WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

Our ref: OG/2023/030

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS RELEASE

Accra, 28 November 2023

WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

On 11th November 2018 the Plaintiff (Isaac Wilberforce Mensah) sued the Attorney-General, Auditor-General and the Audit Service Board in the Supreme Court for several reliefs including a declaration that the independence of ‘the Auditor-General… provided for in Article 187(7) [of the Constitution] is … restricted to the actual exercise or execution of his auditing work and activities necessarily incidental to the performance of that function.’ The general tone and tenor of the action pit the Auditor-General against the Audit Service Board, challenging the full independence of the Auditor-General.

On 20 October 2020, the Supreme Court granted OccupyGhana leave to file an Amicus Curiae Brief in the matter, which we filed on 26 October 2020. However, from that date, nothing appeared to have happened in the matter. Significantly, although the Supreme Court had earlier directed the parties to file either a joint memorandum of issues or separate issues for trial, none of the parties complied. The effect is that the case has not moved to trial for more than five years after it was filed, and more than three years since our intervention.

We have been unrelenting in trying to get the case to trial. On 20 May 2022, 5 July 2022, 29 July 2022 and 17 October 2022, we wrote to the Supreme Court registry inquiring about the status of the matter and urging the matter to be placed before the court. We received no responses. On 20 February 2023, we were compelled to draft the issues arising, which we sent to the parties and their lawyers for adoption and filing in court. We received no responses; and they took no steps.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court delivered judgment in GHANA CENTRE FOR DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT & OTHERS v ATTORNEY-GENERAL, which took another step forward in freeing the Auditor-General from the unconstitutional shackles of the government. However, the key issues raised in the pending action, relating particularly to the independence of the Auditor-General vis-à-vis the Audit Service Board (majority of whose members are appointed by the President), has remained largely unresolved.

Frustrated at this state of affairs and the sheer inaction of the parties, we were compelled to file an unusual application to be joined as a defendant in the action, so that we could force the case to trial. In court today, the Supreme Court disagreed with us. However, as a result of our application, the Court has set clear, mandatory deadlines for the parties to do what the law requires of them, and which we have been urging them to do: file the memorandum of issues by 22 December 2023, and appear before the Court on 31 January 2024 for the case to proceed. The Court also ordered the registry to prepare a schedule of all applications filed and rulings made in the matter to date.

We got what we wanted from the court: ACTION. We remain committed to ensuring that the independence of the Auditor-General, which in our view is absolutely guaranteed by the Constitution, is respected by all. It is only in an environment that acknowledges and respects the clear and express constitutional injunction, that the Auditor-General ‘shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority,’ that Auditors-General will feel sufficiently independent and liberated to exercise the full functions of that office, particularly in the exercise of the powers of disallowance and surcharge.

As Chief Justice Gertrude Torkornoo stated before the court rose, ‘this is all for God and Country.’ We agree. For us, it was one small procedural manoeuvre; but it has resulted in giant steps forward in our fight for an Auditor-General who fearlessly and independently performs the functions of the office.
-END-

OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

Our Ref: OG/2023/027

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 27 October 2023

OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

In these difficult times, OccupyGhana stands in solidarity with the communities affected by the recent Akosombo Dam spillage. We are deeply concerned about the devastating consequences of this disaster and the extensive harm it has caused to our fellow Ghanaians.

As we watch the aftermath unfold, we have followed the official explanations provided for this catastrophe. However, we are far from satisfied. It strains belief that the rapid increase in water volume at the Dam caught us completely off guard, leaving us with no alternative but a massive, destructive spillage. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. And it is also alarming to even consider the scale of devastation that could have occurred had the Dam faced complete failure, as tragically witnessed in Derna, Libya, resulting in the reported loss of over 11,000 precious lives.

Our concerns deepen as we contemplate the risk of similar disasters. For example, almost every year, Burkina Faso opens valves of its Bagre Dam to spill excess water. This routinely destroys farmlands, food crops, livestock and houses in portions of northern Ghana. Potable water gets polluted and sometimes, lives are lost. We must also mention the almost-routine Weija Dam spillages and its harmful effects on lives in the area. These raise fundamental questions about our preparedness and response mechanisms. Are we perpetually at risk of such catastrophic events? Concerning the Akosombo Dam, can we be assured that the Volta River Authority possesses both the means and the foresight to predict and pre-empt such disasters?

