Businessman sues govt, Lands Commission over National Cathedral

The  prototype national cathedral

The prototype national cathedral

An Accra-based businessman has sued the Attorney-General and Lands Commission at the Supreme Court seeking a perpetual injunction to restrain the President and Executive from releasing a parcel of land at Ridge for the construction of the National Cathedral.

 

The plaintiff, Mr Jonathan Holm, a native of Osu in Accra is of the view that if the land in question which was acquired under the Certificate of Title on November 29, 1910, for residential purpose was no longer required for the purpose for which it was compulsorily acquired, the Lands Commission was enjoined by virtue of Article 20 (6) of the 1992 Constitution to grant the Osu Stool the first option to re-acquire the land.

 

To this end, Mr Holm acting through his lawyer, Mr Bright Akwetey of Akwetey and Associates, said “it would constitute a violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Osu to be denied the first option to re-acquire the land under Article 20 (6) of the Constitution if the National Cathedral is constructed on the land compulsorily acquired under the Certificate of Title dated  November 29, 1910, for residential purposes for public officers.”

 

The plaintiff is, therefore, seeking 17 reliefs from the Apex Court some of which include:

“An order declaring that the application of Article 20 (5) and (6) of the 1992 Constitution to any land compulsorily acquired by the Government under Section 3 of the Public Lands Ordinance 1876 (Cap 134), Section 3 of the Public Lands (Leasehold) Ordinance, 1950 (Cap 138), the State Property and Contracts Act 1960 (CA6), Section 7 of Administration of Lands Act, 1992, (Act 123), Section 1 of the State Lands Act, 1962, (Act 125), Section 45 of the Provisional National Defence Council (Establishment) Proclamation (Supplementary and Consequential Provisions) Law, 1982 (PNDC Law 42) does not constitute a retroactive application of the Constitution.”

 

“A declaration that it constitutes a violation of the 1992 Constitution for the Lands Commission to deny the owner of land compulsorily acquired for a stated public purpose, the first option to re-acquire his land in conformity with Article 20 (6) of the 1992 Constitution when the State no longer requires the land for the public for which it was compulsorily acquired.

 

“A declaration that all public lands allocated by the Lands Commission to private persons, bodies and institutions were done in violation of Section 1 of Act 125 of 1962, Regulation No. 9 of Legislative Instrument 230 of 1962 and Article 20 (5) and (6) of the 1992 Constitution and such allocations are, therefore, null and void.

 

“And that it constitutes a breach of the public trust created under Section 3 of the Public Lands Ordinance, 1876, (Cap 134) Section 1 of the State Lands Act, 1962, Section 7, of  the Administration of Lands Act, 1962, (Act 123) and Article 257 (1) of the 1992 Constitution for the President or any branch of the Executive to allocate any land compulsorily acquired for a stated public purpose to a private person or body of persons for any private purpose or purposes for their private benefit.”

 

It would be recalled that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut a sod on January 8, 2018, for the construction of a National Cathedral on a parcel of land at the Ridge Residential Area in Accra where some bungalows had already been built for public officers.

 

The land is on record to have been acquired by Certificate of Title dated November 29, 1910, under the Public Lands Ordinance of 1876, for the public purpose of providing residential accommodation for public officers which plans had been far advanced for the demolition of the existing structure to make way for the construction of the National Cathedral.

 

And Mr Jonathan Holm (Plaintiff)’s position is that, where public land is used for the public purpose for which it was compulsorily acquired in accordance with the principle of “Eminent domain,” as enshrined in Article 20 of the 1992 constitution, it would Constitute a violation of the Constitution, for the President to change the user of the land, for a purpose not provided for in the instrument of acquisition.

 

He again contends that where land compulsorily acquired under the principle of Eminent Domain has been used for the purpose for which it was acquired, the Executive cannot at their own whim and without varying or amending the instrument of acquisition, change the user of the land-as in this case, for the construction of the National Cathedral.

By Castro Zangina-Tong

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