From Sebastian R. Freiku, Kumasi
The dispute over 278,971 acres of Kumawu Stool land rages on, as the Omanhene of Kumawu Traditional Area, Barima Sarfo Tweneboa Kodua, per his counsel, has appealed against the ruling of a Kumasi High Court in a case in which a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, is said to have cultivated about 278,971 acres of land belonging to the Kumawu Stool without approval.
The plaintiff, Kumawu Stool, per its occupant, Barima Sarfo Tweneboa Kodua, as the owner of Kumawu Stool lands, claims the defendant former Finance Minister has cultivated various lands belonging to the Kumawu Stool without consent.
The statement of claim filed by the plaintiff indicated that the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana has taken over a parcel of land measuring 722 acres at Drobonso in the Sekyere Afram Plains District, and planted teak trees for commercial use without paying any money to the plaintiff against a valuation of the land done by a certified valuation, which revealed that the land used by the defendant was valued at GH¢4,332,000.
The plaintiff further averred that the defendant had also taken over another parcel of land measuring 1,995.60 acres situated at Drobonso with a market value of GH¢13,970,600.
The statement of claim further pointed to 71 acres of land situated at Naama, near Kumawu, worth GH¢400,460, said to have been taken over by the former Finance Minister for commercial purposes.
According to the plaintiff, he has made several demands but the defendant, a native of Kumawu and a businessman, has refused to pay the market value of the said parcels of lands, and that an intervention of the court would compel the defendant to pay the necessary consideration to the Kumawu Stool.
But the former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning debunked the claims of the plaintiff Chief of Kumawu, and described them as false and defamatory.
The defendant former Finance Minister disputed the capacity of Barima Sarfo Tweneboa Kodua to institute and sustain action, on the basis that he (Omanhene) lacks the power or authority to sue in respect of stool land revenue.
The defendant stated that all the three parcels of land in question were given to him between 1996 and 2000 by the then occupant of the Kumawu Stool, first as a native of Kumawu, and secondly for his unrivaled contributions towards the development of Kumawu.
In his statement of defence filed on his behalf by Daniyal Abdul-Karim, Esq. of Legal Ink Law firm in Kumasi, the former head of the nation’s exchequer claimed land measuring 1,995.90 acres at Drobonso across the Afram River was gifted to him, and that he did not commence cultivation until 2008.
According to the defendant, his entry into and farming on two of three parcels of land (722 acres) at Abofirim near Drobonso, and 71.91 acres at Naama near Kumawu for the cultivation of teak has been going on for over 12 years without any protest, and explained that the allocation of the said lands by the late Kumawuhene was due to his status as a native who had contributed to the development of Kumawu with distinction.
He mentioned the donation of a brand new Toyota pick-up vehicle to the Kumawu Traditional Council to facilitate frequent patrols and protection of stool lands, his instrumentality in the setting up of the Kumawuman Rural Bank, facilitation of several infrastructural projects, including a market, six-unit classroom block, water treatment plant, and the funding of a litigation involving Kumawu and Kwamang over Kumawu Stool lands, as some of the interventions at improving the standard of living for the people of Kumawu, for which the lands in dispute were gifted to him by the late Kumawuhene.
Dr. Duffuor stressed that the acceptance of the brand new Toyota pick-up vehicle “gift”, without any reservation or qualification, contradicted the false accusations allegedly being made in the statement of claim by the plaintiff chief.
He also stated that the late Kumawuhene personally took him round to show him the site containing 722 acres at Abofirim, and that the authorisation for the cultivation of the 1,995.80 acres for teak at Drobonso was for his financial support, which ensured that the Kumawu Stool prevailed at the Supreme Court over the Kwamang Stool, in respect of a boundary dispute.
It was further explained that the additional grant of land to him by the Kumawu Stool, per the late Kumawuhene, was to substitute for parts of the parcel of land containing 722 acres, which were later found to be rocky.
The former Finance Minister’s 29-point statement of defence indicated that the suit by the Kumawuhene is an abuse and inspired by bad faith and ulterior motives, instigated by a desire of the occupant of the Kumawu Stool and one G.E, Amoah, charged with the protection of Kumawu Stool lands, for no good reason.
The defendant has, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the suit as frivolous and unsustainable, and declare him (Dr. Duffuor) as the rightful owner of the parcels of land in dispute.
He also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the plaintiff and his agents from interfering with the plaintiff’s title or interests in the said disputed lands
Subsequently, the trial court, presided over by His Lordship Justice Samuel Obeng-Diawuo, on April 29, 2019, upheld the claims of the defendant and dismissed the claims by the plaintiff chief, on the grounds that the plaintiff had no capacity.
In reference to the demand of GH¢18,734,060 by the plaintiff, the court, believing that the said sum of money is revenue to the stool, noted that it is only the Administrator of Stool Lands which has the statutory authority to collect the said amount on the assumption that the demand is genuine.
However, Lawyer William Kusi, representing the appellant chief, has served a notice of appeal on the defendant against the whole ruling of the trial court.
The appeal, filed on April 30, 2019, was on the grounds that the court erred when it held that the relief being sought by the plaintiff chief was to recover stool land revenue.
The counsel also indicated that the court erred when it held that the occupant of the Kumawu Stool had no capacity to sue in respect of the alienation of his stool land, and for the fact that the court failed to comment on the alternative relief sought by the plaintiff, and prayed the Appellate Court to set aside the ruling of Justice Samuel Obeng-Diawuo.