One critical aspect that demands immediate attention is how we build along waterways and riverbanks in the catchment areas. We must acknowledge that settlements will continue to exist in these areas, and the manner in which they are developed and constructed must change. We must adapt to ensure that these communities are not unduly exposed to the risk of devastating floods.

We are also concerned whether our precious water resources are harnessed wisely, and whether we have structures that ensure the optimum utilisation of the vast amounts of water that leave the Akosombo and Kpong/Akuse Dams. This is especially in terms of whether this precious resource could provide more clean drinking water and also support irrigation, rather than flowing into the sea.

OccupyGhana firmly believes that the totality of these matters rises to meet the constitutional standard of a ‘matter of public interest [and importance]’ that is sufficiently grave to warrant establishing a Commission of Inquiry, as provided for under Chapter 23 of the Constitution. We earnestly urge the President or Parliament (through a resolution), to take immediate steps to form this Commission. Ghanaians have a right to know the precise cause(s) of this catastrophe and whether it was preventable. If it could have been prevented, those responsible should be held accountable, which may include their removal from their positions. If there are indications of criminal acts or negligence, we expect independent police investigations leading to prosecutions. And if it was indeed an unforeseeable event, this experience has made it foreseeable, and we need to know and understand the measures to be put in place to prevent such a disaster in the future.

We stand for transparency, accountability and the well-being of our nation. Our call for an independent Commission of Inquiry is rooted in the conviction that the full truth must be uncovered, lessons must be learned to safeguard our people and our future, and that responsible rural and urban planning and development are crucial to mitigate future risks.

We express our gratitude to all those who have been involved in the mobilisation of emergency relief support for the displaced communities. Your dedication to providing aid in these challenging times is commendable, and we appreciate your unwavering support.

Together, let us strive for a safer and more secure future.

OccupyGhana – For God and Country.

-ENDS-

EXTENDING THE CURRENT LAWS ON ELECTION OFFENCES TO COVER PARTY PRIMARIES AND INTRA-PARTY ELECTIONS

Our ref: OG/2023/026
 
9 October 2023
 
Godfred Dame, Esq
Hon Attorney-General & Minister of Justice
Office of the Attorney General & Ministry of Justice
Accra
 
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, MP
Hon Majority Leader
Parliament House
Accra
 
Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, MP
Hon Minority Leader
Parliament House
Accra
 
Gentlemen:
 
EXTENDING THE CURRENT LAWS ON ELECTION OFFENCES TO COVER PARTY PRIMARIES AND INTRA-PARTY ELECTIONS
 
We write to invite you to co-sponsor and introduce a bill in Parliament that will specifically extend the current laws that provide and punish for public election offences, to cover party primaries and intra-party elections. We believe that this will be the first step to stemming the now rampant vote-buying, intimidation, violence etc that have become associated with such elections.
 
OccupyGhana has been very concerned about the phenomena where persons use money and gifts to bribe voters and/or use intimidation, violence, personation, insults, tribalism, falsehoods, etc, against opponents in all elections. These have grown to shockingly brazen levels, especially in party primaries to elect presidential and parliamentary candidates and intra-party elections to elect party officials.
 
Both the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and the Representation of the People Act, 1992 (PNDCL 284) contain elaborate provisions that criminalise all of these acts. Persons convicted of such offences are liable to a range of fines, terms of imprisonment, and even disqualification from voting. 
 
However, apart from the fact that these provisions are hardly seen to be enforced, these statutes refer only to ‘public elections,’ which, as seen under article 49 of the Constitution, may not cover party primaries and intra-party elections. This might explain why we see no prosecutions when these happen.
 
We therefore invite you, as the Attorney-General and as the parliamentary leadership of the parties with representation in the current Parliament, to co-sponsor and introduce a bill in Parliament that specifically extends the application of these existing offences to party primaries and intra-party elections. The proposed amendment should also remove the requirement for the Attorney-General’s fiat before prosecutions may be commenced. 
 
These, we believe, will indicate to Ghanaians that the government and the two leading parties want to banish this phenomenon from all of our elections, whether public or not, and to every extent possible and permitted by law. When passed, strict enforcement should breathe new anti-corruption life into our body-politic. 
 
Gentlemen, your refusal, failure, or neglect to take this step will finally provide basis for the suspicion that the government and the two leading parties actively support, or are complicit in perpetrating, this wrongful conduct.
 
