Government faces $5 million suit after police demolished wrong building
A Tema High Court gave an order for demolition in 2017 at Kopodar near Prampram in the Greater Accra Region. It was not done. When the plaintiff finally decided to pull down the property in 2019, the bailiffs allegedly led the police to the wrong place.
The two places are a mile apart.
By this action, the state stands to incur over $5 million in financial loss. The amount is what the owners of the demolished building said they would be demanding in damages, as they serve the Attorney General notice to sue, over what they described as unlawful destruction.
The demolition team allegedly destroyed one storey-building warehouse, a showroom, materials and goods stored and machinery.
The bizarre incident happened in the Greater Accra Region at Miotso, near Prampram, an area close to the Central University.
On August 23, 2019, a team of 40 armed SWAT officers of the Ghana Police Service allegedly stormed the premises of two companies in the same building—the Etelese Company and Dektile Company with bailiffs in tow. One of the companies is in the business of making ceramic products.
It was 5.30 am on a Friday: Daylight was taking over the dark sky, as sunlight peeked through trees. But the wave of tempers, on the premises of the two companies, were less than the welcoming gentle glows of the early morning sun and the balmy breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.
On the orders of ASP Theophilus Hlormenu, said to be the Commander of the SWAT team, operators of bulldozers got to work, mowing down the one-storey building.
As the machine broke down the resistance of the steel, brick and mortar, members of the SWAT team took strategic positions around the building.
Not long afterwards another group of police officers arrive. This time led by the Prampram District Police Commander, DSP Issah Mohammed Cantona.
Waving his hand desperately, he urged the demolition squad to stop the flattening of the building. His reason? It was the wrong place. The actual place was some kilometres away.
But the bailiffs, who led the police to the site, allegedly called the bluff of the District Commander and insisted it was the right place.
“I pleaded with them until one of our officers, ACP Razak, also came to talk to the officer from Accra that they shouldn’t break down the building.
“There were tiles and water closets in there and I was begging them to stop so that the owner could come and salvage them, but come and see the bailiff. He said ‘he didn’t want me to be held responsible’ for stopping the demolition,” the Prampram District Police Commander, DSP Issah Mohammed Cantona, who confirmed the incident told theghanareport.com
“The woman [the owner of the building] came three days ago to complain, so we are looking for them [bailiffs]. You are coming to demolish and you won’t ask the local police for help. It’s unfortunate,” he continued.
“The bailiff came with the team to show them the area. I think the mistake is from the court and the bailiff. You don’t know the area and, instead of you coming to ask, you just went to demolish,” DSP Issah Mohammed Cantona said.
The Tema High Court on July 27, 2017, issued the demolition order. The case had been under litigation since 2007, and is titled ‘Kweinor Tei Kwablah Versus Nii Okai Adjei and Angola Ghana Limited.’
The Presiding Judge, Justice John K. Owusu, was clear about the coverage area for the demolitions, stating the demarcation, as the land at Kopodar near Namue Hill, north of Great Ningo and bordered on the north by the Accra to Aflao Highway.
The land, the judge said, was demarcated from a concrete pillar at Mile 30, leading eastward to Mile 31 toward Nyigbenya; then bound on the eastern, western and southern site by Greater Ningo Land.
“The within described land falls within the limit of ARIDS 10 – 50; east to west and 0 to 10 north to the south containing area one mile by two miles and is within area particularly described on the plan, annexed hereto and therein shown edged pink,” the order said.
The Registrar of the Tema High Court, Sebastian A. Agbo, signed the demolition order.
But the police and the bailiffs got it wrong.
It appears the events of that day are coming back to haunt the police, and the state, as the lawyers of the owners of two companies, threaten legal action.
In the 30-day notice served the Attorney General and Minister of Justice dated February 21, 2020, Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo, the lawyer for the owners of the building, said he had the authorisation of his clients to start legal action against the Attorney General after the notice expired.
“We have the instruction of our client to write to you in respect of the demolition of a one-storey building warehouse and a showroom belonging to our client by the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT) of the Ghana Police Service.
“Our clients further instruct us to inform you that the estimated cost of the damage caused to the one-storey building warehouse, a showroom, materials and goods stored and machinery is valued at over five million dollars,” the notice signed by Nii Addo, who represents Addo & Addo, a private legal firm, read.
The notice said the demolition had also prevented the potential plaintiffs from doing their lawful registered business.
The notice stated that the owners of the buildings will ask the court to award them general damages of $5 million, being the estimated cost of the one-storey building warehouse, a showroom, materials and goods stored and machinery.
They will also ask for compensatory, aggravated and punitive damages and the cost of legal fees.
Nii Addo’s firm is also going after the police officers involved in the demolition as it petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mr James Oppong-Boanuh, to investigate what it described as unlawful demolition.
“Our clients humbly request your good office to commence criminal investigations for the identification of all the police officers who were involved in the operation, which according to our clients, were about 40 police officers (excluding the leader of the team, Theophilus Hlormenu).
“We have our clients’ instructions to also request your good office to institute administrative internal action against all the police officers who were involved in unlawful demolition of our client’s warehouse,” the petition to the IGP read.
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