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Opinions of Friday, 16 June 2017

Columnist: Andy C.Y. Kwawukume

Rejoinder: Achimota School to check encroachment with 'high' wall

I read with utter chagrin the news that the well resourced, high and mighty Old Achimotan students have finally decided to build a ten kilometre wall around the school land in order to stop the encroachment afflicting the school for decades now.

It is a stark reminder why Ghanaians, after decades of formal education, remain developing people, refusing to become civilised and thus unable to find lasting solutions to very basic developmental problems.

For me, this is yet another admission that the trend of lawlessness led by the so-called elite and powerful in Ghana is inexorably continuing unchecked.

In a state of law, there would not be anything like encroachment and anyone who dares a thing like that would have the law descending heavily upon the culprit.

But in a country where those expected to act as the watch-dogs, the public conscience against infringement of the laws and enforcers of the laws are themselves also big time culprits, then we constantly read news like this one.

As for the rest of us Ghanaians, we are either willing accomplices or accessories to the criminality and lawlessness that is the state of Ghana and, thus, no one can really be said to be a spectator, as we are all have our roles in the unfolding drama.

So, it will continue until someone who is civilised get hold of the realms of power and chase the lawless savages, the criminals and the vultures out of town and whip the rest of the populace into a state of obedience to law and order.

Can President Nana Akufo Addo, judging from his utterances so far concerning the encroachment on land canker and his varied background, be that civilised person, even though a key member of the Kufuor regime that took the looting of even state lands and bungalows to lower depths?

Yes, even though his early days in power have seen lawlessness and vigilantism reaching lower abyss of decadence? I would not judge him yet, as the House of Akyem Abuakwa to which he is linked, also produced not only dyed-in-the-wool Danquahists but also staunch Nkrumahists, which tradition he embraced in his youthful years. This is an area I can go a few mileages on, starting from the historical fact that Sir Nana Ofori Atta was the second unofficial member co-opted in 1916 into the Legislative Council after Torgbui Sri II, the first unofficial member from the Eastern Province, to help with the proclaimed civilising mission of the British.

Can Nana lead in our revisiting what went wrong with that civilising mission and how we can put it back on track?

Now, who opened the floodgate for the encroachers to invade the Achimota school land? Is it not the very Old Students and the School authority that decided in the mid '90s to sell off some portions of the school land to themselves and elite colleagues, reportedly in order to use the funds realised thereof to develop the school?

Some of us condemned the move on the Okyeame Forum at least. A school authority and an old students association have no jurisdiction whatsoever to dispose of school land but it happened at Achimota School.

University of Ghana, Legon, also took a similar decision to sell off some university land to lecturers, especially those nearing retirement, with the spurious excuse that they would face accommodation problems upon retirement.

All this were bad moves and illegal but it is how the high and mighty entrusted with state properties behave in Ghana.

They all amount to abuse of public office to expropriate public lands for private use and therefore amount to corruption. It started under the NDC regime of President Rawlings in the 1990s and took a vicious turn under the regime of President Kufuor.

Under what they referred to as the "In-Filling Policy", they started selling off state acquired land to themselves, top public office holders in all the three arms of government and cronies. In many cases, the bungalows on them were sold off too to themselves, in the midst of acute housing shortage for public sector workers too. One would have expected them to be building rentable tower block flats for workers on such land so that a lot of the workers can live close by the ministries.

This is the trend in inner city development in the civilised world which is rejuvenating and revitalising city centres, reducing commuting time to work and the congestion on the roads. Rather, we are getting politicians and their cronies, top bureaucrats and technocrats, judges, soldiers, etc., about to retire taking up such choice lands and properties for a song.

It must be noted too that, prior to this In-filling Policy which declared mayhem on state lands, the high and the mighty, with the connivance of the Lands Department, the AMA, TDC and some people who have been leased state acquired land started selling off those lands to private developers.

Soon, some of the Ga chiefs and families from whom the lands were acquired, seeing what was happening, waded into the fray and started selling portions of the same lands to other people, with stories of same plot of land sold to over ten people! That is how the problem of land guards was born and has become intractable to resolve.

The office holders and the so-called elite have no moral authority to deal with it, knowing what they are illegally doing themselves: stealing public lands and houses, in addition to the money they criminally help themselves to. The plain scoundrels, “thieves and thiefettes” that they are, they do not have the temerity to square up to the problem and solve it, being the originators and thus part of the problem. They know that they’d be shooting themselves in their dirty feet.

When I learned last year about what the former Greater Accra Regional Minister, Afotey Agbo and his father, did to my own sister, who went on retirement a few years ago as Chief State Prosecutor, I was speechless.

I was under the impression that it was only my good friend and kinsman Dr Prosper Yao Tsikata who suffered a mishap in their hands, for which he went on a One Man March in protest in Accra. Rather, I found out that they were rampant in selling off same land to several people! They fit the bill as proper scoundrels!

By convention, if the state no longer wants to use a land acquired for a given purpose anymore, it must be returned to the original owners. It cannot be re-sold to private developers for different purposes. Or, a portion be parcelled off and re-sold to private developers, as has happened at the School of Mapping and Surveying and the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Peter Amewu, had the audacity to shut the school down.

Under these circumstances, the land owners have every right to attempt to get their land back, especially if given under a lease of 99 years, as the case was in the Lashibi lands the CPP under Nkrumah acquired for food and dairy farming to feed Accra. Or, even free for the common weal, as it were in most school lands. Can these chiefs and families be really accused of encroaching on their own lands, for which even no compensation was paid by the state when acquired?

The Achimota elite and their colleagues, very dominant in the governance and administration of Ghana, must face up to the reality of the harm they are inflicting on the future generation through their rent seeking behaviour, lawlessness and maladministration. Resorting to such a private solution is ridiculous; just as hiring land guards to protect land sold illegally, often to several people.

As I write, my fellow Anloga citizens abroad, are far advanced with plans to build a one kilometre wall around the Anloga Clinic earmarked for upgrading to a polyclinic for years now, in order to halt encroachment on the land. Initially cost has been estimated at £60000. Such a big sum of money could go a long way to refurbish the rot we see in the pictures of the wards if there is no encroachement.

Ghanaians certainly need civilised leaders to stop the ongoing savagery and lawlessness.