...And major companies and government agencies are shivering, but infighting amongst the Ga families has been a past detriment.

GB&F writers lift the lid on age-old Ga lands deals shrouded in secrecy as the Mantse Ankrah family and descendants of E. B. Tibboh, the owners of major lands in Central Accra, begin chasing government agencies and businesses that are occupying their lands without legal acquisitions or by using the lands for purposes that are different from the original intent.

Nii Ben Tetteh Yemoh, the young Ga "prince", who has been given legal power of attorney by the Mantse Ankrah and E. B. Tibboh families,
to pursue legal recovery of all lands belonging to these families, from the government, private companies and many illegal squatters
and outright fraudsters.

It looks like some major companies in Accra may have a tough time in the coming year as they have to battle these customary land owners in the courts regarding their permit to establish their businesses on those lands. This apparently would affect their strategic direction in 2012.

Half way through 2011, the Mantse Ankrah family, the customary owners of large tracts of land in Ghana’s capital Accra, having long suffered expropriation of their lands under colonial British and post-colonial Ghana governments, awoke and decided to sit up and take long-delayed action to protect their patrimony.

New evidence of some improprieties in the seizure and re-allocation of their ancestral property quickened them into a more assertive posture. Their quest for the truth to be established and justice to be done has been compelled by the Mantse Ankrah’s sense of dedication to the family heritage as well as the government’s new policy, pursuant to relevant sections of the Constitution, and the announcement of its willingness to release unused lands to original owners.

The GB&F editorial team has learnt that after persistent failure to address their concerns by previous governments, the Mantse Ankrah family petitioned the President of the Republic of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills before signing an agreement with a young Ga man, Nii Tetteh Yemoh, imbuing him with extraordinary powers as a lawful attorney for the Mantse Ankrah family to either lawfully eject errant tenants or to renegotiate and recoup all compensations and rents due the family.

GB&F’s painstaking research has now made it possible for us to share with you intimate details on the goings-on in the land acquisitions business in Ghana, which every entrepreneur, business owner or potential purchaser of land in central Accra would wish to become acquainted with before proceeding further. In this regard, a navigation through the history of the Mantse Ankrah family and how it possessed large tracts of land in Accra
today would be helpful as a historical backdrop.

The History

According Ga folkore, once upon a time in the 17th century, there lived one Ankrah in the geographical territory known today as Accra. This man led the indigenes of the people in this area to the Bame war which he won and gathered his captives as his booty. Ankrah brought his captives from ‘Awudome’ in the Volta Region and settled at a place he was offered as a gift for his historic feat. The name of the place became -and is still known-as Awudome located in the western part of Accra. Also, for his enviable achievement, Ankrah eventually became known as Mantse Ankrah and was given other large tracts of lands stretching from Awudome area, through the present day North Industrial Estate, Ghana Railway, Police Depot area of Tesano, Agbogbloshie, Circle area and West Adabraka. According to oral tradition, these lands were granted by the then Ga Mantse as a befitting reward for his historic exploits. History has it that the Mantse Ankrah family consists of three branches, namely the Ankrah, Ayi and Okanta gates.

Mantse Ankrah was noted for his expertise in the slave trade. According to Nii Oblempong, the current head of the Mantse Ankrah family, the original Ankrah was quite famous but also very hated for the instrumental role he played in the slave trade even after its abolition. But for his strength and acumen in war, he would have been executed before the time he passed away. Mantse Ankrah and his family took over these lands as their bona fide property and were distributing them per their established family traditions and customary procedures.

The genesis of the land issues

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial government compulsorily acquired various lands from the Mantse Ankrah family. These were originally recorded at the General Post Office, then at the National Archives, subsequently the Deeds Registry, the Lands Department and the Lands Title registry.

Following independence, the CPP government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, having taken over power and inherited the acquisition from the colonial government, sat at the negotiation table with the Mantse Ankrah family members to discuss additional official acquisitions of their family property. In consonance with the due process, the government was supposed to pay the due compensation to the family for letting go large expanse of lands at the North and South Industrial Areas for what the government described as “industrial purposes”, according to Nii Oblempong, the current head of the Mantse Ankrah family and K. Antwi Abankwa, the legal advisor and solicitor for the family.

