The Financial and Economic Crimes division of the High Court has ordered the Lands Commission to release more than five acres of land adjacent Golden Tulip hotel to its rightful owners, the Edward Osei Boakye Trust.
“I grant a declaration that the administrative decision purportedly taken by the 2nd defendant (Lands Commission) in 1997 expunging the lease dated October 24, 1974, covering Plot numbers 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 16 is unfair and unreasonable and contrary to Article 23 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 29 of the Conveyancing Act, 1973 (NRCD 175) and is therefore null and void and of no effect,” the judgement said.
The court presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe ordered that the Trust set up to administer the will of the deceased industrialist popularly known as Boakye Mattress was entitled to the leases with the term that was unexpired in 1997 when the lease was wrongfully cancelled.
“As a consequential order, it is stated for the avoidance of doubt that the plaintiffs are entitled to the restoration of the lease dated 24th October 1974 with plot numbers 2, 3, 6, 7 and 16 as per the plan attached thereto in the name of the plaintiff as the beneficiary thereof with the unexpired term of the lease in 1997 which the lease was wrongly expunged,” the judge said.
It further set aside all the leases created by the lands commission in favour of Yekeima Properties (first defendant), Bendoz Pharmacy Limited (third defendant) and Seklaoui Nasser (fourth defendant) and ordered the Land Commission to cancel them.
The court also went ahead to award cost of ¢30,000 to be paid by the Lands Commission and Yekeima Properties Ghana Limited and ¢5000 to be paid by the two other defendants.
The judge chastised the Lands Commission saying “I will conclude this judgment by reproving the 2nd Defendant (lands commission) in particular on their conduct during the proceedings. Bearing in mind that the lease was only for a period of 50 years and to abate in 2024, the court notes the inordinate delay, seven years, in just filing a defence, and the failure to abide by the timelines given and wishes to state that such conduct is unbecoming of public officers (who like judges) have a duty to do right by all manner of persons without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
After the death of the man who was the first to have set-up a mattress making company in Ghana, Edward Osei Boakye in 2006, the plaintiffs were administering his estate when they received a letter from the regional office of the Lands Commission in Accra informing them of the lease on some 10.35 acres of land at the Airport Commercial Center had been expunged from its records since 1997.
This was on the grounds that it was procured by fraud because it was applied for in 1974 for a non-existent incorporated entity by name Airport Shopping Center Limited. By this letter, the Lands Commission then threatened to demolish a three-storey building on the property built by Boakye Mattress himself.
This compelled them to issue a writ against the lands commission contesting the said adverse findings made against the late Boakye Mattress.
An order of interlocutory injunction was therefore granted against the lands commission on June 15, 2007, restraining it and its officials from demolishing the uncompleted three-storey commercial structure on the property.
Despite this injunction, the lands commission by a lease dated February 15, 2008, leased a portion of the land to Yekeima Properties limited.
By a deed of variation dated August 13, 2008, the lands commission varied the size of the land given to Yekeima properties from 2.07 acres to 3.32 acres all from the property of Mr Edward Osei Boakye.
On his part, Yekeima Properties also assigned a portion of the land in dispute to third defendant Bendoz Pharmacy Limited. All of these happened when the injunction was in force and the lands commission’s acts were being reviewed by the court.