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$10m approved as compensation payment to Bui landowners

BY: Kwame Asare Boadu & Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Mr Fred Oware - CEO, Bui Power Authority
Mr Fred Oware - CEO, Bui Power Authority

The Board of Directors of the Bui Power Authority (BPA), with the concurrence of the Ministry of Energy, has approved an initial amount of $10 million to pay compensation to people who lost their land to the construction of the Bui Hydro Power project.

Consequently, the board has written to the Lands Commission, which is the government institution clothed with the law to administer compensation, to provide a bank account into which the amount will be lodged for the commission to pay deserving landowners.

The Legal Counsel for the BPA, Mr Franklin Nana Addai, who made this known in an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday, said the response from the Lands Commission came in last Friday and the authority was taking steps to take it from there as soon as possible.

The development comes 13 years after demand for compensation by landowners who were affected by the construction of the 404-megawatt hydro electric project on the Black Volta.

“We know that the total compensation may be more than this amount, but let’s have this money in there, so that the people who are due could be paid the money for now,” Mr Addai said.

Bui Chief sues

Among the plethora of legal actions demanding compensation is one initiated by the Chief of Bui in the Bono Region, Nana Kwadwo Wuo II, whose lawyers have filed a motion at the Sunyani High Court seeking an order for the headquarters of the BPA in Accra to be auctioned to offset a judgment debt of GH¢12,545,928.

That was after the chief had accused the BPA of failing to pay the judgment debt in respect of compensation, in spite of numerous notices to it.

The motion is expected to be moved at the court by the lead counsel for the plaintiff, Nana Obiri Boahen, on October 19, this year.

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Why auction

In 2013, Nana Wuo sued the BPA, the Attorney-General and the then Brong Ahafo Regional Coordinating Council, seeking compensation for his stool over the state’s compulsory acquisition of lands for the Bui Hydro Power project.

After seven years of legal battle, the plaintiff and the defendants agreed to a consent judgment, with the state agreeing to pay the Bui Stool GH¢12, 545,928

That made the court enter judgment in favour of the plaintiff on January 14, 2020.

In an affidavit in support of the motion seeking the court order to sell the BPA headquarters, Nana Wuo averred that after obtaining the judgment debt in January this year, all attempts to retrieve the money had proved futile.

He said the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BPA, Mr Fred Oware, wrote to the Attorney-General on May 19, 2020, requesting action on the judgment debt, but nothing came out of it.

According to the affidavit, the plaintiff subsequently filed to garnishee the accounts of the BPA, but it turned out that the authority had no account with the Bank of Ghana.

“That it turned out that the BPA had no account standing with the Bank of Ghana. Within the given situation, I am compelled by circumstances to pray  the honourable court for leave to undertake the valuation of the BPA headquarters, situate and being at the Airport Residential Area, by a recognised valuer to be chosen or selected by the honourable court to value the said building for same to be auctioned in satisfaction of the judgment debt,” it added.

Response

Responding to the suit, Mr Addai said he could not go into the details of the matter because it was sub judice.

“We are aware of the suit but once the  matter is in court, we don’t want to go into the details of that, so we leave that with the court to deal with,” he said.

Government/BPA committed

Counsel said there was nothing to suggest that the BPA and the government were averse to paying compensation.

However, he said, the numerous court suits initiated by landowners stalled moves to pay the compensation.

He pointed out that compensation was a constitutional provision, adding: “The arrangement the government will adopt to pay is a matter for it to determine, but what we want to look at is the commitment of the government and the posture of the BPA in this matter.”

Two fold

The compensation, Mr Addai explained, was two-fold: first was crop compensation, which he said was paid in 2016 to people who lost their crops to the construction of the project, leaving the land compensation.

According to him, in tackling the land compensation, legal actions by claimants could not be overlooked.

 “We look at what is ongoing; there are a lot of suits when it comes to this particular compensation, and as an institution, we don’t have control over the legal actions to determine the rightful owners; what we have done is the commitment to make money available,” he said.

Mr Addai intimated that if all the litigating claimants would come together and present a common front, there was no doubt that the payment of compensation would be done quickly.