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By Fiobi Kwashie*


The demonstration of the Gadangme people on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 drawing government’s attention and that of Ghanaians at large to certain “Burning Issues” facing GaDangme has engendered several comments on radio, television and in the press.

Some of the comments made had been good and sensible showing appreciable sensitivity to the issues at stake.  (Ref. Randy Abbey Metro TV Programme “Good Morning Ghana” of Friday, May 6, 2005).  Others had simply dismissed the issues and the demonstration as “tribalistic”, an act of “aggression” and “a threat to our peace and sense of justice”.  (See Nash Sam’s article in the Daily Graphic, Wednesday, May 4, 2005; page 9.)


Nash Sam’s comments claimed to place the objective of national cohesion above all other considerations.  But, regrettably, the

Mr. E. Amatei Akuete



Writing under the pen name "Fiobi Kwashie"

non-chalant manner in which he and others had dealt with the issues have tended to raise rather than assuage passions among many GaDangmes.  For a moment, let us look at the key issues.


First, it is a fact that in the past, government had acquired several parcels of GaDangme lands under various legal instruments including the Administration of Land Act 123 and the State Lands  Act 125 of 1962.  It is also a fact that compensation had been paid for some of the lands so acquired while payments on others are still outstanding.


Second, it is absolutely true that some of the lands acquired for stated public purposes have been “flagrantly diverted for purposes other than those stated”.  Obviously, the misapplied use of those lands is wrong, improper, offensive, painful and damaging to GaDangmes and inconsistent with the law.  The above-mentioned Acts are therefore considered inimical to the interests of the GaDangme people.


Third, in the light of the above, GaDangme urgently calls on government to repeal those inimical laws.  In addition, government must return all misapplied and/or unused lands to the allodial owners.


Fourth, GaDangme calls for the payment of all outstanding compensations due on lands so acquired.


Fifth, GaDangme calls on government for an immediate end to any further acquisition of GaDangme lands for public purposes.  (See Press Release dated Thursday, February 8, 2001, issued after a meeting between all GaDangme chiefs and the GaDangme Council at Marina Hotel, in Dodowa).


Sixth, GaDangme urges the repeal of the Land Development (Protection of Purchasers) Acts 1960, Act 2 which seeks to protect purchasers of land who have no lawful title to the land but have constructed a building on it.  GaDangme also calls for the repeal of Legislative Instrument, L.I. 118 on the grounds that these two laws are “discriminatory in form, content and substance to the extent that they are only applicable to landowners in Accra alone.”  The lawyers will deal with the details later.


Now, let us examine some of the comments made on the GaDangme positions above and see what makes sense and what may not contain much sense in the following examples.


1.                  In the Metro TV programme “Good Evening Ghana” hosted by Paul Adom- Otchere on Thursday, May 5, 2005 an official from the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines very callously and gleefully stated that actions taken by previous governments on GaDangme lands (and by extension, all acquired lands) could not be revisited.  To him, those actions were final!  In other words, nothing can be done about those lands acquired no matter how loudly and bitterly the Gas or any others cried about them.  The Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission Alhaji Baryeh, was reported to have expressed the same view a few days earlier.


At page 31 of the Daily Graphic, Thursday, April 28, Alhaji  Baryeh stated that “government was not bound by law to revert land which it has acquired but has not been used to their original owners …(and that) the reversion was not automatic, since it had to be declared, particularly when compensations have already been paid.”  Alhaji Baryeh further stated that “if a land was acquired 30 years ago for a purpose in the public interest and the user of the land has since changed, it cannot be revisited and therefore be reverted to is original owners”.


2.                  I am not a lawyer but the above submission seems really weird and raises a number of questions that ought to be carefully considered and satisfactorily answered.


(a)                Alhaji Baryeh does not deny the fact that there are parcels of acquired land which are lying vacant and others are not being used for the stated public purposes.  His only problem is that vacant lands have to be so declared before they could be given back to their owners.  If that is the case, then what prevents the government from making such a declaration so that the owners – the chiefs and peoples – would have control over these resources to develop their respective areas?


(b)               Baryeh also argues that once the user of land acquired 30 years ago has changed, the question cannot be revisited.  This is strange because Article 3 of the “Public Lands Ordinance” (CAP. 134) of 1876 (Amended by 28 of 1936, s2.) in part, has this to say on the Acquisition and Vesting of lands for public purposes.  “(That) … all lands … purchased or taken shall be conveyed or surrendered to and become vested in and held by the Governor of the Gold Coast for the time being and his successors in office (own emphasis) in trust for Her Majesty for the Public Service of the Gold Coast.”  (Amended by 28 of 1936, s 3 and by 56 of 1950, s 3.)


In my view, the surrender of land to and vesting of same in the Governor (as head of administration of the affairs of the state at that time) and his successors in office suggests that there is never a change of ownership of state property.  Once, it was the Government of the Gold Coast and now the Government of Ghana.