Yours in the service of God and Country,
 
 
OccupyGhana
 
cc        Rt Hon Alban Bagbin
Speaker
Parliament
Accra
 
Joseph Osei-Owusu, MP
Hon First Deputy Speaker
Parliament
Accra
 
Andrew Asiamah Amoako, MP
Hon Second Deputy Speaker
Parliament
Accra
 
Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, MP
Hon Deputy Attorney-General
Accra
 
Diana Asonaba Dapaah
Hon Deputy Attorney-General
Accra
 
Alexander Afenyo-Markin, MP
Hon Deputy Majority Leader
Parliament
Accra
 
Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, MP
Hon Deputy Minority Leader
Parliament
Accra
 
Frank Annoh-Dompreh, MP
Hon Majority Chief Whip
Parliament
Accra
 
Lydia Seyram Alhassan, MP
Hon First Deputy Majority Whip
Parliament 
Accra
 
Habib Iddrisu, MP
Hon Second Deputy Majority Whip
Parliament 
Accra
 
Kwame Agbodza, MP
Hon Minority Chief Whip
Parliament
Accra
 
Ahmed Ibrahim, MP
Hon First Deputy Minority Whip
Parliament
Accra
 
Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe, MP
Hon Second Deputy Minority Whip
Parliament
Accra
 
Mrs Jean Mensah
Chairperson
Electoral Commission
Accra
 
All Media Houses

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

Our ref: OG/2023/023

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 22 September 2023

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

OccupyGhana, in resolute advocacy for good governance, the rule of law, and the protection of civil liberties, strongly voices its concerns regarding the recent arrests of peaceful demonstrators by the Ghana Police on a public holiday, who were subsequently reported to be ‘processed’ for unlawful public gathering.

In a democratic society, we firmly uphold the belief that the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental pillar of freedoms of expression and assembly. These rights, enshrined in the Constitution, should be unwaveringly upheld and respected by all state institutions.

The recent arrests have raised serious questions about the appropriateness of the response by law enforcement agencies. Instead of opting for peaceful dialogue and cooperation with the demonstrators, the police chose to resort to arrests. It is important to note that these arrests took place during a time when potential traffic disruptions would have been minimal. OccupyGhana firmly asserts that alternative, less confrontational approaches could and should have been pursued to effectively manage the situation.

Furthermore, we are reliably informed that there was no court injunction served to the demonstrators, indicating that their right to protest remained fully protected under the law.

About 30 years ago, the Supreme Court held in NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY v INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE, in relation to the fundamental freedom of assembly including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations, that provisions in the erstwhile Public Order Decree that required a prior police permit to demonstrate were inconsistent with the current Constitution. The situation where the statutory requirement to now notify and cooperate with the police is being interpreted, applied and enforced as a de facto permit to demonstrate is unconstitutional and must give way to a more nuanced, liberal and permissive understanding of the constitutional rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and express their views.

We are informed that those who were arrested (which should not have happened in the first place) have now been released, which is a positive development.

OccupyGhana implores the Ghana Police to uphold the rule of law and show due respect for the constitutional rights of all citizens. We call for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding these arrests to ensure justice is served and the rights of peaceful demonstrators are diligently safeguarded.

In the interest of nurturing a democratic society where dissenting voices are not merely tolerated but celebrated and respected, we call upon all stakeholders, including the Ghana Police Service and the government, to engage constructively with citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Together, let us ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future.

Our firm commitment remains rooted in our mission to advocate for transparency, accountability and the unwavering protection of civil liberties in Ghana.

In the interest of God and Country.

-ENDS-

RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

Our ref: OG/2023/021

10 September 2023

The Minister for Finance
Ministry of Finance
Accra

Dear Sir:

RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

We have been corresponding with the Secretary to the Cabinet, Office of the President, on the above-entitled matter. We have attached to this letter, all the correspondence between us, for ease of reference.

The Secretary to Cabinet now has informed us, by a letter received by us on 6 September 2023 but dated 18 August 2023 ref OPCA.3/3/180823, that Cabinet is awaiting a memorandum from your office for consideration before it concludes deliberations on the matter.

We write to inquire about the status of the said memorandum. Kindly indicate to us when you expect to complete the memorandum and when you propose to submit it to cabinet.

