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“Gov’t is determined on retrieving all State Lands” – Owusu-Bio assures

The government of Ghana is committed to reclaiming all State lands that have been encroached upon in any region of the nation, according to Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, the deputy minister for lands and natural resources. The Member of Parliament for the Atwima Nwabiagya North constituency justified the demolition of certain buildings on a plot of property at Mphehuasem in the Greater Accra area during a press conference on Tuesday, July 12.

The Land Commission has the authority to oversee the nation’s lands under Section 258 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. The Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) went into force in Ghana on December 23, 2020.

In an attempt to stop the demolishment of some of the school’s properties that, according to the government, were occupying public lands, Ideal College students clashed with officers from the Ghana Police Service on July 8, resulting in 23 of the students suffering serious and minor injuries.

“The Lands Commission is exercising its statutory functions to recover the encroached state lands,” he added. “The Lands Commission is the managers of public/state lands under the 1992 constitution under section 258.

According to Mr Owusu-Bio, who added that “the clash was unnecessary,” the July 8 demolition falls under the purview of a Public Lands Protection Team established by the Ministry to “routinely assess and monitor public lands to ensure that they are free from encroachment.”

The team includes a representative from the Attorney General’s office, Messers Aynok Holding Limited, the Greater Accra Coordinating Council, the Lands Commission, the National Security, Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, and two officers from the Ghana Police Service (one from the Property Fraud Unit).

The school’s public relations officer, Naphtali Kyei Baffour, stated in an interview with Citi FM based in Accra that this was not the school’s first experience with a demolition: “In February 2022, we saw some people on the land and when we asked them, they said a certain Dzato says it is a government property, so they want to demolish it.”

Contrary to what he claimed, however, the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, Mr Ebenzer Kobina Dadson, disclosed that the Commission had in fact informed the encroachers, including Ideal College and the University Professional Studies, Accra, as well as other religious institutions, of its plans to regularise the “illegal” structures where it was possible and to reclaim others.

“To ensure developments are done in accordance with the approved local plan, the Greater Accra Regional Lands Commission would regularize the interests of UPSA in the hostel and other educational institutions. In the case of Ideal College, the Proprietor, Dr Joseph Kobina Essibu had been advised to formally apply for regularization on two (2) separate parcels of land within the enclave. It is noteworthy that engagement with Dr Essibu dates back to 2018.”

According to the Lands Commission, the owner of Ideal College is “laying claims to almost 20 parcels of property,” some of which he has sold to third parties without informing the commission.

Mr Dadson revealed that the Commission has been working to educate the institution’s management on the statute since 2018.

“The Commission has given several notices since 2010 to persons engaged in these encroachments including Ideal College, the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) hostel and several churches. The last being a Press Release on 16th April 2022 and a Public Notice of demolition posted within the area in April 2022.

He insisted that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources must now move decisively to reclaim any state lands that individuals, groups, and institutions have invaded.

“By letter dated 12th April 2022, the Ghana Police Service has been engaged to provide security to the Commission’s Contractor in protecting the land. The same letter was copied to the Greater Accra Regional Police Command, the East Legon Police Command and the Legon Police Command,” he added.

The Commission asserts that it will defend the land through the legal system.

“The Commission is acting under Section 236 of the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) to recover these lands. This impunity of occupation of state lands must be mitigated. When land belongs to the state, everybody must keep all that land because you run the risk of loss of property and investment,” Mr Dadson warned.

www.zamireports.com | Accra.

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