(c)                The State Property and Contracts Act, 1960 (C.A.6) Part I; Clause 1 (I) also affirms this notion of one government succeeding another.  Here, this is what the law says.  “Any property vested in the Crown as trustee for the Public Service of Ghana and whether situate in or outside Ghana shall, on the coming into operation of this Act, vest without any further authority than this section in the President in trust for and on behalf of the people of Ghana for the Public Service of the Republic of Ghana.”


(d)               In Article 257 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, we also find that “all public lands in Ghana shall be vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”  This means whoever the President of Ghana might be and therefore there can be no change in ownership of state property although the individuals holding the office may change.


(e)                Further, in Article 257 (2) “public lands” is defined as including “any land which immediately before the coming into force of this Constitution, was vested in the Government of Ghana on behalf of, or in trust for, the people of Ghana for the public service of Ghana, and any other land acquired in the public interest, for the purposes of the Government of Ghana before, on or after that date.” (own emphasis)


3.                  The above provision in the 1992 Constitution does NOT grant or prescribe any time limit when land acquired in the public interest, or for public purposes may be so considered and therefore subject to all the laws on such acquisitions.  In my opinion, Article 257 (2) points to one important fact which is this.  Questions relating to lands acquired even 100 years ago and vested in the Government of Ghana can still be revisited under the 1992 Constitution.  This provision thus invalidates Alhaji Baryeh’s submission that actions taken 30 years ago by previous governments cannot be revisited with current governments.


4.                  As a layman, the legal provisions referred to above seem to suggest that one government  [B] succeeds another government [A] not only in the enjoyment of the latter’s rights but also it [government B] is liable for the duties and obligations of government [A].  If this argument is not tenable, then one may ask the following question.  


On what grounds will the present government pay compensation to victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by previous regimes as had just been recommended by the National Reconciliation Council since those atrocities were not committed by the NPP government?


5.                  Still on the question of the need to return acquired lands not being used for “public purposes” or “in the public interest” to the original owners, the official from the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines tried to give a completely new, if not absurd definition or interpretation of the terms.  His argument seemed to suggest that the government could at any time decide what to do with any acquired lands regardless of the original stated purpose.  In that case, one could not talk of “misapplied” land.  This is contrary to what had been known and accepted over several decades throughout the period of colonial rule and since then.


6.                  Over the years, the terms “public interest” or “public purposes” have been defined as “… any right or advantage which enures or is intended to enure for the benefit generally of the whole of the people of Ghana.”  (See 1979 Constitution; page 163).  In several other legal documents (e.g. the 1969 and 1992 Constitutions) it is further stated, and quite clearly that “Any such property of whatever description compulsorily taken possession of, and any interest in or right over property of any description compulsorily acquired in the public interest or for public purposes, shall be used only in the public interest or for public purposes.”  And for the avoidance of doubt, the law lays down the conditions which must be satisfied for any such acquisition.  These are “in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning or the development or utilization as to promote the public benefit.”


7.                  From the foregoing, it is difficult to justify the blatant diversion of large tracts of land acquired for “public purposes” for private uses.  See the area where the Star Hotel used to be and you would find luxurious private residences built by private companies or group of private persons for private benefit.  Again, look around Cantonments and you would realize the “hurry” with which estate developers are building high-class residences for the advantaged few in the society.  It is obvious that successive governments have all abandoned the construction of low-cost houses for the poor and disadvantaged in our society.  Lands acquired ostensibly for the purpose have been given up for other uses and worse still, for private gain to the detriment of the original owners of such lands.


8.                  We have just seen in paragraph 5 above the meaning of the two terms “public purposes” or “public interest.”  It therefore seems odd that some current government officials might want to give a new twist to their meaning.  It should be obvious that any new interpretation of the term that is contrary to the accepted meaning is void and will be offensive to all right thinking persons.  Above all, Ghanaians must note that any disingenuous attempts by the executive, or the legislature or the judiciary to change the accepted meaning of the terms to the detriment of GaDangmes or other Ghanaians in other regions with similar problems are bound to be fiercely resisted.  History clearly teaches us that there is never any peace whenever and wherever peoples’ lands have been forcefully taken or deviously acquired.  This is NO threat to anyone.  It is simply a common sense issue that is just, right and proper and must be respected by all.


9.                  In the TV Programme of May 5, 2005, the official from the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines stated that “after all ONLY 13 per cent of Ga lands had been acquired.”  He therefore wondered what the Gas had done with the remaining 87 percent!  And, as if to say “Amen”, the other participant – an official from the Home Finance Company (HFC) – decided to admonish Gas to “educate their chiefs” against the sale of the same piece of Ga land to multiple buyers.


10.              The issue here is not about the size of Ga lands that had been acquired or what the Gas should teach their chiefs about.  Those two statements are insulting, to say the least, and it would be better not to comment further on them.  The point is that, land acquired (whether large or small) for public purposes or in the public interest which are not being used for the stated purposes must be returned to the original owners.  I do believe, this requirement refers to lands for which due compensation had not yet been paid.  On the other hand, in cases where compensation had already been paid, the law requires that the original owners should be given the first option to buy back the land.



*Fiobi Kwashie is the pen name of Mr. E. Amatei Akuete









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