…As National Theater & International Conference Centre Rot Away
President Akufo-Addo, has been petitioned to reconsider a plan to evict Judges from their Ridge Roundabout residence, to make way for the construction of the 5000-seater National Cathedral, although the National Theater and Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) are rotting away for lack of maintenance.
The Herald, had gathered that the area near Ridge roundabout and close to the passport office, which have bungalows housing some appeals court justices, would soon be demolished by the government to pave way for Akufo-Addo to immortalize himself with the National Cathedral, as a president under whose reign Ghana celebrated its 60th independence anniversary.
This paper is in possession of a two-page letter signed by Supreme Court judge, Justice Julius Ansah, in his capacity as acting-Chief Justice, which had been served on nine Justices of the Court of Appeal to leave their state bungalows with immediate effect.
The letter dated August 10, 2018, said the judges are to move into a temporary residential buildings pending the construction of some 21 new bungalows on the Second Circular Road – Cantonment in Accra. These will be completed and handed over by January 2020.
The affected judges are; Justice F. Kusi Appiah of bungalow Number Six 3rd Avenu, East Ridge, Justice Mariama Owusu of Number 6A,4th Avenue, East Ridge, Justice Clemence J. Honyenuga of Number 6A, 4th Avenue, East Ridge, Justice Avril Lovelace-Johnson, Number 12, 1st Circular Road, Cantonments and Justice Margaret Welbourne of number 6B, 4th Avenue, East Ridge.
The rest of the Court of Appeal Justices are; Justice Saeed Kwaku Gyan of Number 6C4th Avenue, East Ridge, Justice Lawrence L. Mensah Number 7, 2nd Circular Road Cantonments, Justice Gbiel S. Suurbareh of Number 9, 2nd Circular Road, Cantonments and Justice Anthony Oppong Number 7 2nd Circular Road Cantonments.
He had cut sod for construction in March 2017, only for the design and plan to be outdoored a year later, March this year.
The project appears to lack priority, as there are several available spaces for both Christians and Muslims to worship, hence no need for a National Cathedral at a yet to be determined cost, as a result of the eviction of civil and public servants, as well as private citizens to the taxpayers.
Mention, has been made for the AICC and National Theater for indoors religious events and the Independence Square for outdoor religious events such as the National Prayer sessions and Eid-ul-adha, which was observed by Muslims last week.
Interestingly, the AICC and National Theater, which have seen many national and public events, have not seen any major refurbishment.
Most of the seats are broken, others have worn out covers, while air conditioners, have not been working properly, making ventilation poor. Their roofs have leaked onto discolored carpets, which emit poignant smell.
The forecourt of the State House, has also been the venue of many outdoor events in the country. The venue is currently rented out to private individuals for programmes, including funerals.
Many are therefore at a loss why, the Akufo-Addo government, will demolish state bungalows, including the Scholarship Secretariat to construct National Cathedral.
Credible information picked by The Herald from the judicial service reveals that the appeals court justices will be put in rented houses in parts of Accra yet to be determined.
The development raises concerns about what our priorities are as a country.
Apart from the inconvenience of having judges leaving far from the courts, they will also be at the mercy of landlords, whose business interest may come before the justices.
The cost of rent for these judges, will also become a burden on the insufficient public purse. Already they have been fighting for an upward review of their salaries by the Akufo-Addo government, to no avail.
Additional information from the Judicial Service, is also that the officer in-charge of estates at the Judicial Service, has told them their letters of eviction, will be served on them soon.
The short notice is to avoid a public outcry, hence the letters will be served, and bulldozers moved in immediately.
Meanwhile, Samson Anyenini, a legal practitioner and the host of news analysis programme, Newsfile, on Saturday disclosed that many residents whose homes are situated on a vast stretch of prime land to be used for the cathedral, including nine Judges, have been served quit orders to vacate the area immediately.
According to him, about ten six-bedroom bungalows that would be demolished if the government goes ahead with its plan, were built only five years ago by the Judicial Service to house Court of Appeal Judges.
“The Government has rented alternative expensive bungalows for the Judges to relocate temporarily while it begins construction of over twenty new bungalows on a different land in replacement for what it is going to destroy to make way for the cathedral. Lands Minister, Peter Amewu, further assures those affected that lands will be found to reconstruct the institutions to be destroyed in this area,” he said in ‘Samson’s Take,’ an opinion segment that precedes Newsfile.
He adds, relocating the Judges at rented bungalows, could constitute interference with judicial independence and smacks of continuing disregard for the welfare of Judges.
“Mr. President, please order a change in plan,” Samson pleaded.
President Akufo-Addo, has since created an office inside the Flagstaff House, called the National Cathedral Secretariat with officials to ensure the cathedral is constructed.
Those running the National Cathedral Secretariat include, Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi, as Chairman, Most Rev. Bishop Justice Offei Akrofi, former Anglican Archbishop of Accra and one Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah.
Below is Samson’s Take read out on Newsfile last Saturday
My Take today is simply to ask a couple of questions and make a plea for change in plan for the site marked for the 5000-seater national cathedral to be built in commemoration of Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary.
The CPP’s James Bomfeh is in the Supreme Court asking why a secular nation would embark on such a project.
I ask why we cannot find land in Accra for it but to embark on “demolition of all buildings [sited] from the Ridge Circle to the Scholarship Secretariat, the Judicial Training Institute at East Ridge”, the Passport Office and other structures? That’s a long stretch and vast acres of prime land hosting many expensive buildings.
That’s the area that hosts about ten six-bedroom bungalows built only five years ago by the Judicial Service to house Court of Appeal Judges.
The many residents including nine Judges have been served quit orders to vacate the area immediately. The Government has rented alternative expensive bungalows for the Judges to relocate temporarily while it begins construction of over twenty new bungalows on a different land in replacement for what it is going to destroy to make way for the cathedral.
Lands Minister Peter Amewu further assures those affected that lands will be found to reconstruct the institutions to be destroyed in this area.
The legal principle of eminent domain which finds full expression in our Constitution empowers Government to compulsorily acquire land for the common good. In other words, Government can have whatever land it desires for this cathedral.
But should it cost the taxpayer so much as is the present plan? What sort of cathedral is this that such vast land is required to built? All the affected persons and institutions including the judiciary should go to the President or get the Council of State to advice against the demolitions and the criminal waste of scarce resources of an economy surviving on borrowing and donations.
There must be plenty naked land in Accra (vast acres along the motorway) for this project if it is a priority at all.
I have a bias for the judiciary and plead that our Judges should not be housed in those rented bungalows. I dare say this act could even constitute interference with judicial independence as much as it may smack of continuing disregard for the welfare of Judges.
Private developers have in recent times rudely rendered a Judge homeless and broken another’s wall compromising his security. How their Cantonments residences or portions got sold to those private developers remains a mysterious embarrassment to the State.
But is this area not crowded enough and aesthetically inappropriate to host such a cathedral? Should this area not rather be expanded into a Judicial Enclave where judges live and can easily network for improved judicial camaraderie as is the case elsewhere?
But did the Judicial Council, the Chief Justice agree to this and can we hear the Ghana Bar Association on this? Mr. President, please order a change in plan.