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08.10.2010 Press Statement

STATEMENT ON THE ALLOCATIONS A OF GOVERNMENT LANDS AND ASSETS TO INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANIES READ AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE COMMITTEE FOR JOINT ACTION (CJA) IN ACCRA ON THURSDAY 7TH OCTOBER 2010

By CJA
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Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
On behalf of the Committee for Joint Action (CJA), I welcome you to this press conference at which we will state our position on the allocation of Government lands and assets to individuals and companies.

According to the laws of Ghana, lands acquired by the government are supposed to be used only in the public interest or for the public purpose for which it was acquired. (Article 20(5) of the 1992 Constitution)

In the 1992 Constitution, (Article 20: Clause 6), there was an additional stipulation that “Where the property (acquired by the government) is not used in the public interest or for the purpose for which it was acquired, the owner of the property immediately before the compulsory acquisition, shall be given the first option for acquiring the property and shall, on such reacquisition refund the whole or part of the compensation paid to him as provided for by law or such other amount as is commensurate with the value of the property at the time of the reacquisition”.

In 1998, under the first NDC government, the then government introduced an urban renewal programme, part of which was to re-develop government residential properties allegedly to ensure optimal use of land and the realisation of the full latent values in the land as well as providing new modern housing stock for the government. In effect, the objective of the re-development of Government lands was to renew old run-down neighbourhoods by demolishing some of those which were located in the centre of huge plots, construct as many new houses as the plot could take at virtually no additional infrastructural cost.

The then NDC Government identified public lands in Cantonments, Airport Residential Area, Kanda, Switchback and Ridge Residential Areas for re-development. In 2000, the Cabinet discussed and approved the Accra Redevelopment Scheme, to be carried out under a public-private sector partnership as a means of funding and executing the project. They then introduced a publicly publicised bidding system, based on bidding rules and guidelines for the selection of individual applicants and prospective developers.

It ought to be stated that this decision of the first NDC government did not take into account the Constitutional provision which requires that “the owner of the property immediately before the compulsory acquisition, shall be given the first option for acquiring the property” (Article 20: Clause 6). In our view, the decision to privatise some public lands also failed to take the future needs of Government into account.

Some of these plots were acquired as early as 1876 under the Public Lands Ordinance (1876). Since independence, the main compulsory acquisition statute, the State Lands Act 1962 (Act 125), made provisions empowering the Minister to make such regulations, the product of which was the State Lands Regulations, 1962 (L.I. 230). Legislative Instrument 230 lays down regulations and procedures to be followed in the administration of publicly acquired lands.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
It was under these laws that the lands in Airport, Cantonments, Kanda and Ridge Residential Areas were acquired.

Under Phase 1 of the NDC government's Redevelopment Policy, the proceeds from the sale of 67 plots of land (sold mostly to companies and a few individuals), enabled that government to build 83 replacement bungalows and 169 residential units.

When the NPP came into power they decided to continue with Phase 2 of the Project. However, they decided to ignore the laid-down procedures, such as open bidding and going for Cabinet approval of allocations. Instead, between 2003 and 2008, the NPP Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, in his individual capacity proceeded to allocate 46.85 acres of residential plots and houses without subjecting the allocation to competitive bidding or the laid-down guideline established by the cabinet.

According to documents prepared by the Lands Commission, the NDC government in 1996 used the in-filling scheme to enable SSNIT to build housing units for sale to the public. However, between 2005 and 2006 the NPP executed their own in-filling scheme, outside the approved Re-development Plan when the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, together with the Chairman and Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, allocated 19.54 acres of land to 90 persons. Under the NPP scheme, the allocations were so arbitrary and haphazard that even the persons who were allocated the plots did not complete the Application for Leases/Licenses for Government Plots (Form 5) as stipulated in LI 230.

It ought to be stated that under the guidelines, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, on his/her own, does not have authority to sell state lands. Under the 1992 Constitution, (Article 257(1), “all public lands in Ghana shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for the people of Ghana” who shall, under Article 20(5) use them only in the public interest or for the purpose for which they were acquired.

What the NPP government did was to share lands in prime areas to mostly to NPP members and supporters as determined by the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing. .

Although the Redevelopment scheme was designed to be implemented through competitive bidding, with the Cabinet having an oversight responsibility for its implementation, when the NPP government decided to implement Phase 2 of the programme in 2004, they decided to pay no attention to the procedures. As a result this was suspended several times until October 2008, two months before the elections, when the NPP decided to ransack the properties without recourse to procedure.

Some of the properties were allocated on protocol basis to mostly NPP members and supporters. The others were offered through bidding that was not publicised.

According to the Lands Commission, “prices paid under the protocol allocations were determined by the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing”. Seventy one plots in prime locations were allocated to mostly NPP members and supporters under protocol.

Under the NPP's exclusive and restrictive bidding process, 103 plots were created and allocated to NPP members and supporters.

