General News of Friday, 24 October 2014
Source: Daily Guide
Nana Agyei Ampofo, the immediate past Chairman of the Lands Commission, has said former President John Agyekum Kufuor did not err in approving compensation for the various communities whose lands were inundated by floods following the construction of the Akosombo Hydro-Electric Dam in the 1960s.
According to the legal practitioner, President Kufuor had acted based on information passed to his Cabinet by all relevant state institutions, including investigative bodies, and cannot be said to have acted wrongly.
Nana Agyei Ampofo, flanked by Nana Ato Dadzie, a former Chief of Staff who is his lawyer, was testifying at the Commission of Enquiry investigating the payment of judgement debts, presided over by Justice Yaw Apau of the Court of Appeal.
Nana Ato Dadzie is also the lawyer for Betty Mould-Iddrisu, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who might also appear before the commission for approving dodgy judgement debts to individuals and organisations, including Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
The commission has a few weeks to wind up public sitting, and it is expected that Ms Mould-Iddrisu would be summoned to tell the commission what she knows about the questionable payments. Cabinet, in July 2008, approved a consolidated amount of compensation totalling Ghc138 million for various stools/families in Pai, Apaaso, Makango, Ahmandi and Kete Krachi Traditional Areas and about 57 groups were said to have benefited from the amount.
Records at the commission revealed that Ghc71 million has been paid so far to the various claimants and the disbursement of the remaining Ghc67 million has been put on hold to enable the government deal with discrepancies in the payments.
Records at the commission indicate that most of the processes for compensation were done between 2004 and 2008, even though some claims dated back to the 1970s, but the actual payments started in 2009.
The Sole Commissioner has variously expressed shock at how the Lands Commission could proceed to order the release of the various amounts of money to the claimants based on the documents the witnesses are tendering before the commission.
He did not understand why communities that were resettled by the government in the 1960s, given communal lands and paid compensation for crops destroyed by the Volta River floods could turn around to claim compensation almost 50 years later.
Nana Agyei Ampofo told the commission that as Chairman of Lands Commission, he was not involved in the processing of the documents for the claimants since it happened before he was appointed but admitted that he was paid as solicitor for one of the claimants.
“I was engaged in 1987 by Nana Kwaku Anokye, Omanhene of Adjaade Traditional Area. When I assumed duty on August 21, 2009, the processing of their application had been done and completed, and the first release for the payment had been made before I became Chairman,” he said.
“When I was in office, there was no processing and the payments were made by the Land Valuation Division of the commission,” adding, “I never authorised any payment.”
When asked by the Sole Commissioner to explain the reason for some of the claimants requesting that 15 percent of each claimant’s entitlement be deducted and put in a reimbursable account to help facilitate speedy payment of the outstanding claims, the former chief said a memo on the issue came before him.
“Leaders of the claimants appeared before me with the then head of the Valuation Division and believing upon reasonable grounds that they were leaders of all the groups and after considering all the money due to be paid as their own money, I agreed that the deduction was legitimate and deduction could be made,” he said.
“The money had been approved and the state had indicated how they were to be paid in tranches. I asked them what they were trying to facilitate and they said that between them there were often some disagreements which delayed further movements so they decided that when they had the 15 percent they would use it to settle disputes and discrepancies between themselves,” he added.
He said he checked to know all the leaders had consented to the deduction that was to be made, saying, “I was satisfied that those who appeared before me represented all sections of the claimants.”
He said he did not do further checks as the commissioner on his former client’s case because he knew Adjaade lands were owned by families and not the stool.
“In fact, the approval had been made before I assumed office after it had been vetted by the SFO, AG and the sector minister and President Kufuor sitting in cabinet had approved it. The first tranche had been released by the Ministry of Finance and under my chairmanship, I didn’t approve any payment.”
He said the body tasked to investigate irregularities in the payment had made bogus findings against him, saying, “I thought that if they had spent even five minutes to talk to me they wouldn’t have fallen into an error and go ahead to conclude that during my time I engaged in improper conduct.”