Landowners at La East Dadekotopon near the Trade Fair Centre in Accra have accused the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) of constantly vandalising their properties, despite the Attorney General’s (AG) directive that the military stay off those lands.
The complainants claim they are the rightful owners of the land they acquired from the La East Dadekotopon Development Trust, but the military have continuously pulled down their structures on grounds that the place is a security zone.
One of the developers, Kwame Akorsah, Director of BRAGHA Construction Company Limited, told DAILY GUIDE that on December 12, 2015 the military, after several confrontations with his workers, pulled down the fence wall around his land in a mid-night operation.
He said his company acquired 30.150 hectares of land from the Trust, got a valid land title in 2008 and sold other portions of the land to other real estate developers and prospective buyers.
“We also decided to wall the land so that we can start development. Some time ago we received reports that the Army was harassing our workers and I met one Lt. Colonel P.K. Apenkwa who admitted that they came to stop the workers because they wanted to create a buffer zone so they won’t allow us to work. On December 12, they came back and I told them that we still won’t stop and at dawn the following day, the military came back and pulled down my wall with impunity,” Mr Akorsah said.
When DAILY GUIDE visited the site, portions of a fence wall constructed by BRAGHA Construction had been pulled down.
The military had earlier indicated its intention to create what it called a ‘security buffer zone’ and that it required an area of 2,456.55 acres or 994.15 hectares of land around Burma Camp but they were met with fierce resistance from the landowners, led by the East Dadekotopon Development Trust, who had gone ahead to sell the lands to private developers with land titles.
Deputy Attorney General Dr Dominic Ayine, who took part in the initial negotiation process, warned the military to stay away from the land, stressing that it was unacceptable and nothing short of lawlessness.
The deputy AG, acting on behalf of his boss, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, came to the conclusion that if Ghana Armed Forces intended to proceed with the creation of a security buffer zone it must commence the formal process, through the Ministry of Defence, to start the compulsory acquisition of the 994.15 hectares of land and pay promptly the compensation due the current owners of the land.
Dr Ayine also stated categorically that until the negotiation and acquisition processes were completed, the GAF should not trespass or use force to prevent the current landowners from developing their lands.
However, residents, tenants and landowners in the area disclosed that the military had not heeded the A-G’s directive but had resorted to using force to terrorise them with the intention of getting them off the site.
“Some of us are ready to sit with the military and talk. Once they agree to pay us compensation, we would gladly give them the land but using force is not appropriate,” a landowner told DAILY GUIDE.
High Court Decision
When the Trust sued the government through the A-G over the land, the court was “very categorical” that it was the duty of the state to go ahead and acquire the said land under the State Lands Act as provided by law and pay due compensation to the owners; and until that was done, the military had no business to act in a manner inconsistent with the plaintiff’s ownership of the land.
Dr Ayine said the A-G takes the view that the East Dadekotopon Development Trust “has a constitutionally protected right to compensation for the proposed taking of its land for the security buffer zone,” adding, “even without a High Court decision, the Ghana Armed Forces could not proceed to use the land without following due process of law and paying compensation.”
He also said that the High Court decision had not been overturned on appeal by the defendant, saying, “until that is done, it is binding on the government and for that matter the military and must of necessity be respected.”
“Any attempt to enforce the creation of a security buffer zone outside of the framework of law is unconstitutional,” he added.
Armed Forces’ Response
Meanwhile a military source told DAILY GUIDE that their action was aimed at ensuring the security of civilians and the country as a whole.
He said due to some security installations around Burma Camp and La East Dadekotopon, they urged residents and landowners who were within a 400-meter radius around the camp not to develop anything on the land.
“The people who acquired the land close to our security installations are exposing themselves and other civilians to security threats and that is what we are trying to avoid. We have also started a compulsory acquisition process to legally get lands that fall within the 400-meter radius; then government would pay compensation to all those affected,” he said.
By Nii Ogbamey Tetteh