In 2018, few would logically argue against Achimota School being one of the consequential educational institutions in Ghana. Probably the most purposely planned, built and resourced secondary school dating back to colonial governance.
Achimota School turned 90 years in 2017 to plenty of fun fair powered by the Old Achimotan Association (OAA) - if you were in Ghana, it would have been difficult to miss the celebration. The activity calendar was packed with year-long head, hearts and hands events to the theme of “Black, White and Heart … That All May Be One”
One very significant task of #Achimota90th celebration was to raise money to help Achimota School defend against rampant assault on its legally vested resources from its inception.
#Achimota90th had an objective to raise a minimum of USD 1,000,000 (or the Ghana Cedi equivalent) seed money towards a wall to fence off the school as protection against land encroachment. This fund-raising goal has to date not been met.
At the very recent (01.JUL.18) OAA emergency general meeting at Achimota School, it was disclosed that there are currently eight cases of Achimota School land encroachments. Achimota School is able to contest only two of these cases in the courts. The sole reason being a lack of school financial muscle to engage adequate legal and security resources to challenge land encroachers.
Nevertheless, with the support of the OAA, Achimota School is putting up an effective legal push back in two court instances against land encroachers.
There have been landmark precedent wins, as well as legal setbacks. Yet still the OAA together with the Achimota School Board is pressing on, as evidenced by the very recent (09.JUL.18) statement from the OAA.
Achimota School wins Landmark Case
An Accra High Court this afternoon completed its ruling in a case brought against Achimota School by Netlynk Estates Ltd and 66 other persons. As background to the case, in 2008, Netlynk Estates Ltd and 66 other persons who have developed various properties on Achimota School land brought a suit against the then Headmistress and various other defendants seeking to stop them from interfering with their illegal occupation of Achimota School lands. This was mostly land around the School’s sewage treatment plant and the Western Compound. The land had been sold to them by members of the Owoo family and Oku We without authority over a period of time.
In June 2017 the High Court ruled that Achimota School had the highest possible right to the land in dispute that anyone could have for land in Ghana. In the Court’s view the land was vested in the Board of Governors absolutely, and this had been proven beyond doubt. The Court maintained that the plaintiffs did not act in good faith when they built on land that they purchased from persons who had no capacity to convey title to them. They were therefore trespassers with no right to be on the land. The judge asked the parties to file their statements later with respect to award of damages, as he intended to make a final ruling on 17th July 2017.
Before the final ruling could be made by the High Court, the plaintiffs submitted an application to the Supreme Court seeking two orders, first, to quash the judgment delivered in June 2017 by the High Court at the end of the trial of the dispute, and second to prohibit the High Court from proceeding further with the case. After a year at the Supreme Court, the Plaintiffs went back to the Supreme Court to withdraw their application. The Supreme Court granted the withdrawal application with cost on 19th June 2017.
Achimota School’s lawyers immediately applied to the High Court to complete its ruling on the matter, after the indefinite adjournment that took place following the Supreme Court application. This afternoon, the learned Judge reaffirmed the fact that no person can act as “a bona fides purchaser” of Achimota School lands. He maintained that if the plaintiffs had simply conducted a search at the Land Title Registry it would have shown them clearly that they were dealing with individuals who had no right to sell Achimota School lands. They were also fully aware of the fact that earlier court rulings had stated clearly that the land belonged to Achimota School. The Judge took the position that their actions had caused Achimota School considerable harm and inconvenience, including the destruction of the School’s sewage system. The destruction of the sewage system and construction on what used to be the school farm had led to irreparable damage. The developments had further caused hardship to staff and students. The court subsequently awarded GHC400,000 general damages against the plaintiffs to be paid jointly and severally. It also awarded the School GHC50,000 costs to be paid jointly and severally by the Plaintiffs
What is significant about this ruling is the fact that it re-affirms the authority of the School’s Board of Governors and hence its capacity to sue and be sued. This judgment will have significant implications for all other cases involving Achimota School lands. It is a judgment that will cause many of the persons stealing Achimota School land considerable worry.
There was an interesting development at the Court when the plaintiffs’ lawyers sought to stop the High Court from delivering its judgment today. They argued that they were in negotiation with the School, but the learned Judge responded that they could continue negotiations with the School if they were so minded, even after a ruling has been made.
The OAA remains committed to assisting the School to reclaim its land from different categories of land thieves. While this success is a morale booster, it is certainly not the end of the land challenges of the School. We thank all those whose financial contributions help to take care of business.
So why should Akoras care... much less anyone - about Achimota School land encroachments ? Well, if you are an Akora, you may consider things like legacy, pride and the value of your Achimotan education and alumni network (... of course for non Akoras, it could happen to any school land in GH). If you love all things green, virgin land and open spaces, then you may worry about the last large tract of what has once been described as the Achimota forest - being made into a concrete jungle. Or yet still, maybe you are simply a Ghanaian who cares about issues related to lawful and peaceful ownership of land property in Ghana.
The founding fathers (Guggisberg, Aggrey and Fraser) in their wisdom and vision - planned, built and resourced an Achimota School that is nine years away from the century mark. The results of their bold experiment is public for all to judge, amidst the fierce but fun banter and rivalries of secondary schools in GH. With all that said, one can't help think that Achimota School was intended for much more - to organically evolve and expand, perhaps over a millennium to meet and influence the educational needs of GH - without a worry for already vested land space.
So... in this very public case of #AchimotaSchoolLand encroachments, if all debatable points of school rivalries and socio-economic class discourse were held constant, surely it's easy to see, what is good for Achimota School - a very public school - in winning against egregious land encroachers is also good for GH - SO, GET INVOLVED... #ThatAllMayBeOne!