Supreme Court of Ghana

The legitimacy of the cabinet decision to hold back the sale of a litigious government bungalow to Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey continue to be of contention, follow suggestions it could form grounds to initiate impeachment processes against the president.

Speaking on the matter, Egbert Faibille, Editor of the Ghanaian Observer newspaper, said the government is treading on dangerous grounds and in contravention of due process in appropriately addressing the matter.
The transfer, he said, creates a contractual agreement between the buyer and the seller – the Land’s Commission, in this case – and contains conditions for which the contract can be terminated. So that to the extent the buyer has not been found to have breached any of the conditions, cabinet is not in the position to terminate the contract.
That cabinet decision was reached, days after the Supreme Court’s dismissal of an action brought before it against the NPP Chairman, seeking a declaration his purchase was illegal.
Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa and Dr Edward Omane-Boamah in their suit against the Attorney General and Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey argued that the sale amounted to acts of conflict of interest, cronyism, arbitrariness, discrimination, corruption, abuse of discretionary power and disregard for administrative justice.
Saying, in principle he does not approve of the divestiture of state lands and properties to private persons, especially those in government or close to government, Mr Faibille still thought the attempt to single out Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey’s purchase and tag it as illegal is dishonest, considering the NDC government under Jerry John Rawlings by a cabinet decision started the sale for which many NDC members are beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court in its pronouncements expressed similar sentiments about the Accra Redevelopment Scheme; a government facility under which Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey bought the property saying, it has been a disservice to the nation, having deviated from its original purpose.
In the majoritarian opinion read by His Lordship Justice Brobey, he stated his wish that state properties would be sold only to the likes of medical doctors whose jobs have direct bearing on the health and lives of the populace, and not sold to political appointees.
The court, which in its pronouncements appeared sympathetic to the position taken by the plaintiffs, however, ruled against them, 6-3. In the majority view the plaintiffs failed to discharge the burden of proof.
On the argument the approval of the president was not sought, the court said, the Chairman of the Land’s Commission acts on behalf of the president, so that since his signature is on the sale agreement, the court will presume the consent of the president was duly sought and that he in turn made the necessary consultations. This, the court also noted was besides the plaintiffs inability to cite a law which specifically stated that cabinet approval was required for such an action.
Then on the argument that the original owners of the property had to be given the first chance to reacquire the property from the state when the government decided not to pursue the purpose for which the land was acquired, the court said there have been many instances where the purpose for which a parcel of land was acquired has been changed.
If the new purpose is useful to the public directly or indirectly then the public purpose/interest would have been served. The court mentioned the Accra International Conference Centre and the Makola car park as examples.
The application, the court, said remains baseless without proven facts. People who invite the court to condemn others for wrong doing should be able to property prove the applications filed in its entirety.
In the eyes of the public the decision by the Supreme Court is a thumbs up for the self-serving tendencies widely perceived of politicians and the multitude of property grabbing allegations held against them – regardless the court’s caution against such interpretations of its decision.
Civil Society groups have questioned the courts resolve to the protection of public interests.
The plaintiffs, who say they respect the ruling of the court but disagree with it, have also indicated they will go for a judicial review of the case.

Arch O.Ansah


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