The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, on Wednesday this week, led a combined team of military, police and personnel from the other security agencies to demolish hundreds of illegal structures erected on a land belonging to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at Frafraha, near Adentan.
Prior to this exercise, officials of CSIR claim they made several approaches to dissuade the ‘invaders’ to stop the illegal activities on the land, but these went unheeded. They land grabbers rather employed land guards who harassed officials of the government agency. The Regional Minister, therefore, decided to protect and preserve the property on behalf of the state, by pulling down all the illegal buildings on it.
A section of the public does not, however, agree with the action, arguing that since the land grabbers had already completed the construction of the buildings, they should have been allowed to pay for the cost of the land, instead of demolishing the houses. To those who belong to this school of thought, building a house in Ghana is very expensive, and that the government took a wicked action against the offenders.
First of all, The Chronicle sympathises with those whose buildings were demolished, because construction of a house or home is not easy. Some of them might have used their lifetime investments to construct these buildings, therefore, demolishing them is a heart-breaking situation nobody will be prepared to accept. But, whilst acknowledging this fact, we are also at a loss as to why people will muster courage to build on public lands, knowing very well the implications of such decisions. It is a sad situation – that most Ghanaians lack knowledge in the acquisition of lands. Before one decides to pay for land in any part of the country, he or she should first demand the site plan from the seller, and conduct a search at the Lands Commission, which result will show who owns the land before making any financial commitment.
The CSIR land at Frafraha is well demarcated and walled, and these land buyers ought to have known that it was illegal to build on it. Unfortunately, there is this view people hold that once the houses have been constructed, the government will not pull them down. This is the reason why the illegal construction of houses on state lands is done in the night with the help of land guards. On the basis of this, we do not agree with those calling on the government to compensate those whose structures have been destroyed at Frafraha.
The moment the government does that, it will open the floodgate for people to pounce on state lands and start developing them, knowing very well that at the end of the day, if the structures are demolished, they will be compensated.
In 1997, the then Ashanti Regional Minister, Daniel Ohene Agyekum, undertook a similar exercise by demolishing some illegal buildings built in the catchment area of the Owabi Dam. Unfortunately, he could not finish because some of the illegal occupants proceeded to court for an injunction.
We do not, however, know how the case ended, but years down the line, no lessons have been learnt, as people have again invaded the same forest surrounding the Owabi Dam and are constructing mansions on the land.
In our view, the only way to stop these practices is to keep on pulling down the structures. Should the government renege on this, she will be left with no lands in the near future to carry out public activities that will benefit the entire country.