Free Zones Board Bares Teeth At Encroachers

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…Massive Demolition Schedules On Feb. 21

By Alfred K Dogbey

Authorities at the Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), have finally fixed February 21 for a massive demolition, to sack encroachers from its 152-acre land, located at Tema Community 21, near Michel Camp.

The plot, has been earmarked for construction of first class residential property and other projects for the Board, but was encroached upon. Several warnings and notices given the encroachers have been treated with contempt.

This impending demolition declared at media briefing by the GFZB in Accra yesterday, became necessary following a Tema-based High Court judgment dated October, 29, 2004 and Appeal Court judgment on July 17, 2008, which unanimously declared FZB as the rightful owner of the parcel of land.

Deputy Executive Director of GFZB, Obuobia Darko-Poku, at the media briefing ahead of a site visit held for journalists, declared that, “We are taking this opportunity to give the encroachers, who have still not vacated the land the final warning to do so or face the consequences of their default, not later than Friday February 21, 2014”.

The two judgments given by the two courts are in the possession of The Herald.

Justice Victor Ofoe, in 2004, sitting as Justice of the High Court in Tema, granted ownership rights to the GFZB. While renowned Justices, N.S Gbadegbe (Presiding), J. Dotse, JA and E.K Ayebi, JA, at the Court of Appeal in the case of C.K Senyeadzu (plaintiff) Vrs Tema Development Corporation and Ghana Free Zones Board also affirmed the GFZB rights over the land as far back as 2008.

According to the Appeal Court, the encroachers, led by C.K Senyeadzu failed in their claim of ownership of the land, therefore, “dismissed.
..Accordingly, we proceed to affirm the decision of the court below”.

The High Court in Tema, had by then slapped a fine of ¢5 million in 2004 against the plaintiff, C.K Senyeadzu.

The Herald’s observation at the site, during the visit revealed that the encroachers on the huge 152 acres land, were predominantly auto mechanics, traders, churches and squatters, who have put up structures, including wooden kiosks.

This paper observed a number of warning notices erected across visible corners of the land, informing encroachers to vacate the land by January 31, 2014.

The notices, written in capital letters with red and black colours read, “Warning!!! Ghana Free Zones Board Land, Keep Off! Encroachers Will Be Prosecuted, By G.F.Z.B”.

The Herald gathered that only a few have complied, whiles the rest remained adamant.

Background
Explaining the background of the land, management of GFZB said, “This parcel of land was part of land compulsorily acquired by the Colonial Government in 1952. The acquisition was carried out by the Tema Town and Port (Acquisition of Land) Ordinance (No. 38 of 1952).

The Colonial Government in 1956 demised the land to the Tema Development Corporation (TDC). As at 1972, the Tema Development Corporation, had still not developed Community 21 and therefore, granted agricultural leases to some farmers. The term granted varied from tenant to tenant, but the highest term was twenty-one (21) years.

The offer letters issued by the TDC to the farmers contained a provision which subject the leases to new policies, rules or bye-laws adopted or passed by the Tema Development Corporation and or the Government of Ghana. All the leases had expired by 1996.

The Tema Development Corporation did not renew the leases upon expiration and wrote to all the farmers to cease all agricultural activities on the land and vacate the land by end of 1996. Some of the farmers complied and vacated the land.

The President of Ghana, in 1997, duly declared Community 21 a free zone residential enclave in accordance with section 7(1) of the free Zone Act, 1995 (Act 504).

The Gazette publication is contained in the No. 17 issue of the Commercial and Industrial Bulletin dated Friday, September 19, 1997. The land was fenced with barb wire to ward• off encroachers. Ghana Free Zones Board was at the verge of leasing the land to a free zone developer to transform it into a first class residential estate when a suit was filed by seventeen (17) farmers who did not want to vacate the land.

Litigation Initiated By Farmers

The seventeen (17) farmers, claimed against TDC; a declaration that TDC was not entitled to re-enter their respective lands, and an order for perpetual injunction restraining TDC from re-entering. Ghana Free Zones Board joined as Co-defendant.

On October 29, 2004, the High Court, Tema, gave judgment in favour of the Tema Development Corporation and Ghana Free Zones Board. Ghana Free Zones Board was adjudged the owner of Community 21.

Being dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, the farmers appealed to the Court of Appeal. On July 17, 2008, the Appeal Court unanimously affirmed the High Court decision and dismissed the appeal filed by the farmers. Ghana Free Zones Board has date not been served with a notice of Appeal and the time for appealing has long elapsed.

Aftermath
After the long wait for the Court verdict, the investor lost interest in the project. By 2008, the encroachers had pulled down several portions of the barb wire fencing. GFZB at huge cost fenced the whole parcel again and mounted notices at vantage points; warning trespasses to “keep off’ the land.
Some of these notices have already been vandalized by the encroachers. In December 2012, GFZB with assistance from the National Security Council pulled down some illegal structures and gave all the encroachers up to the end of 2012 to vacate.

Roadmap for Community 21

GFZB has found an investor with the requisite capital to develop Community 21 into a World Class Residential Enclave. Drawings and a proposed land use
plan have been presented by the investor who has already made some financial commitments.

The Community 21 Project will commence by the end of the first quarter. The development of a residential enclave will create jobs for artisans like masons, carpenters, painters, wielders, plumbers and other professionals in the real estate industry.

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