There is also the case of the site of the former International Students Hostel which covers 12 acres. The original zoning of that land was for civic and cultural purposes. Strangely in 2007, the NPP government made the Regional Lands Commission to request a re-zoning of the site from cultural to residential purposes. Once this was approved, 36 plots were created and shared among the following persons:

1. Mrs. Georgina Wood Chief Justice of Ghana
2. Freddie Worsemau Blay Former Deputy Speaker of Parliament

3. Akua Kuenyehia Dean of the Faculty of Law, Legon;

4. Akwasi Osei Adjei NPP Minister for Foreign Affairs (2007-2009)

5. K. T. Hammond NPP MP for Adansi Asokwa, and former Deputy Minister of Energy

6. Ben Owusu Mensah Formerly Director-General of the GPHA

7. Osei Kuffuor
8. Frank Mpare Secretary to Cabinet under NPP
9. K. K. Sarpong NPP, Ex- MD of TOR
10. Esther Obeng Dapaah NPP MP for Abrem
11. Ambassador Kobina Wood NPP Functionary
12. Irene Addo NPP MP for Tema West
13. Oboshie Sai Coffie Former Minister of Tourism
14. Dr. Abu Sakara Forster CPP Vice-Presidential Candidate (2008)

15. Hajia Alima Mahama Former NPP Minister for Women and Children's Affairs

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
According to documents from the Lands Commission, each of the persons allocated plots on the International Students Hostel were made to pay a paltry GH¢15,000 as premium; amounts described by the Commission as being “far below the amounts paid by lessees of similar plots in the Airport Residential Area under the Re-Development scheme and therefore did not offer the State good value for money”.

People, who should have known better, including the Chief Justice who should know the law, threw away any sense of integrity and decency and went for the land-grab. It is a travesty that this same person, the Chief Justice, is the one who is appointing judges to sit on cases to decide on whether the land-grab is lawful or not. She has no regard for the principle of not being a judge in your own case; neither is she concerned about the Code of Ethics for Judges of whom she is head. Indeed, it is a classic case of “If Gold rusts, what should iron do?”

That is not all. The NPP government even decided to share among themselves, and their friends, Executive bungalows in prime areas, which are meant for senior public officers and Ministers. Under that scheme, the following persons were offered Executive bungalows for purchase.

ADDRESS PREVIOUSLY OCCUPIED BY SOLD TO
1. No. 1 St. Mungo Jake Obetsebi Lamptey Jake Obetsebi Lamptey

2. No. Liberation Road Prof. Frimpong Boateng Prof. Frimpong Boateng

3. No. 54 Osu Residential, Ringway Estates Vacant Poku Edusei and Ras Boateng

4. No 7 5th Circular Road Alan Kyeremanteng Ogun Segun

5. No 11 5th Circular Road Ameyaw Akumfi Nick Hotel

6. No 6 6th Circular Road Ambassador D.K.Osei Paradise Hotel

7. No. 31 1st Circular Road Vacant Crystal Hill Hotel

8. No 2 6th Circular Road Prof. Baffuor Gyan Edmund Mills

9. No. 33 Patrice Lumumba Road Abubakar Saddique Boniface Fati Seidu

It would be most interesting to find out who the owners of the hotels which benefited from these allocations are.

Looking at the various lists, it is reasonable to conclude that the NPP leaders decided to carve out prime lands in Accra and share them among themselves as if they were war booty. They had absolutely no regard for the original owners who, under the constitution, should have had the first option of purchasing those properties. Indeed, they have attempted to make certain prime areas exclusive to NPP members and supporters alone. In political terms, this is tantamount to gerrymandering.

It is notable that 65% of the properties shared out were allocated after September 2008, less than 2 months before the 2008 elections. Overall 80% of the allocations were made in 2008. It shows that the NPP knew what they were doing: they wanted to loot before the elections; just in case they lost it. It is reasonable to assume that in order to secure themselves against court actions, they allocated some of these prime properties to judges, including some members of the Supreme Court who would be expected to sit on such cases. In some cases, allocations were made as late as 7 January 2009 when a new President was supposed to be sworn in. How cynical could they be?

It is obvious that those who would want these lands to revert back to the state or at least to the original owners cannot hope to win since some of the beneficiaries are judges who would be sitting on such cases. Above all, the Chief Justice, a major beneficiary of the scam, would be the one to choose which judge sits on such cases.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
In the light of all the facts we have stated, the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) strongly recommends that:

The President sets up an independent Commission of Enquiry to conduct a public enquiry into the allocation of state lands and government assets. The Commission should examine the legality of the allocation and all related matters. It may also be interesting to establish whether or not the companies which were involved in these transactions have met their tax obligations.

Finally the CJA believes that the business of Government is not coming to an end anytime soon. Government still needs lands to build schools, hospitals, accommodation for public and civil servants and other citizens, offices and recreational facilities and to create protected zones such as forest reserves. Given this reality, the CJA is asking Government to retain public lands for utilisation for the public good.

A list of all the allocations is attached for ease of reference.

Thank you for coming. You may now ask questions.

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