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana

Chief of Staff
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Office of the Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Accra

Minister for Information
Ministry of Information
Accra

Secretary to the Cabinet
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Executive Secretary
Right to Information Commission
Accra

Media Houses

UNEXPLAINED WEALTH OF PUBLIC OFFICERS AND THE DEMAND FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022 INTO LAW

Our ref: OG/2023/019

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 24 July 2023

UNEXPLAINED WEALTH OF PUBLIC OFFICERS AND THE DEMAND FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022 INTO LAW

For the umpteenth time, Ghanaians are confronted with another scenario of the suspected, unexplained wealth of a public officer, and staring at the apparent impotence of the law in dealing with this, outside article 286(4) of the Constitution. That article simply provides that an asset declared to have been acquired while in public office, ‘which is not reasonably attributable to income, gift, loan, inheritance or any other reasonable source shall be deemed to have been acquired in contravention of this Constitution.’

From 2017, OccupyGhana has consistently expressed concern about the necessity of reinforcing this assets declaration regime. This measure is vital in curbing the trend where public officers acquire unexplained wealth, especially where their known economic means cannot justify such acquisitions or wealth.

To compound matters, although the Constitution demands in article 286(1) that public officers shall declare their assets and liabilities ‘BEFORE TAKING OFFICE,’ ‘AT THE END OF EVERY FOUR YEARS,’ and ‘AT THE END OF [A]… TERM OF OFFICE,’ Ghana’s political class conspired to unconstitutionally extend the period of filing by six months, under section 1(4) of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act, 1998 (Act 550). The effect of this grave unconstitutionality is that once public officers get appointed without declaring assets and liabilities ‘BEFORE TAKING OFFICE’ as the Constitution demands, they, for the most part, either do not declare at all or may engage in shenanigans such as ‘presumptive’ declarations of non-existent assets in the hope of being able to acquire them.

Our public campaign to remove this offensive unconstitutionality yielded no discernible results, until we wrote to the Attorney-General on 1 December 2019 to demand steps to amend the law. Thankfully, on 8 January 2020, the then Attorney-General wrote to OccupyGhana to agree to amend the law by deleting the unconstitutional extension of time, and indicating that that office was seeking Cabinet approval to prepare the necessary amendment bill to be subsequently laid before Parliament for enactment.

After more than a year of receiving no information on the promised action, OccupyGhana wrote again to the Attorney-General on 16 July 2021 to request an update and whether there was anything that we could do to aid or speed up the amendment process. Curiously, this time, we were ignored. Our 24 September 2021 reminder was also ignored.

Thus, on 21 October 2021, we wrote to the Office of the Special Prosecutor, inviting that office to throw its weight behind our fight for the critical amendment, which would give teeth to that Office’s expressed desire to pursue public officers with unexplained wealth. The OSP responded on 22 October 2021 to agree with us and assure us of ‘the unreserved backing of the office.’

We therefore began work on drafting what we considered a ‘citizens bill’ to submit to Parliament for the sole purpose of the amendment. However, sometime in May 2022, we discovered that a draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2022 (‘Bill’) had been prepared, which not only took our concerns into consideration, but contained exhaustive provisions that would regulate what public officers may or may not do or acquire while in public office. We were however informed that although the Office of the Attorney-General had forwarded the Bill to Cabinet, there was apparently considerable resistance or reluctance at Cabinet in granting approval for the Bill to be forwarded to Parliament for debate and enactment.

Since then, the following has transpired:

  1. 29 May 2022: OccupyGhana Press Release demanding that (i) the President summons an emergency cabinet meeting for the sole purpose of approving the Bill, (iii) the Attorney-General provides a clear timeline on when the Bill would be submitted to Parliament, and (iii) Parliament ensures passage before it rose for the 2022 long vacation – NO RESPONSE;
  2. 24 August 2022: OccupyGhana Letter to Attorney-General inquiring about the status of the Bill and demanding a roadmap on the questions posed in the 29 May 2022 Press Release – NO RESPONSE;
  3. 31 August 2022: OccupyGhana Right to Information Letter to Cabinet Secretary requesting information on the status of the Bill and a roadmap on when it would be approved and sent to Parliament;
  4. 5 September 2022: Cabinet Secretary Response marked ‘Confidential’ to OccupyGhana stating that the Cabinet Committee on Governance and Legal Matters had considered the Bill and referred it to Cabinet for approval. However, Cabinet had requested the Committee to undertake further work on certain aspects of the Bill, and was awaiting the Committee’s recommendations to facilitate Cabinet approval and submission to Parliament;
  5. 17 October 2022: OccupyGhana Letter to Cabinet Secretary requesting a status update – NO RESPONSE;
  6. 11 January 2023: OccupyGhana Reminder to Cabinet Secretary requesting a status update;
  7. 14 February 2023: Cabinet Secretary Letter marked ‘Confidential’ and ‘Secret’ to OccupyGhana to state that the Cabinet Committee had resubmitted the Bill to Cabinet with the necessary recommendations. But Cabinet, having reconsidered the Bill, had declined approval because in its view, there are already adequate provisions in existing law to deal with the conduct of public officers;
  8. 20 February 2023: OccupyGhana Letter to Cabinet Secretary, requesting a withdrawal of the ‘Confidential’ and ‘Secret’ status of the 14 February 2023 Letter so that its ‘disappointing contents’ may be shared with Ghanaians – NO RESPONSE;
  9. 27 February 2023: OccupyGhana Letter to Cabinet Secretary repeating request for withdrawal of the ‘Confidential’ and ‘Secret’ status of the 14 February 2023 Letter, and pointing out that under the Right to Information Act, 2019, Cabinet cannot purport to assert a privilege over the contents of the 14 February 2023 Letter – NO RESPONSE;
  10. 30 May 2023: OccupyGhana Letter to Cabinet Secretary to state its surprise that the Government, this time, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, had promised to enact the Bill into law. We also attached a 20-page table comparing the contents of the Bill with existing law to show that the vast majority of the Bill’s clauses do not already exist in Ghana law as falsely claimed by Cabinet, and therefore, once again, urging its quick passage into law; and
  11. 16 June 2023: Cabinet Secretary Letter to Occupy Ghana (also marked ‘Confidential’) stating that the 30 May 2023 Letter and its attachments ‘will be brought to the attention of Cabinet.’

We have set out the above correspondence detail to show that in our view, the Government appears inexplicably unwilling or unprepared to approve the Bill and transmit it to Parliament for enactment. This is strikingly ironic because the passage of this Bill was a campaign promise at page 105 of the New Patriotic Party’s 2020 Manifesto, Table 1.13 on Governance, Corruption and Public Accountability, items 235 and 236. Even the admitted IMF pressure does not appear to us to be having any effect. We are concerned that this deliberate dithering will remain until the people of Ghana take a firm interest in the Bill and what it says, and then demand that Cabinet does what is required under the circumstances.

We therefore invite Ghanaians, fellow Civil Society Organisations and the media, to join us in this campaign to ensure that Cabinet approves the Bill and forwards it to Parliament, and that Parliament passes the Bill into law, all at the earliest times possible.

  • END –

DEMAND TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM ALL PLANNED RELEASE OF PUBLIC LANDS TO ALLEGED PRE-ACQUISITION OWNERS

Our Ref: OG/2023/017

10 July 2023

The Minister
Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources
Accra

Executive Secretary
Lands Commission
Accra

Dear Sirs:

DEMAND TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM ALL PLANNED RELEASE OF PUBLIC LANDS TO ALLEGED PRE-ACQUISITION OWNERS

We write to demand that the Government and Lands Commission (1) properly account to Ghanaians for all public lands that have been purportedly released to alleged, previous owners or any other persons, and (2) immediately cease and desist from implementing any plans to cede ownership of further public lands, until you comply with constitutional conditions-precedent to any such transactions.

PRESIDENT AS TRUSTEE, LANDS COMMISSION AS MANAGER
Under the Constitution, all compulsorily acquired lands are ‘public lands.’ According to the Supreme Court, this applies whether the land is vested in the State ‘or assigned to a particular public service institution.’ While public lands are vested in President in trust for the people, the power to manage such lands is vested exclusively in the Lands Commission. We contend that the Lands Commission’s power to manage does not include the unilateral power to cede ownership of public lands to any other person.

According to the Constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Lands Commission is independent of ‘any person or authority,’ subject only to limitations provided in either the Constitution itself or other constitutionally-compliant laws. The Constitution then binds the Lands Commission to comply with only Presidentially-Approved Written General Directions (‘PAWGDs’) issued by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister. Thus, the Minister may only make approved directions of a general nature, but cannot be involved in or instruct on any acts that amount to direct and specific management of public lands. Those would be unconstitutional and void.