According to a High Court ruling document, the family’s land at the Industrial Area of Accra was acquired by the government for “public use” under the Public Lands Ordinance and Accra Industrial Estates (Acquisition of Lands) Ordinance 1965. After the acquisition, notices were published inviting interested persons to submit their claims for compensation. The Mantse Ankrah family together with several other persons put in claims in respect of the same land. It was therefore necessary to submit the various claims to the High Court under the Public Lands Ordinance for adjudication and to decide which of the claimants owned the land in dispute. There were about twelve claimants involved, including the Mantse Ankrah family. Initial judgment at the High Court went against the Mantse Ankrah family, but on appeal to the Court of Appeal, the said judgment was reversed and the Mantse Ankrah family was declared the rightful owner of the lands under contention.

This total size of the said Mantse Ankrah land is about 2,000 acres out of which the CPP government acquired only 242.6 acres for which compensation was to be paid to the family. The geographical areas covered in the 2,000 acres included large tracts of land stretching from the boundary with Onamrokor Adain family land around the Ghana Police Depot at Tesano through the North Industrial Estate, Western Adabraka, Agbogbloshie, the two sides stretching 250 feet on both sides of the Ghana Railway line stretching from the Graphic Road area towards Alajo, South Industrial Area and beyond.

Consequently, the family was held to be entitled to the compensation payable in respect of the lands by the Chief Lands Officer of the then Lands Department , acting on behalf of the government of Ghana. The amount of compensation ran into several thousands of cedis.

Up to the time the High Court judgment was given, the Mantse Ankrah family had presented a united front and had been under the leadership of one Nii Robert Arday Ankrah. This man represented the whole family as its accredited acting head in the said acquisition case. After the hearing of the appeal and just before the date was fixed for judgment, Nii Arday passed away, hence the need arose to urgently substitute a successor for him.

On the morning of January 31, 1966, just when the judgment was about to be given by the Court of Appeal, certain persons, including the original first and second claimants, presented applications before the Court of Appeal, each claiming to be the customary successor of the late Nii Robert Arday Ankrah and contending that their names be substituted for the said deceased as head of family.

The merits of those applications were not examined by the Court of Appeal. After all, it was the Mantse Ankrah family that was a party in the suit before the Court. It was the personal suit of the deceased and so the Court went ahead and delivered judgment without substituting any of those applicants. The judgment, as stated earlier, went in favour of the Mantse Ankrah family.

It was after this Appeal Court judgment which decided that the Mantse Ankrah family is entitled to the monetary compensation that an internal dispute reared its ugly head amongst the Ankrah family relatives. From that time onwards various persons came forward to claim headship of the composite Mantse Ankrah family and upon that basis approached the Chief Lands Officer to collect on behalf of the family, the compensation to
be paid in respect of the land acquired.

The inhouse wrangling and court judgment

When Nii Arday Ankrah, the acting head of the Mantse Ankrah died and the Chief Lands Officer was about to pay out certain monies to the said family as compensation for the acquisition of portions of the family land, a battle for his successor began in earnest.

Three claimants emerged, each claiming that he or she had been appointed the Acting Head or the Head of the Mantse Ankrah in succession to Nii Arday Ankrah (deceased). On this basis, each of them claimed that he or she was entitled to collect the said compensation money from the Chief Lands Officer.

The three claimants were Robert Amponsah Ankrah (substituted for Joseph Commey Ankrah) as the first claimants or appellant, Joseph Adjabeng Ankrah as the second claimant/respondent and finally, Arde Armah Ankrah as the third claimant/respondent.

