Achimota initiates action against grab of school land

Another legal battle over Achimota School land is looming as the authorities of the school head to the High Court to battle a family laying claims to portions of the land.

The school authorities insist that the Nii Ako Nortei Family, which is claiming 172.68 acres of the school land, have no title to the land and hence could not lay claims to the territory which is part of the school land acquired by the colonial government on December 16, 1921.

‘The land does not belong to them. They have no right to claim that if the land was not being used for the purpose for which it was acquired, it should be returned to them.’

‘This is no different from the way people are grabbing government properties and land,’ a not-too-happy Headmistress of the School, Ms Beatrice Adom, told the Daily Graphic .

The Achimota school has, therefore, filed an ex-parte motion ostensibly to freeze a High Court judgement that gave the 172.68 acres to the Nii Ako Nortei Family. In a related development, the court has served notice on all the litigants to appear before it on June 9, 2014 when it will hear the matter brought before it.

The Achimota School has reportedly been under siege from the activities of land developers, some of whom have allegedly encroached on huge tracts of land belonging to the school. The situation, the headmistress said, was affecting teaching and learning in the school.

A visit to the school showed numerous residential facilities springing up. For instance, the school farms have been taken over by people the school authorities describe as encroachers. History

The Achimota School land was acquired in 1921 and according to a document that purportedly sealed the deal, the owners were paid 4,000 Pounds.

The document, dated June 29, 1922, reads, ‘We the undersigned claimants for the compensation under the Public Lands Ordinance in respect of the above mentioned land hereby agree to accept the sum of four thousand pounds in full satisfaction of all claims which we now have or may hereafter have against the Government of the said Colony for aforesaid.’

The document was signed by representatives of what appear to be the allodial owners – the Oku We and Owoo families. Nii Ako Nortei Family in Court

However, the Nii Ako Nortei Family took the Land Commission to court claiming ownership of portions of the land.

The plaintiff had claimed that the Osu Stool and its subjects had since 1922 remained in adverse possession of the land using it for purposes including farming and permanent residential facilities but the government failed to take any action against it.

It also contended that given the fact that the land had not been utilised for the purpose for which it was acquired, the Osu Stool had the right of pre-emption or first acquisition under Article 20(6) of the 1992 Constitution.

In its judgement dated July 28, 2011, the court, presided over by Justice Anthony Oppong, ruled that the claims by the Osu Stool that its subjects had built permanent places of abode on the Achimota land without any protest from government remained uncontradicted.

‘Indeed by the conduct or inaction of the government, the subjects of Osu have been encouraged to believe that their title to the land has not been extinguished in my view, this court will not interfere in any way that might disturb the right of the people of Osu to occupy the land.’

‘In other words, the Government of Ghana has sat down unconcerned for the subjects of Osu to develop mansions and to even grant a good chunk of the land to other developers who have constructed permanent structures on the land.’

‘In my view, what the plaintiffs and their subjects have done on the land for so many years, over 80 years, was adverse and inconsistent with the acquired rights of the government who failed to do anything by way of protest or raising the least objections,’ the court ruled.

The court, however, maintained that plaintiff’s claims with respect to Article 20(6) was misconceived and palpably wrong in law as the provision referred to compulsory acquisition that happened after the coming into effect of the 1992 Constitution.

The Nii Ako Nortei Family subsequently had a Writ of Possession from the Courts issued on April 24, 2014 to take over the 172.68-acre land. Headmistress speaks

The decision of the court is not sitting well with the Achimota School Headmistress who stated that the Lands Commission was wrong in not involving the school in the legal process.

‘Not until last Wednesday, we didn’t know anything about this case. The land belongs to the school and not the Lands Commission,’ she said.

Ms Adom said the Achimota School land grabbing tendency had been going on for a while now. She said it was time to save the land from being completely taken over without any space left for future expansion.

‘People are sitting down unconcerned. This is a government property and we should protect national assets and not allow individuals to grab them anyhow. 

‘If we sit down and allow people to take away government lands, posterity will judge us. Where will our children go to school if we are to give away this land to so-called ultra modern estate developers who are even bent on destroying the Achimota Forest,’ she asked.

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