Rot at Lands Commission exposed

General News of Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Source: Innocent Samuel Appiah


…As it Engages In Double Allocation of Land That Is Being Litigated in Court

By Innocent Samuel Appiah

The Lands Commission (LC) has wrongly sold a 1.52-acre land belonging to an Estate Developer, Ernest Nunoo, to Premier Portfolio Limited (PPL) without his knowledge and consent.

When contacted, the LC’s Solicitor Secretary, Kwame Poku-Boah admitted the sale of the land which is adjacent to the SSNIT Guest House but said, they were working hard to resolve the problem to grant concurrence (government’s approval to the transaction) to Mr. Nunoo following a Court ruling directing the LC to plot the land (leased documents) for Mr. Nunoo.

Documents available to this paper showed that they were prepared by officials of the LC, with a search report showing that the land was transferred from the Government to PPL on September 12, 2014.

PPL has also gone a step further to transfer the land to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and this action is creating tension between Mr. Nunoo, who legally acquired the land from the Osu Stool, and SSNIT.
Mr. Nunoo’s transaction has been noted in the records of the LC. However, the Commission registered the land for PPL despite the noted proposal in favour of Mr. Nunoo. This has made SSNIT innocent buyers.
Asked what the Commission would do to SSNIT who equally purchased the land legally, Mr. Poku-Boah said “when we reach there, we shall resolve it. If it is the land owner who has done double sale of the land, we surely would find a solution to it.”
Other documents accessible to the paper revealed that Mr. Nunoo acquired lease from the Osu Stool on October 12, 2004, a situation that has been confirmed by the Osu Stool.
Mr. Nunoo presented the land document he acquired from the Osu Stool for registration at the Lands Commission. The Commission accepted the document and started the registration process by indicating in the data that Mr. Nunoo was registering the land, yet without any notice to him, went ahead and registered the land for PPL.

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According to Mr. Nunoo, “the LC refused to grant concurrence on the lease to me and also failed to plot the said land for as well. So I filed an application for a Mandamus at an Accra High Court to compel the Commission to grant concurrence and proceed to plot lease.”

He noted that the Presiding Judge of the Court, his Lordship Anthony K. Agbada J. A. gave a judgement in his favour, granting his application and ordered the Commission to plot the land and the lease granted to him by the Osu Stool.

Mr. Nunoo indicated that nevertheless, the Commission filed a Stay of Execution on the judgement pending an appeal, but he filed an application of contempt against the Commission.

“The LC argued that I could not bring contempt proceedings unless the motion of Stay was heard by the High Court. The contempt case was therefore adjourned sine die so as to deal with the Stay of Execution application filed by the Commission.
“On April 8, 2016, a High Court Judge, Mrs. Merley Wood J, rejected the application of Stay of Execution and ordered the Commission to plot the land in my favour. Based on the ruling, the Commission on July 8, 2016 officially wrote to me requesting me to submit my documents for concurrence, which I responded swiftly by submitting all the documents,” Mr. Nunoo noted.

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According to Mr. Nunoo, if the Commission had actually done its work properly by indicating that the land in question was being registered by him as it is in their data, there would have not been double allocation on the same piece of land, and whilst they were litigating over the said land in Court, the LC defied the Court order that he obtained in 2007 and went ahead to register it for PPL.
Investigations revealed that PPL acquired the land from the State on June 12, 2014 stamped with No. LVD 12649A in 2011 and a land title certificate dated January 6, 2015, but all efforts to locate the premises of PPL or contact its listed Directors proved futile. The only contact number on the registration of the PPL, belongs to Managing Partner of an Auditing firm, Eddie Nikoi Accounting Consultancy, who denied any knowledge of PPL.
Meanwhile, officials of SSNIT who transacted deals with PPL, could not also provide their contacts nor exact location of the company.
The parcel of land which is now being claimed by both Mr. Nunoo and SSNIT, is being investigated by the Property Fraud Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to ascertain the true ownership of the property.
Our investigation team has intercepted a copy of a petition authored by Peter Hayibor, General Manager/General Council of SSNIT, to the Inspector-General of Police, John Kudalor complaining of “the unprofessional conduct of the Investigator handling the case.”

According to the petition, a search conducted on the parcel of land at the LC showed that “the Government of Ghana has executed a lease dated June 12, 2014 in favour of Premier Portfolio Limited for a term of 50 years,” and stressed that any attempt by the Police from to prevent them developing the land, which was acquired with workers social security contribution for the purposes of investment could cause financial loss to the Trust.”

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In an interview with Mr. Hayibor, he mentioned that a Consultant, Mr. Ernest Baning, an Architect of the Modula Group brought them a proposal that the land was up for sale, and considering its proximity to the SSNIT Guest house, and after a search at the LC, the went ahead to do due diligence leading to its acquisition.
Checks at the CID Headquarters revealed that an official letter was written to the Legal Department of SSNIT to avail their grantor (that is, PPL) to assist Police investigation but they have failed to do so and insisted on developing the land. Meanwhile, SSNIT has denied receiving such a letter.

At the CID Headquarters, it was discovered that the land issue was initially handled by one Detective Inspector Gershong Azumah, and the docket was subsequently closed. Consequently, SSNIT went ahead to work on the land.

It is evidence that Inspector Azumah closed the case on the strength that SSNIT had produced a title certificate in the name of PPL and this indicated that SSNIT was acquiring the property from the right source and as concluded that SSNIT are the rightful owners.

Not happy that SSNIT had gone back to encroach the land, Mr. Nunoo lodged a fresh complaint for investigations to commence on the disputed land.