Scores of property owners affected by the Nsawam-Suhum and the Madina-Adentan road projects have given the government a one-week ultimatum to pay the compensation due them or risk a blockade of the two major roads connecting Accra to other parts of the country.
The affected people include landlords, chop-bar operators, mechanics, farmers, welders and electricians, whose properties were demolished to pave way for the construction of the two major roads that may pass as the busiest roads connecting the two largest cities in the country — Accra and Kumasi.
However, after waiting for about five years, the affected property owners, including a 102-year-old man, Joshua Botwe Yemoh, clutching onto a walking stick for support, lost their patience and stormed the premises of the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA) at the Ministries in Accra yesterday to demand the payment of the compensation.
“As we come here today and nothing concrete is being communicated to us, we feel cheated, betrayed and deceived by the authorities,” the group said in a petition presented to the GHA.
Their mission was peaceful, but their message was potent, as expressed in the red arm, head and neck bands they wore and the display of placards with inscriptions such as “Pay us now”, “We are homeless” and “Landlords now tenants”.
According to them, the demolition of their structures for the construction of the two roads had plunged them into all sorts of hardships.
Some of their fellow property owners died within the five-year period of wait, many of them had been rendered homeless, while others were being chased by their bankers for the recovery of loans they contracted for their businesses, they claimed.
“Many people have died and left their money behind. So they should pay us our money quickly so that we don’t die,” the 102-year-old Mr Yemoh said to the Daily Graphic.
He claimed that previously he owned apartments with about 30 rooms, a corn mill, a fish pond and other property but they were destroyed and now he was homeless and a pauper.
Quantum of compensation
According to the petitioners, some of them had been paid part of their compensation but others had not received anything at all.
They said the government owed them outstanding compensation of GH˘33 million, but GHA officials declined to comment on the figure, although they admitted that there was some outstanding compensation to be paid.
The petitioners expressed their displeasure at the government’s delay in paying the compensation due them.
“We have been given countless promises by various state apparatuses anytime we decide to take action that is perceived uncomfortable to the authorities, apparently to prevent us from taking such action,” they said in the petition presented by their spokesperson, Mr Kwabena Owusu Dome.
The petitioners said their decision to demand the immediate payment of their compensation arose when there was no sign that the frustration they had been encountering “in trying to ensure that what is rightfully and legally due us is paid to us without further delay” was being addressed.
They said the government had failed to honour many promises to meet them and address their concerns, enumerating many of such instances in 2013 alone.
They said when they informed the Suhum Police of their intention to stage a peaceful demonstration on February 26, 2013, the police prevailed upon them to suspend the action until the appointment of new ministers for their grievances to be addressed.
The petitioners said when there was no sign that the compensation was going to be paid, even after the appointment of the ministers, they decided to go on another peaceful demonstration on April 8, 2013 to demand payment.
They alleged that operatives of the Bureau of National Investigations and National Security prevailed on them with threats of arrests and prosecution to stop the intended action, which they did.
They claimed that National Security invited them for a meeting in Accra on April 15, 2013, during which meeting they were promised that the compensation was to be paid soon, alleging that the security officials even asked them to return to Accra on April 25, 2013 for letters authorising the payment of their money.
Thereafter, they said, efforts to meet the Finance Minister had proved futile, as the scheduled meetings were either cancelled or postponed.
“We perceive the cancellation and postponement of our appointment with the minister and officials of the ministry as a ploy to throw dust into our eyes,” they said.
The Deputy Chief Executive of the GHA, Mr Francis Hammond, who received the petition, promised to relay the concerns to the Ministry of Finance for redress.
He admitted that the government had outstanding compensation to pay to property owners affected by the two road projects under reference.
He, however, pleaded with them to exercise restraint and give the ministry some time to redeem its financial commitment.
But the petitioners did not find that plea heart-warming, as they demanded a specific time for the payment of the compensation, amidst shouts of: “We’ve waited for far too long” and “We cannot wait again.”
Mr Hammond had no answer to the demand for specific time, leaving the petitioners to strategise for their next line of action.
Source: Daily Graphic
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