Operatives of the National Security Ministry have allegedly taken control of a large area of land that belongs to Cascade Development Company Limited (CDC), the owner of Kempinski Hotel, Accra, despite a court order that instructed the Ministry to refrain from developing or dealing with the disputed land.
Reports suggest that heavily armed operatives entered the land, known as the “Site for Conference Centre,” early on Saturday and began building a fence wall.
Citi News understands that upon an application from lawyers from Africa Legal Associates (ALA), lawyers for CDC, the Land Division of the High Court, Accra had recently imposed an injunction that restrained the Ministry from developing or encroaching on the land.
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 seized, and their files were deleted permanently.
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”.
Citi News has seen documents showing 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 a private land.
CDC objects to demarcation
CDC’s objection to the request to demarcate was communicated by its lawyers in a letter dated 8th January 2010. However, CDC indicated that it was still amenable to discussions to settle on an arrangement that would satisfy the concerns of the NSC. The NSC was also informed in the letter that the project had suffered losses in excess of Three Million United States Dollars (US$3,000,000.00) due to the restraint wrongfully placed by the NSC on the execution of works.
The NSC later forced its way onto the land in September 2010, cordoning off part of the area and denying CDC access to it.
In a letter dated March 30th, 2011, the Lands Commission notified CDC that the NSC had expressed concerns about CDC’s development work on the land and requested a meeting to discuss the issue. CDC attended the meeting but maintained its position that the NSC’s demarcation of the land was unlawful.
On November 24th, 2014, the NSC formally requested the Lands Commission to reduce the size of the leased land by 6.825 acres.
Citi News is reliably informed that CDC has, however, not received notification of any formal variation of the sublease from the Lands Commission till date.
CDC demands compensation
CDC is, thus, seeking compensation for the expropriated 6.85 acres of land and losses suffered from the stop order imposed by the NSC between September 11th, 2009 and January 8th, 2010.
As of December 2021, ALA estimated the value of the expropriated land to be approximately US$3,500,000.00 per acre.
In a letter dated February 14th, 2019, CDC notified the NSC of its claim for compensation. CDC is seeking $1,488,010.84 in payment plus interest at the rate of 6.73% per annum from January 10th, 2010 until the date of payment. CDC is also seeking $225,000 to cover the total cost of legal fees incurred in securing its rights.
Lawyers at ALA later requested a meeting with the Minister of National Security in December 2019 to discuss the compensation claim. As a result of the series of meetings that followed, the Chief Director of the Ministry of National Security instructed the Lands Commission to undertake a valuation of the land. The result put the value of the affected land at GHC144,739,912.50 ($25 million) in March 2021.
However, in a letter dated October 6th, 2021, the Ministry of National Security rejected CDC’s claim for compensation on the grounds that the land falls under National Security lands. Following this stance, ALA 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 ten (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”.