Don’t rush to sue gov’t for compensation – Justice Apau

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General News of Thursday, 4 September 2014

Source: Graphic Online

Justice Yaw Apau Jaw

The Sole Commissioner of the Judgement Debt Commission (JDC), Mr Justice Yaw Apau, has appealed to community leaders who intend to sue the state due to the government’s inability to resettle their people after the acquisition of their land to reconsider their decision.

While admitting that the affected people needed to be resettled properly, he said the taking over of their lands was for the good of the whole country.

He indicated that in every developing country, the state would have to acquire some land from some people for development projects that would be beneficial all citizens.

Mr Justice Apau made the appeal yesterday when representatives of the Kwabena Busumpim Family at Akroso and the Kwame Donkoh Family at Asukawkaw, both in the Volta Region, told the commission that their people might consider suing the state in the near future because of its failure to resettle them properly though their houses and farms were submerged following the construction of the dam over River Volta in 1965.

Professor Patrick O. Danso, who represented the Kwabena Busumpim Family from Akroso and Mr John Gyamfi, who represented the Kwame Donkoh Family from Asukawkaw, said their people lived on 27,000 acres along the Volta Basin before the construction of the dam at Akosombo in 1965.

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They said following the submerging of their land, the state resettled their people together with two other families on 1,000 acre lands at Akroso and Asukawkaw respectively.

They claimed that though they owned five houses before the resettlement, they were given only a three-unit house each and three acres for farming.

The Sole Commissioner said the intention of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was that no community should suffer as a result of the construction of the dam. However, his vision was truncated following his overthrow.

Prof. Danso, who teaches Marine and Fisheries Science at the University of Ghana, Legon, said the people did not have water closets or proper medical centres at Akroso.

He also said due to the poor nature of the land allotted to them, the people suffered from diseases such as river blindness and epilepsy. For instance, he added, every household at Akroso had at least one completely or partially blind person.

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He said there was one house in which all the family members had gone blind.

Prof. Danso expressed worry that the government had focused only on the resettlement of the people of Bui, following the construction of the Bui hydroelectric power plant.

Counsel for the Akroso and Asukawkaw families, Mr Kwame Appiah, called for a concerted effort to alleviate the suffering of the people. He warned that if future generations of the two families did not initiate legal actions against the state in Ghana, they could go to the international court of arbitration.

Prof. Danso said so far, the two families had been given Ghc1,440,908.63 as compensation by the state. He claimed that they used the money to acquire a 10-acre teak plantation, built a nursing quarters, renovated the chief’s palace, bought a van for the chiefs and offered scholarships to brilliant, needy students.

Three pensioners who had petitioned the commission because of the decision of their respective employers to give them the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) pension instead of the CAP 30 one, also appeared before the commission.

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Mr Seth Adza, a former employee of the Ministry of Health; Mr Wellington Tedeku, a former worker of Rural Housing and Construction and Mrs Agnes Tawiah, a retired nurse, who was represented at the commission by Mr Eric Nyaho, told the commission that the delays in processing their CAP 30 pension by their respective employers, coupled with their precarious financial situation had compelled them to opt out of the CAP 30 pension.

They said their colleagues who had benefited from the CAP 30 pension took about 10 times what they had taken under the SSNIT pension scheme.

For instance, Mr Adza said he received Ghc4,000 under the SSNIT pension scheme while his colleagues took GH¢70,000 under the CAP 30 pension scheme.

Before petitioning the JDC, the petitioners had already petitioned the National Labour Commission (NLC).

The Sole Commissioner told the petitioners that the commission could not adjudicate on their petition once the case was pending at the NLC. He said the NLC had assured the JDC of its readiness to hear the case even if their respective employers continued to delay in responding to the NLC’s queries.

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