Hundreds of developers occupying land reportedly earmarked for the Ghana Free Zones Board’s industrial park at Hwereso near Deduako in the Ejisu Municipality of the Ashanti Region are appealing to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to stop Board from ejecting them from the land.
According to a story we have carried today, these developers are illegally developing over 1,000 plots of land belonging to the state agency, and that the latter has decided to pull all the structures down. The developers are, however, arguing that since they had invested a lot of money into the projects, pulling them down would lead to economic hardship.
The developers are further arguing that prior to the purchase of the land they made the necessary enquiries at both the Ejisu Traditional Council and the Ashanti Regional Lands Commission to ascertain if the land was free.
According to them, they were given the go-ahead to purchase land from the chiefs. Interestingly, the same entities that gave the go-ahead are now saying the land belongs to the state and that they must quit. This is the reason why they want President Akufo-Addo and Otumfuo to intervene and stop their buildings from being pulled down by the GFZB.
But the position of Mr. Michael Okyere Baafi, Chief Executive of the Ghana Free Zones Board, is that his outfit legally acquired the land and had duly paid all the compensations involved to the chiefs and those farming of the land. In his view, therefore, the demolition would go ahead.
It is an undeniable fact that some people deliberately invade government-acquired lands and develop them into residential apartments. The notion is that if the developer is not stopped at the initial stages and the whole building is put up, the government cannot come back to re-possess the land.
Since a number of people have used this strategy to take over government acquired lands, The Chronicle will not support any developer who deliberately develops state lands with the hope that it will not be taken back from him or her. But, in the case under review, the developers are arguing that at the time of purchasing the land, they made the needed enquiries at both the Traditional Council and the regional Lands Commission, and were given the go ahead to develop.
In our view, if the claim being made by the developers that they did the research at the Lands Commission and were given the go-ahead to purchase the land is true, then the developers have a genuine case and must not be punished for a crime they did not commit. The Chronicle is, therefore, suggesting to the Presidency, if the petition of the land developers has reached them, to conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain whether the claim the developers are making is true or otherwise.
If the claim is true, the appropriate sanctions should be imposed on the Lands Commission officials who told the developers that the land was free and that they could purchase them. Where possible, they should be asked to pay part of the money the developers have invested into the projects if the GFZB insists on pulling down the structures. This, we dare say, will put the fear of God in others to do the right things at all times.
But, as we stated earlier, if the developers knew that the land belonged to the state and yet went ahead to develop it, then the state should not have mercy on them – the law must be applied – and in this case, the buildings must be pulled down for the government to execute projects that will serve the larger interest of the state.
Our position notwithstanding, we are still at a loss as to why the GFZB should also sit down unconcerned and allow these developers to develop the land that belongs to them, which they now want to pull down. Is the GFZB telling Ghanaians that they did not see the people developing the land? It appears officials of GFZB were sleeping on the job and have now woken up to use the power invested in them by the state to pull down the structures.
Putting up a building is a capital intensive project, so for the state agency to sit aloof and allow people to develop the land and is now turning round to pull them down is unfortunate. This lackadaisical attitude among state agencies must cease, because it is not helping with the forward march of the country.
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