was made by a High Court presided over by the late Justice Dwamena Tawiah for the SHC to make the payment, but they refused and the claimants decided to initiate contempt proceedings against the company.

Mr. Quaye said just when they were initiating the contempt action the SHC filed a motion on notice to set aside the 1994 judgement and the SHC was recently granted leave by another High Court presided over by Justice Dzakpasu to put in a defence.

‘My view is that there is no judgement. The matter is now sub judice,’ he said, adding ‘in all our dealings with them, the SHC has not denied the fact that they owe us so we are surprised at the latest development and we will meet them in court.’

SHC’s Defence
When called to testify, Dr. Ankrah said, ‘I have been at the SHC for only five years and the Adenta land acquisition is one of the cases we feel needed to be revisited.’

He told the Commission the SHC engaged external solicitors to investigate the case and they later became convinced that the processes followed by the claimants were right and therefore decided to contest the case.

He said that apart from the flawed processes the claimants adopted, Nii Sowah Okataban II and his group had been selling the same lands to prospective developers saying ‘it is not a straightforward case of compensating the allodial owners.’

‘It is wrong for anybody therefore to suggest that the SHC does not want to pay compensation to the owners of the land acquired.’

By William Yaw Owusu

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