The personal belongings of the late Gbese Mantse, Nii Ayitey Agbofu II, were yesterday thrown out of the Gbese Palace, while occupants of the palace were also ejected. These came barely 48 hours after the burial of the chief.
The action, which was carried out in the rains at dawn yesterday, under the supervision of a team of armed policemen from the Striking Force Unit in Accra, is generating tension at Gbese, as a section of the inhabitants have already begun beating war drums.
“We don't want what happened in Dagbon to be repeated here. But what happened today is the beginning of war,” the Chief Priestess of the Gbese Palace, Otujoe Ansah, who was furious at the action of the police, warned. The late Gbese Mantse, who died four years ago, was buried last Saturday. His reign, which lasted 36 years, was characterised by a protracted chieftaincy dispute.
On Sunday, September 10, 2006, the elders of Gbese, acting on a ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Greater Accra Regional House of Chiefs, handed over the Gbese Stool and other royal regalia to the third ruling house of Gbese, the Akote Krobo Saki We. The two other ruling houses are Plenshiaku We (Shiawulu Family) and Tetteh Ankama We. An agreement on the handing-over ceremony was signed and witnessed by representatives of the three royal houses during the ceremony. The occupants of the palace did not understand why armed policemen, together with plain-clothes persons who they identified as land guards, should invade the palace and throw out the belongings of the chief and eject the occupants.
However, the Accra Regional Police Commander, ACP Douglas Akrofi-Asiedu, later explained to the Daily Graphic that the action was based on a court order and that the policemen were there to ensure law and order. When the Daily Graphic visited the Gbese Mantse's Palace yesterday in the morning, it was observed that some personal belongings, supposedly of the late chief, had been packed under a canopy on the street in front of the palace, while the door to the chief's abode had been nailed, putting the place out of bounds to the occupants.
Narrating the incident, Mr Adu Ayitey, stepfather of the late Nii Ayitey Agbofu II, said at about 4:30 a.m., he was awoken from sleep by the voices of two policemen, who asked him some questions in English. He said he had to call one Percy Oko Arday, who could speak English well, to respond to the queries of the policemen but when he descended the building, he saw some policemen, numbering about 50, and other people, including Mr Robert Joseph (ROJO) Mettle-Nunoo, in the palace.
According to Mr Ayitey, when Percy came to the scene, he demanded a warrant from the police for their action. The police, he alleged, responded to Percy's demand with slaps and beatings, after which they handcuffed him and sent him to the Striking Force Headquarters of the Accra Regional Police Command. Mr Ayitey said the alleged land guards who accompanied the police to the palace then removed the personal belongings in the house and dumped them outside. They then asked everyone to vacate the house, after which they locked the entrance to the chief's abode by nailing the door. He said at the time of the incident, which lasted about two hours, it was raining but the police and the alleged land guards did not bother.
Otujoe Ansah said the incident took place at a time the fetish priests were performing post-burial rituals for the late chief.
According to her, post-burial rituals were performed for every chief who died and that normally such rituals lasted about two weeks.
However, they decided to shorten everything by performing the rituals within one week. Otujoe Ansah added that it had never been heard of anywhere that just a day after the burial of a chief, his belongings were thrown out of the palace. She said if anything, the people who carried out the action should have waited for all the rituals to be performed before coming in to take over the palace.
“Even if you rent a house, the landlord cannot just eject you without giving you adequate time to vacate the house,” she said.
Otujoe Ansah said it was good that there were only women and old men at the palace at the time of the incident, indicating that if the young men in the house had been around, disaster would have occurred.
She said what happened yesterday at Gbese was a disgrace to the Ga State because no chief had ever been disgraced in such a manner, let alone the Gbese Mantse, who was the Adonten (next in command to the Ga Mantse) of the Ga State. Otujoe Ansah, Mr Ayitey and other occupants of the palace raised thumbs against Mr Mettle-Nunoo for allegedly leading the onslaught at the palace.
For his part, Mr Mettle-Nunoo explained that what took place was the enforcement of a lawful court order by the police and that he, as a representative of the Gbese Dzaasetse and the chiefs and people of Gbese, was there only to witness the enforcement as necessitated by law. He pointed out that as far back as 1980, the status of Nii Ayite Agbofu II as Chief of Gbese had been challenged and set aside by the Ga Traditional Council. He said that on December 6, 2005, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Nii Agbofu and directed that he should hand over the palace, regalia and all traditional property in his custody to Nii Tetteh Ahinakwa II, Head of the Naa Akua Onidin.
“Nothing illegal or clandestine was done. Everything done was lawful and, therefore, in order,” he stressed. When contacted, ACP Akrofi-Asiedu explained that the police acted on the orders of the court and produced a letter from the Judicial Service to support his assertion. The letter dated September 25, 2006, requested the police to provide 10 armed policemen to execute a writ of possession on Nii Ayitey Agbofu II, the defendant, on behalf of Nii Tetteh Ahinakwa, the plaintiff.
ACP Akrofi-Asiedu claimed that only 10 armed policemen were at the palace and not 50 as indicated by Mr Ayitey. He said the police normally accompanied bailiffs to execute such court orders, adding that his men were at the palace to maintain law and order, and that anyone who obstructed the police in the course of their duty could be arrested.
No dates and times were indicated in the letter by the Judicial Service for the execution of the writ of possession and when asked whether the timing of the execution of the order was right in view of the fact that the late chief was buried only last Saturday, ACP Akrofi-Asiedu said, “The order of a court can be executed any day and time.” He advised the people to respect the rule of law, pointing out that if the police had not been at the palace, there would have been chaos.