Bulgarian Embassy demolishing makes us the more skeptical, nervous – Ablakwa

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa,
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North Tongu lawmaker Samuel Okudzeto Anlakwa has said that the Bulgarian Embassy demolishing scandal makes everyone the more skeptical and nervous.

He said if diplomatic enclaves could be razed down with impunity, imagine what is happening to ordinary Ghanaian land owners and “imagine what fate will soon befall the Achimota forest.”

“I went public with the Bulgarian Embassy demolishing scandal so that complicit public officials would be punished & not protected. If govt keeps protecting its officials within Lands Commission & National Security, another demolishing would soon occur after Nigeria & Bulgaria.

“Under the Vienna Convention, it is the duty of receiving govts to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions. When govt keeps failing in its obligations like it did with the Nigerian H.C. & the Bulgarian Embassy, we put Ghana’s foreign service staff abroad at great risk

“The Bulgarian Embassy and Nigerian H.C. demolishing scandal makes us all the more skeptical & nervous. If diplomatic enclaves could be razed down with impunity; imagine what is happening to ordinary Ghanaian land owners & imagine what fate will soon befall the Achimota forest.”

The Minority in Parliament earlier accused the government of attempting to shield state officials who were involved in the demolition of the Bulgarian Embassy in Accra.

A statement issued and signed by Mr Ablakwa who is also Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday May 17 reacting to the report issued by the Sole Inquirer who was commissioned to look into the matter, said apart from confirming that the Bulgarian Embassy was illegally demolished under their watch, the government’s statement is a preposterous attempt to shield state officials who have done great damage to our country’s image in the comity of nations.

The report recommended the sanctioning of the private developer, Jojo Hagan, who allegedly carried out the destruction of the Embassy’s building.

In the view of the Inquirer, the developer did not “follow due process” in the demolition.

Portions of his report said “Mr. Jojo Hagan should be sanctioned for not following due process in the eviction of the alleged trespassers and the demolition of the building and should be made to compensate the Bulgarian Embassy.”

It is recalled that following the demolition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration distanced itself from the development.

A Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Kwaku Ampratwum-Sarpong, said at a press conference that “Government has got no hand in whatever the developer is doing.”

“The Ministry wishes to seize this opportunity to set the records straight on the property in question and the circumstances of the demolition.

“The Bulgarian Embassy leased the subject property from the late Theophilus Kofi Leighton in 1st February 1979, which lease was extended from 1983 for fifty (50) years for which an amount of One Million Old Ghana Cedis was paid by the Embassy with the option of renewal for another fifty (50) years. The lease expires in 2033.

“Upon the demise of the landlord, the Administrator of the Estate of the late Kofi Leighton attempted to forcefully repossess the property over alleged non-payment of rent arrears by the Bulgaria Embassy notwithstanding the latter’s full payment for the lease to the late Leighton.

“Mindful of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 concerning host states’ obligation to the inviolability of the premises of diplomatic missions, the Ministry summoned the parties to a meeting for an amicable settlement of the matter.

“Dissatisfied with the conciliatory approach of the Ministry at resolving the issue, the Administrator of the Estate of the late Leighton went to the High Court with a writ for declaration of title to the property housing the Bulgarian Embassy; payment of accumulated rent arrears; and order for ejection and recovery of possession of the property. Part of those reliefs was granted by the High Court. However, upon appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court’s decision.

“The case traveled all the way to the Supreme Court. In its judgment, the Apex Court reaffirmed the holdings of the Appeal Court, dated 21st July 2011, which overturned the decision of the High Court and affirmed the right of the Bulgarian Embassy in the leased property.

“The above judgment of the Supreme Court notwithstanding, the Successor of the late Leighton sold the leased property to a private developer, who later encroached on it.Bulgarian-Embassy-Press-Release-3-editedDownload

“Still committed to its obligations under public international law, the Ministry, upon being informed of the encroachment of the Bulgarian Embassy, invited the parties and their lawyers to a series of meetings in January this year which were aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

“At those meetings, the Ministry referred the trespasser to the ruling of the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed the right of the Embassy in the unexpired residue of its lease. The parties were also encouraged to reach a mutually agreed settlement on the reimbursement of the amount of the residue of lease due to the Bulgarian Mission.