LANDS COMMISSION’S FIDUCIARY OBLIGATIONS
The Constitution also imposes on the Lands Commission, as the ‘manager of public lands,’ the same fiduciary and accountability obligations of trustees. Therefore, neither the Government nor the Lands Commission may dispose of any public lands, being trust property, without observing the constitutional architecture put in place to prevent a wanton dissipation of such lands.

If public lands must be sold, then first, the Government, acting in utmost good faith, observing its trust duties of honesty, integrity and loyalty, and considering what is in the best interest of the people, would have to issue a relevant PAWGD. It is only after that, that the Lands Commission, observing the same trust duties, would independently manage the process.

ABSENCE OF PAWGDs
However, and following the unfortunate, but thankfully, failed attempt to release Achimota Forest lands to so-called pre-acquisition owners, both the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (in a letter dated 14 July 2022, ref GA 110/280/01) and the Lands Commission (in a letter dated 14 July 2022, ref SCR/LCS 3/v.7/13) have admitted to us that there are no PAWGDs in place.

We are convinced that the Constitution provided for PAWGDs because public lands must be managed in the supreme interest of the people of Ghana, and not any section of us. If the public ownership of those lands must be relinquished, then the people of Ghana (as the owners and beneficiaries of those lands) must have the opportunity to see and debate the draft PAWGDs and express our views on them.

We are firmly convinced that without the relevant PAWGDs, it is unconstitutional for either the Government and/or the Lands Commission, to cede ownership of any public lands, thereby depriving the people of ultimate ownership.

LANDS COMMISSION’S DISCLOSURES
In partial answer to our right to information request, the Lands Commission has claimed, by a letter dated 13 March 2023 ref SCR/LCS 3/v.7/73, that only six tracts of public lands have been released to so-called pre-acquisition owners. These lands cover a massive total area of 2,371.867 acres in Accra, namely Mpehuasem, Nungua, Madina and Adentan.

Two of those land tracts (covering 1582.83 acres) have been leased back to the original owners at either peppercorn or no rent. The Lands Commission explains that economic rent would be applicable upon transfer of interest to third parties. We are aware that all of those lands have indeed been assigned or sublet to third parties. Yet the Lands Commission, in clear breach of its constitutional duties, is unable or unwilling to disclose who the current assignees and sublessees are, and how much economic rent has been recovered, if any.

The remaining four land tracts (covering 779.037 acres) have been released to the original owners, absolutely and for free. However, instead of issuing PAWGDs, different Lands Ministers simply assumed unconstitutional land management powers and issued Executive Instruments to redraw the boundaries, and thereby effectively released the lands. These are unconstitutional and void.

Further, the Lands Commission’s 13 March 2023 letter does not appear to have considered other public lands that had been assigned to other public institutions, and which may have also been released. According to the Supreme Court, such lands still constitute public lands, and that even where such institutions have ‘no further use of the land…, the land reverts to the State represented by the Lands Commission.’ Thus, to the extent that any state institution has released any such lands, instead of returning them to the Lands Commission, those releases are also unconstitutional and void.

CEASE AND DESIST
It is in the light of the above that we write to demand that:

(1) the Lands Commission should FORTHWITH, properly disclose to us, information on the current holders of ALL public lands (within the definition provided by the Supreme Court) that have been released throughout the country, and how much has been derived by way of economic rent from third-party leases; and

(2) the Government and Lands Commission should suspend all planned releases of public lands (including the Achimota Forest lands) until the Government has, after public debate, issued the constitutionally-required PAWGDs.

Take notice that if you ignore these demands and/or proceed with any such unconstitutional transactions, we will sue both the Government and the Lands Commission to restrain such unconstitutional conduct, and to reverse such acts.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana

cc.
Speaker of Parliament
Parliament House
Accra

Chief of Staff
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice
Accra

Chairperson
Ministerial Advisory Board
Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources
Accra

Media Houses

RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

Our Ref

Our Ref: OG/2023/015

30 May 2023

Secretary to the Cabinet
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Dear Madam:

RE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION REQUEST ON THE STATUS OF THE DRAFT CONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILL, 2022

The above-entitled matter refers.

