Who owns Agbogbloshi lands?
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) suggested that the occupants of Agbogbloshi should be relocated and he was strongly criticised. The IGP is learned in the law and knowing the facts of the Agbogbloshi settlement, he should have asked that the squatters be removed from Gold Coast Railway lands.
I have not been to Agbogbloshi for years but I believe the ownership of Agbogbloshi has not changed. Agbogbloshi was settled by a few families such as the Deckers whom I was glad to visit because they gave me biscuits and a drink after I had walked all the way from Adabraka on errands to them.
The only other occupants of the area were officials and workers of Gold Coast Railways whose main terminal was near and whose officers are now swamped by inelegant offices and apologies for human habitation. I believe the IGP knows that many of the people at Agbogbloshi are illegal settlers and should ,therefore, be removed. This is in accordance with the rule of law. It is not incumbent on government to settle them.But as a good Ghanaian, the IGP was trying to apply the law with a “human face”. I am afraid we cannot have our cake and eat it. Either we ignore the law or apply it. Illegal settlements should not be allowed to flourish. Illegal structures should be removed before they threaten human life when floods occur.
I know that what I am suggesting is against the grain of Ghanaian culture. The law should be enacted but should not be fully applied if it leads to the distress of the individual, especially the highly placed citizen. Thus, in the offices we have elaborate laws to maintain good order and efficiency. But if a senior officer contravenes the law those who “sit on the case” do not recommend the sack when this is obvious and appropriate. “What will the family do?”, it is asked. The disciplinary committee ,therefore, recommends other measures such as transfer to an office where the corrupt practice will continue.
We should realise that freedom under the law entails responsibilities. It is not only the petty thief who should suffer the consequences of his or her misdeed. The “land thief” should suffer the consequences of his misdeed whether he or she is the occupant of high office or not. At present, we have a law which shows the “human face” to a “land thief” with money. If he employs land guards to prevent the rightful owner from entering the property and builds on it, the courts apply the principle of the “human face” and allow the thief to keep the land and building while the real land owner is given some money for the land.
This law, which was passed during the tenure of office of my mentor Kwame Nkrumah, is iniquitous and should be expunged from the statute books forthright. A law which encourages brigandry by so-called land guards should be expunged and land guards punished even as was meted out to the Delta Force brigade which supports the ruling party.I would not take the government’s intention of restoring the railway system seriously if notice is not given to all who occupy railway property to quit. Agbogbloshie is not a Komkomba-Dagomba problem. It is a matter of lack of resolve and indolence by successive governments.The people must be adequately accommodated.
Ghettos should not be allowed to “flourish”. And suitable markets should be provided at vantage points for traders and buyers.