Regional News of Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

A-G failed to defend compensation payment

It came to light at the sitting of the Commission on Judgement Debt yesterday that when, in 2007, Nana Kwaku Duah Appianin III, the Chief of Kwadaso Abe Ase in Kumasi, and two others sued the state for compensation for land compulsorily acquired in 1962 for the Second Infantry Brigade Group, the Attorney-General’s Office never informed the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) or the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the suit.

The Attorney-General’s Office, which is mandated to defend the state in all cases, after putting up a defence, also contacted an official of the Land Valuation Division of the Lands Commission to support plaintiffs’ case.

Eventually, the court ordered the payment of GH¢11.59 million to the plaintiffs and the money was duly released to Nana Appianin and his elders.

The Sole Commissioner on Judgement Debts, Mr Justice Yaw Apau, revealed this when the acting Judge Advocate-General of the GAF, Col Mahama Iddrisu, at the sitting of the commission in Accra Tuesday, denied knowledge of the suit filed by Nana Appianin and the subsequent payment of judgement debt to him.

Mr Justice Apau said that the commission had been able to ascertain that although the Attorney-General’s Office put up a defence, it also sought the services of the official of the Lands Commission to aid the plaintiffs to make a strong case.

He further said he was baffled by the fact that the Attorney-General did not inform the GAF and the MoD about the suit.

“How the trial went on without the ministry knowing is something that baffles me,” he said.

Col Iddrisu, giving evidence before the commission, said agitation for compensation for the land started in 2007 when he was the Director of Legal Services at the GAF.

He said nothing was heard on the issue until 2009 when it came to the notice of the GAF that judgement had been secured against it.

Surprised at the development, officers of the GAF wrote to the Deputy Registrar of the High Court in Kumasi on June 30, 2009 to ascertain how judgement could be secured against the state with regard to the land occupied by the GAF when the GAF had neither been served with any of the processes nor informed of the suit.

He said there was no reply.

Col Iddrisu said investigations conducted long after the case had ended in court revealed that the Attorney-General’s Office filed a defence but failed to inform the GAF and the MoD.

He also said he was not aware of the payment of compensation.

He said the usual practice when the MoD or the GAF was sued was that the Attorney-General wrote to the GAF or the MOD and requested a draft defence.

In that particular case, he said, no such thing was done.

The Director of Logistics at the GAF, Air Commodore Ismael Abdul-Rahim Abbas, the next to appear, told the commission that one part of the Second Brigade land was duly acquired, adding that the process to lawfully acquire the other began at a later time.

He said when developing the land, the GAF preferred to develop the part that had not been duly acquired and later gave the part that was properly acquired to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) which developed it.

When that happened, according to him, the allodial owners began to agitate for compensation, a situation which led the government to value the land and initiate moves for payment.

However, Air Commodore Abbas said the GAF had difficulty identifying who the legitimate owners were.

He said there had been some correspondence between the GAF and some of the claimants and added that the GAF was still battling with the issue when a subpoena was issued by the commission ordering GAF officers to appear before it and also informing the officers that compensation had been paid.

At that juncture, he released, at the request of the commission, all documents, including correspondence between the GAF and the claimants, to the Sole Commissioner.

Meanwhile, another family in Kumasi has laid claim to the land.

Mr Justice Apau announced that another group, in a letter to the commission, had stated that the rightful owner of the land was alive and currently bed-ridden.

According to him, the group intimated that compensation had been paid into the wrong hands.