Private citizen goes to court over demolition of govt bungalows

A writ has been filed at the Supreme Court (SC) by Mr Jonathan Holm, a private citizen, seeking an interlocutory injunction to stop ongoing demolition of government bungalows to make way for construction of the National Cathedral. 

The writ filed on February 3, 2020, on his behalf by Mr Bright Akwetey of Akwetey and Associates (Lawyers), has the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo, the Lands Commission and Messrs JJ Gold Coast Project Management Limited, who is clearing the site for construction site as defendants. 

A copy of the writ, which was made available to the Ghanaian Times last  Friday, in Accra, stated that On November 27, 2019, a seven-member panel of judges, presided by Justice Jones Dotse,  dismissed a contempt application against President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo under whose order a non-denominational National Cathedral would be constructed in Accra.

The SC held that the President, while in office, was immune from all criminal prosecutions. 

However, counsel for the plaintiff, Mr Akwetey, stated that until the apex court restrains the defendants, their agents, assigns and privies, the demolition, which began last year, during the legal vacation, may continue in flagrant disregard to the authority of the court.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant the order to stop the defendants, including JJ Gold Coast Project Management Limited, who is clearing the site for construction to begin. 

It is the case of the plaintiff that until the contentious matters in the suit was determined, justice would manifestly be seen to be done, if the application was granted.

Mr Akwetey averred in his statement of case that when a suit is pending before a court, the parties must display utmost good faith in the capabilities of the court to do justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

But the the objective of the demolition exercise, according to counsel, was clearly and unambiguously to over-reach the plaintiff.  

He said the conduct of the defendants to engage JJ Gold Coast Management Limited to clear the land in dispute, while the case is pending was disrespectful to the rule of law and the authority of the court. 

Mr Akwetey stated that the issue as to whether the Osu Stool should be given the first option to re-acquire the land in consonance with Article 20(6) of the 1992 Constitution or whether the Constitution should be flouted to allow the President to realise his personal ambition in gratitude to God, for making him a President, was a significant issue to be determined in law, for the peaceful and orderly development of the country.

 The plaintiff said that it would constitute a betrayal of the rule of law, to allow the President armed with the ruling of the court that says the President, while in office, is immune to all criminal prosecutions, to continue to tamper with the land in dispute.

He contended that the Osu Stool stands to lose immeasurably if the application was not granted and that the interest of the Osu Stool as guaranteed under Article 20(6) of the Constitution, deserves protection from the court.

The applicant had stated that a national cathedral as conceived by the President would not inure to the benefit of Muslims, Atheists and other non-Christian religions in Ghana, and therefore a national cathedral is not a project in the public interest.

The plaintiff asked the court to hold that 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 1992 Constitution if a national cathedral is compulsorily constructed on the land.
He urged the court to state that the conduct of the President in having the bungalows demolished during the pendency of the suit constitutes a brazen disrespect for the constitution and the laws of Ghana, and, thus, undermines the authority of the SC.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

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