The National Security Ministry has been stopped by a court order from claiming and building on a large area of land belonging to Cascade Development Company Limited (CDC), the owner of the Kempinski Hotel in Accra.
Reports suggest security operatives stormed the site, known as the Site for Conference Centre, early on Saturday, April 15, and began building a fence wall some 10 acres into the land where Kempinski is situated.
Lawyers of Cascade, Gabby Otchere-Darko’s Africa Legal Associates (ALA), filed a writ against the Government and secured a High Court injunction on Thursday, April 20, in Accra. The injunction sought to restrain the Ministry from developing, encroaching, or dealing with the disputed land.
Meanwhile, it appears there have been renewed attempts to re-enter the land, with more activities sighted in the area on Saturday, April 22, two days after the injunction.
If true, this is likely to spark questions about the government’s commitment to the rule of law and the protection of property rights.
What eyewitnesses saw
Witnesses claim that the operatives used heavy machinery to grade the land and dig trenches for the fence wall. Attempts by CDC’s executives and security personnel to engage the operatives in conversation were unsuccessful.
Additionally, when CDC staff took photographs and videos of the incident, their mobile phones were allegedly seized, and their files were allegedly deleted permanently.
Lawyers at ALA, the law firm that represents CDC, could not be reached for comments at the time of filing this report.
Background to the dispute
The land in question was leased to CDC and Gold Coast Resorts (GCR) Limited in 2007, under a sublease agreement with the Ghana Tourist Board, and is adjacent to the Accra Conference Centre. It was agreed that the site would be redeveloped to include a five-star hotel, shopping mall, office and residential buildings.
The Parliament of Ghana subsequently approved a Government Support Agreement covering the transaction. However, the Ministry of National Security disputes CDC’s claim to the land, stating that it forms part of “National Security Lands”.
The documents showed that a letter from the National Security Council (NSC) in 2009 ordered CDC to stop work on a construction project being undertaken by Zakhem Construction Limited.
The NSC claimed that the works posed a risk to national security interests and demanded that all work be halted while the security threat was examined. CDC responded by providing all documentation relating to the project, including the proof of approval by Parliament, its registration documents, and all permits secured for the construction works.
In December 2009, the NSC gave permission for works on the hotel component of the project to resume, leading to the completion of the plush edifice now known as the Kempinski Hotel.
However, CDC was to desist from undertaking the construction of the other components of the project and was requested to cooperate with the NSC to demarcate a portion of the land which, in the estimation of the NSC, would serve as a buffer that would ensure national security interests are satisfactorily safeguarded.
However, the request for demarcation was met with objections from CDC who accused the NSC of unlawful expropriation of private land.
Citi News understands that ALA later advised CDC to seek redress in court, which led in part to the interim injunction issued last Friday.
The order, dated 20th April 2023 and issued under the seal of Justice Kwame Gyamfi Osei, states: “IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT the Defendants, either by themselves, their agents, privies, especially the Minister of National Security, grantees, assigns, servants, workmen, allottees and successors in interest, other alienees and relations whatsoever and howsoever described are restrained from encroaching, developing, dealing with or having anything to do with ALL THAT PIECE OR PARCEL OF LAND known as Site for Conference Centre and containing an approximate area of 35.16 acres situate at Accra Conference Centre in the City of Accra in the Greater Accra Region of the Republic of Ghana and bounded on the North by Merton Preparatory School on the South by Existing Bungalows and Race Course on the North – West by Osu Cemetery Road and on the North – East by Accra Conference Centre which piece or land is more particularly delineated on Plan No. LC/GAR.234/AC.8077TJ for a period of 10 days unless same is repeated on notice to the Defendants.”
When reached for their comment, an official of the National Security Ministry, who spoke to Citi News on condition of anonymity, could not say any more than to indicate that “the legal department is handling the matter and would respond to any issues that come up”.