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27.01.2010 General News

Full bench to decide suit against 3 ex-gov't officials

By Daily Graphic
Full bench to decide suit against 3 ex-gov't officials
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A full bench will be required to determine the suit against three former government functionaries who were dragged to the Supreme Court by two members of the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) for selling a government bungalow to Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, a former Minister of State.

Mr Samuel 0kudzeto Ablakwa and Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, who are now deputy ministers of Information and Environment, Science and Technology, respectively, in the latter part of 2008 sued the Attorney-General, the Chairman of the Lands Commission and the Chief Registrar of Lands at the Lands Title Registry for allocating the property to Mr Obetsebi - Lamptey.

At the Supreme Court's sitting in Accra Tuesday, the court, presided over by Mr Justice S. A. Brobbey, informed parties in the matter that the issues raised by the applicants needed constitutional interpretation and for that reason a full bench would be required to delve into the issues.

The matter has since been adjourned sine die (indefinitely).

Other members of the panel which sat on the case Tuesday were Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Professor Justice S. K. Date-Bah, Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie and Mr Justice B. T. Aryeetey.

Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was present in court. In the writ invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the applicants are praying the court to declare that by virtue of articles 20(5), 23, 257, 258, 265, 284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution, the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing in the previous government did not have the power to direct the sale, disposal or transfer of any government or public land to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey or any other person or body under any circumstances whatsoever.

They are also praying the court to order that any such direction for the disposal, sale or outright transfer of the said property in dispute or any other public land to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was illegal and unconstitutional.

The applicants are seeking a declaration that by virtue of articles 20(5), 23, 257, 258, 265, 284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution, the government was obliged to retain and continue to use, in the public interest, the property in dispute.

They are also seeking a further declaration that the purported sale of the said government bungalow, located at St Mungo Street, Ridge, Accra, by the previous government to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was in utter contravention of articles 20(5), 23, 257, 258, 265, 284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution.

According to the applicants, the Supreme Court should order that the purported direction by the then Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing for the disposal, sale or outright transfer of the said property in dispute to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey smacked of cronyism, was arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory and a gross abuse of the discretionary power vested in a public officer under the 1992 Constitution.

The applicants are praying the court to declare that a publication by the Chairman of the Lands Commission and the Chief Registrar of Lands which announced that the said property had been allocated for Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was unconstitutional, void and must be struck out as such, since it was in contravention of articles 20(5), 23, 257,258,265,284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution.

Additionally, the applicants are praying for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the Chairman of the Lands Commission and the Chief Registrar of Lands and their agents "from perfecting the registration of a parcel of land designated as Parcel No 29, Brock 12, Section 019, in extent 1.04 acres more or less, as delineated on Registry Map, No 003/019/1998, on which is situated Republic of Ghana Bungalow No 2, located at St Mungo Street, Ridge, Accra, in the name of Hon Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey".

A statement of case accompanying the writ said Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey allocated onto himself the government bungalow in dispute as his duty post and resided at the said duty post at a huge cost to the state from 2001 to 2008, although he resigned from his public office some time in 2007 to pursue his presidential ambition.

It said in 2001, when Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was the Chief of Staff at the Presidency, the head office of the Public Works Department carried out, at his behest, renovation to the tune of GH¢ 17,254 "through Brockwell Construction & Engineering Limited, not to mention further additional refurbishment carried out at his instance to his taste at extraordinary expense to that state".

According to the statement of case, Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey subsequently applied to the Chair-man of the Lands Commission and the Chief Registrar of Lands for a land title certificate to effectuate what it termed "the illegal and unconstitutional transaction".

It said the Chairman of the Lands Commission and the Chief Registrar of Lands took the above steps to regularise the grant to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey a land certificate in relation to the said property to effectuate the purported sale of the said government bungalow and plot to him.

According to the statement of case, the applicants wrote to the then Attorney-General, protesting the sale of the said bungalow, but the Attorney-General replied and pointed out that the matter was a constitutional issue.

They further argued that the then Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing did not have the power to "direct the sale, disposal or transfer of any government or public land to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey or any person or body under such circumstances and that any such direction for the disposal, sale or outright transfer of the said property in dispute or any other public land to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey is illegal and unconstitutional".






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