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Punish developer for pulling down Bulgarian Embassy building - Sole Inquirer recommends

BY: Emmanuel Bonney & Justice Agbenorsi
Punish developer for pulling down Bulgarian Embassy building - Sole Inquirer recommends
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has written to the Attorney General (A-G) to advice him on sanctions to be imposed on a private developer who demolished a building at the Bulgarian Embassy.

According to him, the recommendation of the Sole Inquirer who looked into the demolition had some legal implications and so it was important to get advice from the A-G.

In a 149-page report, the Sole Inquirer, Justice Kwasi Anto Ofori-Atta, recommended that the private developer, Joojo Hagan, be sanctioned and be made to compensate the Bulgarian Embassy.

“The Sole Inquirer made the point that Mr Hagan sought to get the Bulgarian Embassy’s title cancelled through a process through which he classified as not being in accordance with due process and therefore, he should be sanctioned.

“ So I have forwarded the entire report to the Attorney General and I am waiting for his advice and based on his advice I would take the next steps,” the minister told the Daily Graphic yesterday.

Report

A statement from Mr Jinapor last Monday said the ministry had accepted in full, the recommendations of the inquirer.

It said since the title to the land had not been determined by the courts, the government would intervene, as advised by the inquirer, to find an amicable solution to the matter.

Measures

As part of its measures, it said, the ministry had ordered the Lands Commission not to recognise and/or register any further transaction in respect of the plot of land in question until the final determination of the pending cases before the court (s) or an amicable resolution of the matters in dispute was reached.

“In accordance with the recommendations of the Sole Inquirer, I will use my good offices to attempt a mediation between the parties, with the hope of reaching an amicable settlement of the matters in dispute.

“If no settlement is reached, the ministry will await the outcome of the court cases and abide by it,” the statement said.

Private developer

Making reference to the report of the Sole Inquirer, the statement said the private developer took over as the Executor of the will of one Mr Leighton and vested the property in the named beneficiaries of the will while pursuing the cases at the court.

Furthermore, the private developer also obtained judgment for the eviction of the occupants, whom he described as trespassers, and an order to demolish the property, which he described as unfit for human habitation, at the Circuit Court, Accra.

His (private developer’s) action of evicting the trespassers and also causing the demolition of the property, according to the report, did not “follow due process”.

It was also established that there were three court cases involving ownership of the subject matter pending before the High Court in Accra.

“Mr Jojo Hagan should be sanctioned for not following due process in the eviction of the alleged trespassers and the demolition of the building and should be made to compensate the Bulgarian Embassy,” the Sole Inquirer recommended.

Background

The Bulgarian Embassy, located at Kakramadu Road, Plot No. 10, East Cantonments in Accra, was demolished by a private developer in 2017.

The Lands Commission ordered the developer to stop work on a redevelopment project on the site, but work progressed.

While the Bulgarian Ambassador to Ghana and Nigeria, Yanko Yordanov, accused the government of breaching the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the government, on the other hand, maintained that it had no hand in the demolition.

Following media reports on the demolition, Mr Jinapor appointed a retired judge as Sole Inquirer to inquire into not only the Bulgarian Embassy matter but all matters relating to landed properties for diplomatic missions in the country.

He was specifically tasked to undertake a full and impartial inquiry into the alleged encroachment and/or demolition of property on the land being used as the Bulgarian Embassy; make appropriate recommendations relating to the land being used as the Bulgarian Embassy; inquire into the nature of interest in any land held or occupied by diplomatic missions in Ghana; inquire into any matter relating to land in which diplomatic missions in Ghana had an interest whatsoever and make recommendations to the government.