OccupyGhana is pleasantly amazed and amused to read that the Government has finally agreed to enact the Conduct of Public Officers Act, because it is now being compelled by the International Monetary Fund to do so, as part of the conditionalities for the US$3Billion Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Ghana.

We have written to your office several times to demand that Cabinet approves the draft Conduct of Public Officers Bill, 2022 that was submitted to Cabinet by the Attorney-General, and then send it to Parliament for debate and enactment. We kept the pressure on until the Government slammed the door in our faces. In your letter to us dated 14 February 2023, ref OPCA.3/3/140223, you stated emphatically that Cabinet has “taken the view that there are adequate provisions that deal with the conduct of public officers in the existing law,” and therefore “Cabinet has declined approval for the Memorandum.”

What was even more shocking was that the Office of the President chose to wrongfully stamp this letter as “CONFIDENTIAL” and then mark each page as “SECRET.” You have neither acknowledged nor responded to our letters to you dated 20 and 27 February 2023, challenging this illegal branding of the letters and demanding their withdrawal.

Overall, Cabinet’s refusal to approve the draft Bill flew in the face of all the promises that this Government had made to Ghanaians on this matter, including, particularly the following statement at page 105 of the New Patriotic Party’s 2020 Manifesto:
[Attached]

Disappointed at this volte-face, we considered several options including petitioning the Right to Information Commission for a determination of the absurd claim of confidentiality and secrecy. We also considered suing the Government or presenting a bill to Parliament to amend the specifically offending portion of section 1 of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act 1998 (Act 550), which unconstitutionally extends by six months, the fixed times that the Constitution provides for assets declaration by public officers.

That is why we are amazed and amused that the Government, now under pressure from the IMF, is promising to pass into law, the Bill that you told us, as recently as February of this year, would not be approved. We note that the IMF COUNTRY REPORT No 23/169, page 22, paragraph 44, says “The authorities are also committed to addressing weaknesses in the existing asset declaration system for public officials—which currently lacks an effective verification process—by enacting a new Conduct of Public Officers Act.”

We are tickled that in the attachment titled MEMORANDUM OF ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL POLICIES, at page 69, paragraph 52, the Government itself says “We will continue to strengthen organizational and legal arrangements for addressing corruption and enhancing accountability and integrity: This will include improvements in the existing asset declaration system. The enactment of Conduct of Public Officers Act will notably seek to address current weaknesses of this system.”

Then there is the Statement by Messrs Bijani, Sassanpour and Akosah dated 17 May 2023, which says at page 6: “The authorities are committed to address macro-critical gaps in Ghana’s governance framework, enhance accountability and fight corruption forcefully. They will enact the Conduct of Public Officers Act to address identified weaknesses in the existing asset declaration system.”

We are glad and saddened at the same time that the Government that thumbed its nose at us on this issue, has now found its way back to the table, compelled, not because the activism of well-meaning citizens, but because Ghana’s current economic dire straits and the dictates of the IMF. We however wish to assure the Government that we remain ready and willing to assist Cabinet in reconsidering the draft Bill, approving it and sending it to Parliament for debate and enactment.

We have therefore taken steps to address the previous, false claim by Cabinet that everything that the draft Bill seeks to do is already covered by existing law. We are attaching to this letter, a 20-page table containing our comparative analyses of the Bill and existing law, to show that contrary to what Cabinet claimed and which was communicated to us in your 14 February 2023 letter, the vast majority of the Bill’s clauses do not exist already in Ghana law. It is still our conviction that passing the Bill into law will go a long way to properly regulate the conduct of public officers, and bring to pass the Government’s new promise to the IMF that the new Act will “address current weaknesses of [the assets declaration] system” and “strengthen organizational and legal arrangements for addressing corruption and enhancing accountability and integrity.”

Yours in the service of God and Country,

OccupyGhana

cc. Chief of Staff
Office of the President
Jubilee House
Accra

Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Office of the Attorney-General & Minister for Justice
Accra

Minister for Information
Ministry of Information
Accra

Executive Secretary
Right to Information Commission
Accra

Media Houses

MURDER OF SOLDIER AND MILITARY BRUTALITIES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ASHIAMAN

Our ref: OG/2023/014

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 15 March 2023

MURDER OF SOLDIER AND MILITARY BRUTALITIES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ASHIAMAN

OccupyGhana like most Ghanaians, are horrified at the senseless and barbaric killing of the young soldier, lmoro Sheriff, in Ashiaman in the early hours of 4 March 2023 by then unknown assailants. We take this opportunity to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. We are gratified that the police appear to have concluded their investigations, and the accused persons are already before court to be tried, and if convicted, duly punished for this heinous crime.