“The Ministry has also formally notified the Minister for Justice and Attorney General to take appropriate action on the encroachment on the subject property.”

The Minroty’s statement reacting to the report said “The Lands and Natural Resources Minister’s statement on the infamous Bulgarian Embassy demolishing, regrettably, has all the qualities of a farcical cover-up and whitewash which confirms the suspicion we have always had based on government’s opaque conduct in this sordid affair of monumental international embarrassment.

“Apart from confirming that the Bulgarian Embassy was illegally demolished under their watch, the government’s statement is a preposterous attempt to shield state officials who have done great damage to our country’s image in the comity of nations.”

Below is their full statement…

NDC CAUCUS IN PARLIAMENT’S REACTION TO GOVERNMENT’S STATEMENT ON THE DEMOLISHING OF THE BULGARIAN EMBASSY

The Lands and Natural Resources Minister’s statement on the infamous Bulgarian Embassy demolishing, regrettably, has all the qualities of a farcical cover-up and whitewash which confirms the suspicion we have always had based on government’s opaque conduct in this sordid affair of monumental international embarrassment.

Apart from confirming that the Bulgarian Embassy was illegally demolished under their watch, the government’s statement is a preposterous attempt to shield state officials who have done great damage to our country’s image in the comity of nations.

The NDC Caucus in Parliament demands immediate answers to the following questions:

1) Why is government refusing to publish the full report of the Sole Inquirer? What are they hiding?

2) Why is government silent on their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 which imposes a “special duty” on the Ghanaian government “to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity?”

3) Why is government not identifying complicit officials at the Lands Commission for sanction when in government’s own words: “Since the registration of the assignment of Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah is found, as indicated in the Sole Inquirer’s report to have been improperly obtained, the Ministry has further directed the Lands Commission to take the necessary steps to withdraw consent granted to the said assignment and registration of the interest of Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah?”

4) How could Jojo Hagan be portrayed by government as a lone wolf when he enjoyed great collaboration from agents of state including officials of the Lands Commission all the way to operatives of the national security apparatus?

5) Why did the Sole Inquirer not invite the Bulgarian Ambassador, H.E. Yanko Yordanov, despite his spirited effort to be heard by the Sole Inquirer? Engaging only his subordinate, the Honorary Consul was most inadequate and inappropriate.

6) Why is the Lands Minister now seeking advice from the Attorney-General on how sanctions should apply against the apparent scape goat, Jojo Hagan? Political opponents of this government are not treated with such kid gloves — they are promptly arrested and prosecuted.

7) What is the nature and value of compensation Jojo Hagan owes the Bulgarians?

8)Why is there no specific time frame for redeeming the said compensation?

9) Why is government protecting Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the President’s appointee at the NDPC, despite his clear complicity in inappropriately obtaining registration from the Lands Commission and defying the Foreign Ministry and Lands Ministry at various points as he continued with impunity to build his humongous structures?

10) Considering that these demolishing of diplomatic properties have happened twice only under this Akufo-Addo government in Ghana’s entire 65-year history (to the Nigerians and the Bulgarians), why is there no concrete finding(s) on the causes, deliberate fault lines being exploited and commitments/assurances to prevent this colossal diplomatic embarrassment from recurring?

Conclusion

The NDC Caucus in Parliament shall be pursuing these germane questions from Ministers of State when Parliament resumes next week.

We also wish to serve strong and unambiguous notice that these cover-ups and pathetic whitewash will not prevent a future NDC government from launching a full-scale, no-holds-barred probe and a strict regime of punishing all complicit officials in the entire value chain within a more credible, patriotic and internationally acceptable best practice effort to restore Ghana’s once enviable reputation within the diplomatic community.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP
[Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of Ghana]

17th May, 2022.

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana

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