I hear of so many Ghanaians who have been very patriotic towards the development of this nation since the good old days of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah by virtue of donations of landed properties, selfless dedication among others.
However, I have tried to scan through the category of citizens who made such sacrifices, and then I realized that, most of them were ordinary citizens; the poor and the market men and women. Very few are politicians among those making those sacrifices; I only find them at the sweet end of the sacrifices, why.
I have followed and continue to follow closely the case of the bad treatment meted out to some of these poor citizens who owns the land University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho is built on. This development has challenged me to put out this short article which deals with compulsory acquisition of land by the state as provided for under Article 20 of the 1992 constitution followed by its subsequent abuse by politicians. Upon a careful thought, I came to the conclusion that, the framers of the constitution at the time foresaw that, the poor was going to be at the mercy of the politicians who will abuse same.
Why have I never heard of a politician’s land being compulsorily acquired by the state, but I only hear of outright purchases of same by the state. Are all citizens not equal in the eyes of the law? My doubts though. The 702 acres UHAS land belongs to 78 poor individuals and families who do not belong to the political class who from 2011 to 2017 have been stripped off their properties by the state who should have rather protected its own and empower them.
Some of these people are senior citizens who today cannot use the proceeds of their youth to even eat but rather have to beg other people for land to even tilt to be able to feed. How can the state be so wicked to its own?
I have just remembered Ghana Gas led by Dr. George SipaYankey and Hon. Kofi Buah also acquired lands in the same year as UHAS, but today ,the situation is different, Ghana Gas land owners were paid in 2016. But did we also have had a deputy minister in charge of tertiary education? .Yes ,yet we were still afflicted by the curse or blessing for competing for being the last region in every developmental category including compensation payments for lands compulsorily acquired.
What else do they need to do after accepting and signing an offer from the lands commission since November and December2016? Even when the sector minister has given his approval, went through finance ministry to cabinet and got the necessary endorsement and back to the finance ministry for payment, payment is still in limbo. Do they need to bring Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed to do the begging to get what legally and logically belongs to them? Who takes responsibility for devaluation of the money signed for in the offer since 2016?
I am happy we have a president who has been a freedom fighter and the right to own property as one of the tenets of the Aborigines’ rights society of which he and all Ghanaian citizens prides ourselves with. Today, sadly the country Ghana has deliberately and compulsorily stripped 78 off its own citizens their properties.
I have every reason to the thank our media men and women for bringing the plight of this people into the public space from the beginning, however unfortunately, the discussion does not last for even two minutes. The media has failed to sustain the discussion making it difficult for the message to get to the politicians whose lands are mostly not sold under Article 2o of the 1992 constitution.
It is sad to note that, a number of owners have died because they couldn’t pay for even their medical needs; some have developed hypertension due to the loss of their life savings taken away from them by the state. They can no more sell, lease or even farm on their own land. Interestingly some have to go for loans to pay for their children’s education in the same government university who have rendered them poor yet politicians till today get raised salaries, allowances, per diems, land cruiser vehicles, accommodation among others while these poor continues to wallow in abject poverty.
Now, has the court really helped? I beg to differ. Following the aggrieved land owners’ quest to compel the government to pay them their due, they filed an application to injunct the assets of the university since 2015, it is sad to note that, till today the court never granted that application. The court rather became the defendant in the case to the extent to granting long adjournments sometimes to more than three months. But is this development from the court surprising? NO. If today, certain highly placed legal luminaries are appointed as the university’s Governing Council Chair, the position of the court should be nothing surprising to any Ghanaian. The citizens who own the university’s land are considered nothing but second class citizens in the eyes of the court.
Seven years down the line of nonpayment of UHAS land compensation, how many tranches of ex -gratia have so far been paid? Of course the poor like the UHAS land owners would not receive ex-gratia but is the compensation of this land compulsorily acquired also not an ex-gratia to the owners? I would have wished to see government delay the payment of ex-gratia for seven years.
As I write my article of lamentation on UHAS land owners whose living condition government further has worsened, I pray that, the media will this time publish and sustain the discussion and push for the payment of this group of people.
Whiles I conclude, i9 wish to put forward some few questions for the good conscience of Ghanaians to judge;
- Would the situation of nonpayment of this 702 acres of land compulsorily acquired 7 years ago be different if it were to belong to officers of the flagstaff house, members of cabinet, ministers parliamentarians and powerful superior court judges some of whom are Governing council chairs including that of UHAS?
- The confirmation during a meeting between the Attorney General’s Department and UHAS land owners in Accra that money has been set aside in a special account by the previous NDC government true?
- Why the finance ministry is hesitant in releasing the money set aside for the payment of UHAS land compensation while government can pay GHC 1 billion for road contracts, training allowances, free SHS among others?
I am convinced that, His Excellency, the President will take notice of this issue and compel state actors to remove the shackles of poverty and restore the dignity of this people from the Volta region.
Indeed the diplomacy employed to get government honor its obligation seems to have failed again. What I foresee very soon is the ability of UHAS land owners to prove to government from the precinct of the finance ministry through to the seat of government in non violent but uncontrolled manner that they know their right and are citizens and not spectators.
By: Kinsley Kudzo