We are equally horrified at the also barbaric, totally uncalled for, absolutely unconstitutional and unlawful reaction of the military. The risible justifications put forward by the military in the press release issued by its Department of Public Relations on 7 March 2023 have been exposed as false by the facts provided by the police in their press release dated 12 March 2023, that the unfortunate death resulted from a suspected robbery attempt. Thus, this could have happened anywhere in Ghana and to any citizen of Ghana.

What has become apparent is that the entire action by the military was purely and simply in retaliation against the people of Ashiaman for a crime committed by a few people. Clearly, had this happened to any other citizen, the military would not have intervened. The irony is that the existence of the military as a fighting force and the arms they bear and deploy are supported and supplied by the taxes of the same citizens against whom they unleashed that retaliation.

There is therefore no justification for the pain, suffering and torture that the soldiers visited on clearly innocent people, after the fact. Any powers of arrest that the military may claim to have, is no different from the arrest powers of any citizen of this country, as regulated by the Constitution. The Constitution demands ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the specific person arrested has committed an offence. A mass swoop that occurs days after an offence, and detains as many as 184 people cannot be based on any suspicion that each of them had committed the offence. And even if any such suspicion arguably existed, it would be grossly unreasonable, unwarranted and perverse. Thus, the military unjustifiably violated the constitutional right to due process of every person they detained.

Further, our venerable Constitution guarantees inviolable dignity to all Ghanaians, even if we are suspected of having committed a crime. None of us is to be subjected to ‘torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ or ‘any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from [our] dignity and worth as human beings.’ These rights of each of the Ashiaman residents have also been gravely violated. The military themselves appear to have filmed and shared videos of subjecting these citizens to unspeakable indignities, making an absolute and total a farce of what our Constitution represents and what they see their role in the Ghanaian society as. With these barbaric acts, they made themselves, judge, jury and executioner, and a very terrible one at that!

The accused persons are facing the law, and rightly so. The perpetrators of these violations must also face the law. First, the military personnel involved and every officer who authorised those actions must be tried. Second, officers and supervisors who endorsed the acts after they happened must resign. Third, the High Command of the military must apologise to everyone the military subjected to these violations. And, fourth, the state must compensate each affected person.

But more importantly, we need to resolve and ensure that this does not happen again. The military must accept that under this Constitution, they cannot exercise any powers that they deem fit. The Constitution provides that they ‘be equipped and maintained to perform their role of defence of Ghana as well as such other functions for the development of Ghana as the President may determine.’ Thus, the only reasons we equip and maintain the military are (i) the ‘defence of Ghana,’ and (ii) development functions determined by the President, which do not include what they did to the people of Ashiaman on 4 March 2023.

The military and all other security agencies are supposed to protect the people of Ghana, not turn on us. It is high time they acknowledged this. We demand this for God and Country.

-END-

RE: REQUEST FOR INFORMATION CONCERNING RELEASED OR RELINQUISHED LANDS

Our Ref: OG/2023/013

9 March 2023
The Ag Executive Secretary
Lands Commission
Accra

Attention: James E K Dadson

Dear Sir:

RE: REQUEST FOR INFORMATION CONCERNING RELEASED OR RELINQUISHED LANDS

This is to follow up on our letter to you dated 2 March 2023 (our ref: OG/2023/011) on the above matter.

Today marks eight days since the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) delivered the ruling that ordered you to release the information to us within 14 days. In our 2 March 2023 letter, we also brought the ruling to your attention, and inquired when we may receive the information. We asked that if the information was in hardcopy, you let us know the total cost of it so that we may pay for and collect it. We also asked that if it is in softcopy, you let us know when, and to whom, we may submit a hard drive on which you will install the information.

We have not heard from you on these requests. We will send you daily reminders until you deliver the information to us. And if the 14 days expire without you giving us the information, we will take all steps available to us under the law to ensure that you comply with the RTIC’s orders.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana

cc. The Chairman
Lands Commission
Accra

   The Executive Secretary
   Right to Information Commission
   Accra