Feature Article of Thursday, 31 May 2012
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
In the wake of the Mills-Mahama regime’s criminal overruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana’s verdict in the “Jake Bungalow Case,” the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, Messrs. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa and Edward Omane-Boamah, as well as the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), has, reportedly, been doing the rounds in an obviously futile attempt to defend the indefensible (See “Ablakwa’s Lawyer Defends Gov’t Decision on ‘Jake Bungalow’” Ghanaweb.com 5/26/12).
In the main, Mr. Kwabla Senanu, the plaintiffs’ counsel, predicates his defense of the Government, as opposed to the State, on Article 20, Subsection 5, of Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution which states, inter alia, that: “Any property compulsorily taken possession of or acquired in the public interest or for a public purpose shall be used only in the public interest or for the public purpose for which it was acquired,” and on Article 20, Subsection 6 of the Constitution, which clearly states that “Where the property 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 of 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.”
The problem with his clearly gnarled argument is that in its most expert ruling, the Supreme Court, which is entrusted with the role of definitive interpreter of the Constitution, and all other laws of the land, as it were, emphatically observed that, indeed, the use to which Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey intended to put the State-owned property, located at Number 2 Mungo Street, in the Ridge Residential Area, was incontrovertibly in the public interest. In other words, short of raw and crude arrogance, the Mills-led government of the National Democratic Congress had absolutely no right to summarily abrogate the contract while the latter already entitled the respondent, Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, to the aforementioned landed property.
And on the preceding score, two significant factors, as already discussed in a previous article that I wrote and published on Ghanaweb.com and several other websites and newspapers, ought to be recalled, namely, the fact that the property in question was legitimately transacted between the respondent and the Ghana Lands Commission, the statutory agency which is categorically mandated to prosecute the same. But, perhaps even more significantly, in its ruling, the Supreme Court emphasized the fact that the Ghana Lands Commission is an autonomous body which represents the President of Ghana, at any particular moment, and whose decisions are therefore staunchly backed by the highest-ranking public trustee of the land.
What the preceding statement means, obviously, is that transactions legitimately undertaken by the Ghana Lands Commission, with the express and implicit approval of the National Chief Executive (NCE), or the extant and substantive President of the Republic of Ghana, is not subject to arbitrary reversal by any other agency or body, private or statal.
What Mr. Kwabla Senanu, the plaintiffs’ attorney, and the Ghanaian people at large, ought to worry about is the willful, premeditated and villainous decision of the Mills-Mahama regime to officially sanction an abject disregard for the rule of law in the country. In other words, by capriciously taking the law into its own hands, as it were, by its flagrant disregard of a ruling by the highest court of the land, primarily because such decision contradicts the whim of the executive branch of the Government, automatically renders the Mills-led government of the National Democratic Congress illegitimate and undeserving of the mandate, respect and obedience of Ghanaians at large.
The second factor highlighted by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the “Jake Bungalow Case,” as already alluded to in a previous article by this author, borders on protocol or precedent, that is, the fact that the Obetsebi-Lamptey transaction is only one in a long chain of its kind undertaken by previous and different governments. Consequently, while, indeed, the Obetsebi-Lamptey transaction smacked of the at once bizarre and cronyistic, nevertheless, observed the Supreme Court, in practice, it was more akin to the norm than the exception.
Now, where I come in is in regard to Article 20, Subsection 6 of the Constitution, which unreservedly affords primacy to the original proprietor of landed property. I am interested in this aspect of the law because in the purchase of the Nsawam Cannery which is squarely located on Akyem-Abuakwa land, at Adoagyiri, a landed property originally owned by the Aduana Clan of Akyem-Nkronso and the Baamu Division of Akyem-Abuakwa, my maternal familial branch, there is no evidence (at least not to my knowledge at the time of this writing) that a first-purchase preference was afforded either the chief and people of Nkronso or the Akyem-Abuakwa State itself, before the Rawlings-led government of the National Democratic Congress, reportedly, sold the Nsawam Cannery to the Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings-led 31st December Women’s Movement branch of the National Democratic Congress.
What the foregoing means, of course, is the fact that the flagrant flouting of the Supreme Court ruling in the Obetsebi-Lamptey bungalow case by the Mills-Mahama regime, may likely have opened a judicial and legal can of worms that may not be easy to lid and clean up anytime soon.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Danquah v. Nkrumah: In the Words of Mahoney.” E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.