Lands that kill, Hands that steal

BY: Marricke Kofi Gane

Whether as part of a lifetime investment, a mix of a temporary savings portfolio or securing a peaceful house to make a home, we all at some point have thought about buying a piece of LAND and rightly so – it’s one of the few assets that largely appreciates in value.

In Ghana however, and knowing the complications that can arise in securing one and losing it to encroachments, clan disputes and outright takeovers in some instances - it often is considered safest buying from Estate Development Companies, as a way of reducing the risk of total loss or at least, to have a peace of mind. These, are the main reasons many happily pay premium amounts for serviced or partly serviced plots sold by realtor companies.

Sadly, even this approach is not fullproof against the miseries of land losses. Stories abound still, of persons who bought properties from realtor companies in Ghana, some with big projects, and yet still, lost their lots. In this article, I share my story. One that many also identify with in some shape or form.

The purpose of this article, is to help others avoid the losses I have suffered and equally encourage others to be emboldened to expose the rot in our land tenure system and indeed our society through fraudulent companies, individuals and families. Maybe not me, but many out there have lost life savings or become wrecks from some of these losses and have been cowered by societal norms into imprisonments of silence.

My journey started in late 2012 when I first made contact with RedRow Properties Limited, directly then from the UK and then, via my representative in Ghana, Yao. It was the first time I had made a decision to relocate back home. They were a legally registered company, had a physical office, known to others, verified some of their built estates, etc.

I chose two premium plots in Oyibi (Adamorobe site) to build an investment property and 2 bigger ones on the Aburi Slopes (Obosomase site) for a residence. Once Yao had been to see the areas available and chosen the most suitable sites, I made payments, no hesitations - half to start the process and half on delivery of indentures. A few back and forths and my indentures were issued (under the hand of RedRow's Directors, Christopher Aryeetey and Ernest Quansah) - again, I made final payments, no delays.

That's when the real problems started. Right after the final handover of the Indentures, we attempted to start constructing the perimeter walls on the Oyibi land as a means of securing it. Then showed up the LandGuards of the Families from which RedRow bought the land - threatening and in some cases assaulting the workers. Yao, then proceeded to go with the guards on one ocassion to meet the chiefs to seek a direct redress as RedRow was not responding to our numerous complaints, visits, and other communication to resolve the matter. Eventually, there were NO resolutions from the chiefs or RedRow and work had to cease. On the Aburi lot, several many attempts to get RedRow to clear the land and demarcate same, met with wearying excuses. At a point it all became obvious it wasn't going to happen.

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Since then, it's been calls, visits, emails, emissaries, threats, everything and anything one does in frustration to get a land s/he has fully paid for. On one of the numerous trips to Ghana in furtherance of same, we realised RedRow had moved from their office at the A&C Mall. As there were no notices of vacation, we visited the same office several more weeks at many different times of the day until it became evident, they weren’t showing up. Eventually, with the help of others, I traced them to the Plant-Pool area of Abelenkpe, off the Dzorwulu-37 road in late 2017. I paid them a few visits, threatened legal proceedings, had lawyers write to them - nothing. Suffice to say by this time, I had come across a good number of old friends who had instigated court action, some got some repayment, and for many more others - it simply dragged.

Then I threatened to go Public. That's when their Director, Christopher Aryeetey got in touch to say they were aware of issues with the Oyibi land and asked me to hold off any further actions until February 2018 to have all issues resolved. I yielded to the prospects of a peaceful resolution. It never happened. In respect of the Aburi plots, not even my offer to pay for a land surveyor to carry out the demarcation on both our behalves (they were supposed to have this done and paid for), yielded anything, in spite of the many assurances "as for the Aburi lands, there are no problems" – Zero.