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WE, as members of the association, Lawyers In Search OF Democracy ( LINSOD), wish to express our utmost exasperation with the misplaced priority by the current NPP Government under President Nana Akufo-Addo regarding the sickening, stinking, and shortsighted appropriation of the massive tract of 14 acres of state land situated close to the State House, Osu, for the building of a showing prestigious “national cathedral”.
2. LINSOD is not against the putting up of a national cathedral in Accra in particular or Ghana as a whole. But, countrynen and women, we are taken aback by its location for three keys reasons:
2.1 The demolition of 10 six-bedroom bungalows serving as accommodation for court of appeal judges is not only heartless and imprudent but a waste of state resources at a time that Ghanaians are smarting under untold economic hardship and burdensome waves after waves of taxes. The government does not seem to have factored into the overall cost of this project the price of the 14 acres of land in a prime and plush location, Osu, that belongs to the state — or all Ghanaians — which President Nana Akufo-Addo has given out for putting up this insensitive cathedral.
If a plot of bare land near the state house sells, we daresay, at a price of US$500, 000.00, then 14 acres, equivalent to 56 plots, will amount to US$28 million or GHC140 million. Additionally, the value of the 10 six-bedroom court of appeal judges’ bungalows which must be demolished to give way to the cathedral ought to be considered as part of the financial input of the state or Ghanaians. If each bungalow is costed at the price of US$20 million, then all 10 bungalows will cost the state US$200 million or GHC 1 billion. Restricting ourselves for a moment to only these two government inputs, a total of US$ 228 million or GHC 1.14 billion is the funding from the state on this fantasy project. Why did the President throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians when he loudly proclaimed to Ghanaians that there would be no government funding of this presitige project at Osu. And, if the value of the passport office that must also be demolished to give way to this opulent cathedral is taken into consideration then the public purse is being run into with abandon indeed by the Nana Akufo-Addo presidency.
2.2 The siting of this cathedral at this particular location at Osu, we reiterate, calls for the demolition of the court of appeal judges’ bungalows. This, to call a spade a spade, is a trenchant interference by the Executive arm of Government with the independence and in the work of the judiciary, as it turns the judiciary into an inconsequential branch in the constitutional governance of Ghana. Thus, from the day the sitting president announced the building of this national cathedral at Osu to the public in early 2017, he had put the occupants of the bungalows, the Justices of the Court of Appeal, on notice as to their eviction or ejection from their bungalows. Is President Nana Akufo-Addo not aware of the short distance travelled by the court of appeal judges between their bungalows and their place of work, the Court of Appeal, in the precincts of the Supreme Court, around the High Street, Accra? This decision is such a heartless one which ignores the travellling convenience of the judges to and from work. Such a monstrous picture does not bode well for the independence of the judiciary. It disturbs the delicate check and balance embodied in the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution.
2.3 We are concerned with the obsession of President Nana Akufo-Addo with an ostentatious burial and funeral for VIPs, including funerals for his demised relations, when their earthly sojourn come to and end. In his own words, he waxed boldly thus:
“It will …serve as the venue for formal state occasions of religious nature, such as presidential inauguration, state funerals, and national thanksgiving services”.
But, fellow Ghanaians, how many average Ghanaians, including our hardworking farmers, fishermen, and market women will have their funerals performed in such a luxurious cathedral?
3. LINSOD would like the public to know that the 1992 Constitution prescribes freedom of religion in Ghana. As a result, there are many faiths in the country. If various denominations of the Christian Faith alone are given such a massive tract of land in a prime and plush area to put up a showy cathedral, what about other faiths, including Moslems and Traditionalists?
4. There appears to be a leadership crisis and grave misplaced priorities under the current NPP Government led by President Nana Akufo-Addo. Long ago, one of Ghana’s finest poets, Prof Kofi Awoonor, wrote this terse poem, which bears full reproduction hereafter:
“On this dirty patch
a tree once stood,
shedding incence on
the infant corn;
its boughs stretched
across a heaven
brightened by the last
fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors
and builders who cut
that tree, planting in its
place a huge senseless
cathedral of doom.”
The court of appeal judges bungalows at Osu must, we insist, stand where it has always been.