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Crime & Punishment of Sunday, 2 February 2014

Source: GNA

National Security arrests eight armed land guards

The National Security Council has arrested eight persons believed to be from Niger in a police-military operation at the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) Acquisition Area who have buried over 800 cannon balls in some dugouts.

The suspects are currently in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) which is investigating to establish the source of supply, disposal methods and what use their customers have for the cannon balls.

A source from the Council indicated that the National Security was undertaking a police-military operation to smoke out hardened criminals, armed robbers and armed land guards who had become notorious and a nuisance to genuine developers and people who wanted to go about their daily activities in peace.

“One main objective of the National Security is to ensure that peace and tranquillity prevails in the land administration and acquisition in this country,” the source said.

It added that the Council had the responsibility to ensure that land and property owners lived in safety and were protected at all times without intimidation, fear and harassment from criminal elements and armed land guards.

It said this phenomenon had engulfed land acquisition and ownership in the country especially in Accra and other major urban centres.

According to the source, recent events of criminality and encroachment on government lands had given cause for concern for the National Security apparatus, since such phenomenon tended to undermine the national security interests and, by extension, a threat to peace, stability and security.

At the centre of land acquisition, administration, ownership and related developments are state institutions like the TDC, Land Valuation Board, Land Commission, Survey Department and other related agencies including the Land Title Registry.

It said one such critical entity which had come under public criticism recently was the TDC for the demolition of illegal structures in Communities 23 and 24 of the Tema Acquisition Area.

“In spite of TDC’s attempt to operate within the law establishing it, the phenomenon of what National Security would describe as Armed Landguardism has taken root in most of TDC’s land acquired areas,” the source said.

It commended the TDC for putting in place a Task Force which patrolled the acquired area in order to address the indiscipline and impunity with which encroachers invaded undeveloped areas.

However, the Task Force has come under severe harassment, intimidation, fear and physical attacks from armed land guards who subject them to severe beatings and deadly attacks, wielding AK 47s and machetes among other things.

In addition, the surveyors of the Corporation find it difficult to carry out survey of the areas as a result of the activities of land-guards and other encroachers.

According to the source, during a routine patrol of the area, the Task Force stopped to caution an illegal developer, only to find about 60 armed land guards surrounding them.

In the ensuing confrontation and to escape the wrath of the armed men, a member of the task force had his wrist severely cut by a member of the armed gang while a second person was beaten to pulp.

The source said the National Security Council was aware of encroachment in the Free Zone Board’s land area and it was as a result of this that it was sending a stern warning to armed land guards and other hardened criminals to desist from their activities or face the wrath of the security forces saying, “the National Security will not compromise on this threat to the nation”.

It advised nationals from the ECOWAS sub-region and other foreigners to respect Ghana’s laws and avoid getting themselves into criminal activities.

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