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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gbevlo Lartey Boys Strike

The rubble after the demolishing (insect) Gbevlo-Lartey
Two storey buildings at Cantonments, Accra, valued at $600,000, were razed down on the alleged orders of the National Security apparatus, as an Ashanti region chief battles over ownership with the Korean Embassy.

While the chief, a subject of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu, claims to have written to the Lands Commission for permission to utilize a lane for the construction of additional structures to his property, the Koreans have stated that the land in question is part of their enclave and could not be compromised under any circumstance.

With the dispute taking too long, and no concrete action from government was forthcoming, the Embassy said it had no alternative but to request a demolition from some authorities outside the court.

The National Security apparatus dispatched a demolition squad, accompanied by dozens of security agents with their name tags cleverly tucked in their pockets, to carry out the action while the case is still pending in court.

The bulldozers used for the operation had their plate numbers removed in very questionable circumstances.

The case is awaiting judgment in a court of law, a development which adds a new dimension to the protracted dispute.

Whilst the demolition was going on, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, George O.K. Atiah, asked that nobody interfered with their work, having been detailed by the
National Security apparatus, under the leadership of Lt Col (rtd) Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, to undertake the operation.

The demolition of the property of Nana Agyekum Kusi II, Otumfuo’s Oyokohene, took place yesterday morning to, as it were, enable the Korean Embassy to put up their offices not far from the Australian High Commission.

The Koreans claimed they had acquired the portion of land in addition to what they had already.

When DAILY GUIDE got to the scene, debris from the demolished buildings was sighted alongside other hardware.

Also scattered at the location were ceramic tiles, a new water heater, paints, aluminum glass windows and doors and new poly tanks.

Nana Agyekum, who claimed to be the son of Nana Kusi II, hinted that he was in one of the buildings when he received information that some armed policemen had stormed the building.

“They drove all of us, including the construction workers, out of the house and even stopped us from taking anything out,” he said.

Sources said the plot of land on which the two buildings were erected recently had been lying unutilized for a long time and so the Oyokohene, known in private life as Collins Kusi, wrote a letter to the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission at the time, to develop plot No.47 at the Switchback Road, Cantoments, as an extension to his already acquired property.

A copy of the letter available to DAILY GUIDE, dated 25th August, 1987, stated, “This is to inform you that I am the lessee of the property designated (No.7) 2nd Rangoon Close, Accra.This plot is a small piece of undeveloped land in the form of a lane. This lane has become the passageway for thieves who subsequently harass and threaten residents of the area, with my house as the most easy target because it is the one most near.”

In a bid to stop the nefarious activities and restore sanity in the area, he noted, “I am humbly appealing to you to release the said piece of land to me for development, by way of extending the fence to join the next bungalow to completely seal off the area.”

In response, the Lands Commission wrote to the Metro Director of Planning (AMA) on February 1, 2008, seeking advice on the next line of action.

Titled ‘Request for Zoning Status’ the letter read, “The lessee on plot number 47 Switchback Road has applied to the Commission to add the site edged pink, on the attached plan, to his plot.

The site was originally zoned as a lane”. The letter added that “you are kindly requested to advice the Commission from planning, point of view, the possibility of adding the subject site to plot number 47.”

Benito Owusu-Bio, MP for Atwima-Nwabiagya, told DAILY GUIDE on phone that a court had earlier placed an injunction restraining the AMA from carrying out any demolishing exercise on the piece of land.

He however described the situation as political vindictiveness by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

He hinted that the buildings were valued at $600,000 and the family was left with no other option than to continue the battle in court since the issue was already before a competent court of jurisdiction.

In their reaction to the development, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea stated that they rented a piece of land at No 10 Switchback Road, Cantonments, in September last year from the Lands Commission.

After the acquisition, they stated that a neighbour of theirs, Dominick Collins Kusi, a chief in Kumasi, encroached upon the land, which they added had become a Korean territory, adding that he illegally erected a wall and has been building two houses on the said land.

The embassy, the statement went on, called the attention of the Lands Commission to the development, but received no response for a long time.

A written response from the Lands Commission, when it finally came, confirmed that Mr. Kusi had neither a land title certificate nor a building permit, the embassy explained.

The Lands Commission decided to demolish the structure in April this year, but was only restrained when the man went to court.

The Asantehene, the Embassy said, was contacted by the chief over a possible compensation, but the embassy declined since according to them, it is not about money, but national territorial integrity.

The embassy quoted a UN convention that states that a host country has the responsibility to protect the interests of guest countries within its territory.

“Since the embassy can no longer wait for action to be taken by the government, because it is taking too long a time, it has already been a year since this issue was raised. The embassy had no alternative but to have it demolished before the construction of the houses are fully completed for the people to live there.”

By Nathaniel Y. Yankson

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