Giving his ruling on 22nd December 1976, the late Justice I.K. Abban (who later became a Chief Justice) at the High Court declared, “I have carefully considered the whole evidence and I find that the second claimant has since the death of Nii Arday Ankrah, been duly and customarily appointed head of Manche Ankrah family and he is still the accredited head of that family. In the circumstances I am of the opinion that he is the person entitled to receive the said compensation money to administer the same for and on behalf of all members of the family. I should emphasise that on receipt of the said money, the second claimant should consider himself as accountable to the whole family and for the proper administration and disbursement of the compensation.”

“In result I order that the Senior Registrar of this court should hand over to the second claimant all sums of money (together with any accrued interest) which the Chief Lands Officer paid into court on behalf of Manche Ankrah family and was deposited in the Ghana Commercial Bank, High Street, Accra, by the order of this court dated 3rd November, 1970”, Justice Abban continued.

“Since this matter is in the nature of an administrative suit and in fact been regarded as such all along by the parties and their counsel, I think it is only fair and proper that the costs incurred by all the claimants should be defrayed from the compensation money.

Consequently, I further order that all the three claimants should file their respective bills of costs including fees charged by counsel. The Senior Registrar should see to it that the bills are properly taxed by the Taxing Officer of this Court. The tax costs should be paid by the Senior Registrar out of the compensation money to the claimants and their respective counsel.

After this exercise, the remaining amount, as I have already stated, should be paid over to the second claimant as the accredited head of Manche Ankrah family. Parties will be notified of the date on which reasons for the judgment will be given.”

Giving the reasons for the judgment on 25th February, 1977, the late Justice Abban said, “… I hold that the second claimant is still the only recognised and accredited head of the composite Manche Ankrah family of Otublohum; and that he is the only person competent and entitled to receive the compensation payable to Manche Ankrah family in respect of the family’s land which was acquired by the government, and part of which compensation has been deposited in court by the Chief Lands Officer. It was for this reason that I dismissed the respective claims of the first and third claimants and entered judgment for the second claimant.”

In an interview with GB&F, Nii Oblempong, the current head of the Manche Ankrah family and the lawful attorney for the family, Benjamin Tetteh Yemoh said, the compensation monies that was deposited at the GCB as ordered by the court was 460,000 cedis (old cedis), but only 160,000 was paid into the court by the Chief Lands Officer in the name of the High Court.

They said 300,000 old cedis (now worth millions of Ghana Cedis) is still with the Lands Department (now the Lands Commission), yet to be paid to the family.

According to the two, the family has not received the monies due to continued internal wrangling and legal tussle among the gates of the family.
According to them, some of the family members, whom they termed, “family wreckers” have been masquerading themselves as recognised representatives and thereby receiving rents from companies which have been given leases on Mantse Ankrah family lands. The monies, they say, is to the tune of at least 400 billion old cedis (or some GH¢ 40 million). Nii Yemoh also stated that the Mantse Ankrah and E.B. Tibboh familes have quite a number of cases against the colonial government, and as Her Majesty the Queen of England is still the head of that monarchy, the lawful attorney of Mantse Ankrah and E. B. Tibboh families has every intent of seeking justice by way of compensation from the British government.

“We are ready to negotiate with the British High Commission, which in any case, is resident on E. B. Tibboh’s land. But if we cannot get justice through negotiations, then as usual the courts have to decide.” Currently, Yemoh is becoming quite a fixture in the country’s High Courts and Special Land Courts, flittering from one court to another, exchanging banter with court registrars and bailiffs, huddling closely with elderly and very experienced attorneys, continually examining land site plans to wreak out new information or evidence, and scrolling through reams of old court reports and judgments to learn new things about old cases.

No one can tell what the final outcome of the many cases that Yemoh and his lawyers have filed or intend to file. However, if Yemoh’s energy and drive are anything to go by, then many businesses and government agencies will be in court for a long time. Or they may just choose to settle with him and buy some piece of mind.

Nii Oblempong Ankrah, undisputed head of the Mantse Ankrah family, sitting in state, surrounded by his traditional elders.  His family lays claim to most of the lands in the Central Accra business district stretching to the West Industrial Area, near Awudome, including the cemetery and Obetsebi Lamptey circle, and lands adjoining the railway line from the Graphic Corporation to Alajo.