The Supreme Court has with a majority decision, refused to pronounce as illegal and unconstitutional, the leasing of a state bungalow to a former Minister of State, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, which he occupied in 2008.
The court, however, unanimously held that the plaintiffs failed to lead evidence to the effect that the allocation of the bungalow to Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey smacked of cronyism, arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory and a gross abuse of the discretionary power vested in a public officer under the country’s constitution.
“Anyone who makes accusation against public officers should be able to establish or justify those accusations if he or she invites the court to make declarations in support of those accusations,” the six-three majority, held yesterday.
According to the majority opinion, the Supreme Court is a court of law, equity and justice governed by rules and regulations. “Our rules mandate that people who invite the court to condemn others for wrong doing to be in the position to justify what they call on the court to do”.
It said that the relieves sought by the plaintiffs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, “do not hold, so long as it is grounded on Articles 20 (5)(6).”
Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Dr. Omane Boamah in 2008 sued the Attorney General and Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey over the allocation of Bungalow No 2 Mungo Street at the Ridge Residential Area in Accra to the latter, which he occupied at the time.
They contended that Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey’s action contravenes Articles 20 (5) and 20 (6) and smacked of cronyism and gross abuse of discretional powers of a public officer, and, thus, questioned the legitimacy of the sale, disposal or transfer of any government or public property to Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey.
Reading the majority view, Justice Stephen Allan Brobbey, held that the terms of the 50 years lease agreement was that the plot of land was to be used for the development of three blocks of flats of at least four-storey.
He contended that if there was any law or legislation that prohibited the allocation of the bungalow to Mr. Obestebi Lamptey, then the plaintiffs failed to prove it, adding that neither the plaintiffs nor the Attorney General cited any legislation requiring Cabinet approval in allocating the property was made.
The court also held that the allocation was made to Mr. Obestsebi-Lamptey as a private citizen since he had at the time ceased to be a minister of state.
The view of Justices Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu and Jones Dotse and Baffoe Bonney, constituting the majority was that the leasing of the property located at St Mungo Street, Ridge in Accra, was granted by the appropriate authority per a lease letter dated September 15, 2008.
The court averred that the property acquired for public used has had to be changed without questions, and cited the government estate built at La Wireless for the Ghana @ 50 celebrations, and Makola No Two Market which was redeveloped into a modern car park as examples.
They also took the view that the allocation of the property to Mr. Obestebi-Lamptey was consistent with the Accra Re-development project which was set in motion in 1999 to rationalise lands.
That, they claimed was explained by the fact that the lease letter stated in no uncertain terms that the lease was for redevelopment of the land, adding that the allocation would serve public interest since they would have the opportunity to either rent or buy the property to be put up there.
According to the majority view, the implementation of the Accra Redevelopment Project had been dislodged by both the Rawlings and the Kufour administrations.
Justices William Atuguba, Sophia Akufo and Vida Akoto Bamfo, in a dissenting view held that the allocation of the property would not serve the interest of the larger public as contained in the constitution.
In the substantive action, the deputy ministers are also praying the court to order that any such direction for the disposal, sale or outright transfer of the said property in dispute or any other public land to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was illegal and unconstitutional.
The applicants were seeking a declaration that by virtue of Articles 20(5), 23, 257, 258, 265, 284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution, the government was obliged to retain and continue to use, in the public interest, the property in dispute.
They were further seeking a declaration that the purported sale of the said government bungalow, located at St Mungo Street, Ridge, Accra, by the previous government to Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey was in utter contravention of Articles 20(5), 23, 257, 258, 265, 284 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution.