Monday, 04 July

Let’s ban return of state lands to original owners – Ablakwa

General News
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is calling for an outright ban on the sale or lease or return to original owners of state lands.

According to the lawmaker, the return to original owners of state lands seems to have become the most abused concept in the country’s governance history, “as few can muster the courage to challenge the fact that the practice has been tainted with self-dealing and cronyism.”

His comment comes after the Akufo-Addo-led government said it is returning some 361 acres of land on the peripheries of the Achimota Forest Reserve in the national capital, to the custodial owners, the Owoo family, since those lands have not been used for their intended purpose.

The decision of the government has been condemned largely by a cross-section of the population.

Reacting to the development, Mr Ablakwa, in a Facebook post, quizzed: “How can a country that needs to build more affordable houses to address the acute millions of housing deficit; a country whose doctors, nurses, lecturers, civil servants, teachers, security personnel — who all cannot be efficient in the discharge of their duties because of terribly poor proximity to work; a country lacking adequate recreation centres, sporting facilities, industrial zones, transportation hubs, schools, hospitals, prisons, shelters for the vulnerable and abused, parks and green belts, and yet, we are busily selling or purportedly returning every available land bank acquired by our forebears.”

He noted that evidence suggests that when such lands are supposedly returned to allodial owners, some public officials at various levels who facilitate these opaque transactions to allodial owners eventually become beneficiaries.

Below is Mr Ablakwa’s full statement:

When Dr Edward Omane Boamah and I as activists and private citizens went to the Supreme Court in 2008 to stop the late Hon. Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey (may he rest in peace) from purchasing his official bungalow, we were driven by the principle that public officials are only trustees and must never put themselves in a conflict of interest situation by selling public properties under their care to themselves.

We took the view, respectfully, that if our predecessors were engaged in that kind of conduct, the current crop of leaders would have met nothing.

Unfortunately, even though the Supreme Court commended Dr Omane Boamah and me for our noble intentions and best efforts, they gave Hon. Obetsebi-Lamptey the green light to proceed with what we still consider an unethical acquisition.

14 years on, having been in and out of government, I still hold the firm conviction that public officials and their associates should not be permitted to buy and own state lands whether directly or indirectly.

It is time to outrightly ban the sale/lease or return to the so-called original owners of state lands. It seems to have become the most abused concept in our governance history as few can muster the courage to challenge the fact that the practice has been tainted with self-dealing and cronyism.

The colonialists and immediate post-independence political leaders acquired large tracts of land for development and appropriate spatial planning, however, the current generation of leaders appear to specialize not in adding to the stock of acquisition but on a mission of constant depletion.

How can a country that needs to build more affordable houses to address the acute millions of housing deficit; a country whose doctors, nurses, lecturers, civil servants, teachers, and security personnel — who all cannot be efficient in the discharge of their duties because of terribly poor proximity to work; a country lacking adequate recreation centres, sporting facilities, industrial zones, transportation hubs, schools, hospitals, prisons, shelters for the vulnerable and abused, parks and green belts, and yet, we are busily selling or purportedly returning every available land bank acquired by our forebears.

Sadly, there is ample evidence to suggest that, when land is supposedly returned to allodial owners, some public officials at various levels who facilitate these opaque transactions to allodial owners eventually become beneficiaries.

The time to safeguard the little we have left is NOW.

Source: Classfmonline.com/Emmanuel Mensah