How to end the TDC, TMA war.

Fri, 31 Jan 2014 Source: Abugri, George Sydney

….notes from the Adjei Kojo rubble

By George Sydney Abugri

A system of land administration gone all chaotic; A nation of obscene partisan political opportunism that tends to exploit every social conflict for sectarian benefit; Lawless citizens and residents with little respect for local government laws; Corrupt local government planning officials, and a long-running conflict in the functions of two government organizations, one of them with indeterminate statutory and constitutional status. Put all that together and what do you get, Jomo?

Trouble? Yes sir, Jomo, big trouble is what you get. So it came to pass that within the twinkle of an unblinking eye last week, hundreds of residents of the Tema suburb of Adjei Kojo found themselves sitting on ugly piles of debris from what used to be their residential homes, clutching scraps of hastily salvaged personal property like refugees in transit from another planet or lucky survivors of an aerial bombardment if you like..

The Tema Development Corporation which somehow failed to stop the unauthorized land development in the suburb and watched people construct and live in the demolished houses for as long as seven years, suddenly sent security men and bulldozers to raze down the buildings, in many cases, with family properties still in them.

Now we have a bizarre situation not too dissimilar to what pertains in war zones and conflict areas: Displaced people with no homes, food or water. So it has come to pass that even in peace time and without the occurrence of any natural disaster, our compatriots at Adjei Kojo are living in tents provided by the National Disaster Management Organization!

Oh yes, there has indeed been a disaster but one relating more to the confusion and inefficiency that have plagued land administration and development for many years, than the fact of bull dozers suddenly bearing down on a suburb and bringing it down.

For as long as anyone in the metropolis can remember, the TDC and the TMA have been at loggerheads over the question of which of the two organizations is in charge of planning the development of the metropolis.

The TMA insists that the constitution makes it the final authority in the planning and development of Tema, and that the TDC has for many years now, usurped the Assembly’s role and has re-zoned the master plan for the development of the metropolis.

The TMA has always insisted that whatever development plans the TDC has, must conform to the TMA’s original master plan for the development of Tema.

Amid the conflict, the TDC maintains that is has since 1952 operated lawfully within the 63 square miles {164 square kilometres} of land provided it by the government for the development of Tema and that it has not interfered with the functions of the TMA in any way.

The TDC was established in 1952 by an Act of Parliament and tasked with responsibility for planning and developing about 63 square miles of public land for various purposes and also to manage the newly created Tema Township, as well as provide housing for residents engaged in various economic operations.

The 164 square kilometers of land was made available to the TDC for a 125-year lease term. Technically speaking, it means the TDC has the mandate to manage Tema lands for the next 63 years. TMA officials however say the TDC’s mandate ended with the coming into force of the local government law which established the Assembly.

Some observers think the overlapping and duplicated functions of the TMA and TDC call for an amendment to the law that established the TDC, so that its functions could be harmonized with those of the TMA.

The Adjei Kojo incident I must add, is symptomatic of a bigger problem in the Greater Accra Region: Every now and then large numbers of people join the ranks of the homeless in the capital when metropolitan authorities in Tema and Accra move bulldozers and caterpillars to the sites of unauthorized estate development and raze down residential buildings. Television pictures of displaced families standing by rubble weeping and wailing have become painfully familiar.

Most house owners who suffer this fate have usually built houses without permits and and on drainage and water ways in resulting in massive flooding and the loss of life and property during heavy rains.

Public sympathy naturally often goes to residents whose houses are demolished but the typical response from the metropolitan authorities, is often that people whose residential properties are demolished have usually had been repeatedly warned to stop construction work on the buildings to no avail.

The Adjei Kojo incident raises questions about the usual claims by metropolitan authorities, that residents whose properties are destroyed are usually given prior notices and warnings:

Many of the residents had been living in the houses which were demolished for up to seven years. We are inclined to ask what the Tema Development Corporation did when earlier warning were ignored. To issue a warning to law breakers and watch on why the warning is ignored must have an explanation.

Does it make sense to make laws, and then sit back and hope that out of sheer benevolence people will obey them?

All over the Tema metropolis and many of its suburbs today are numerous “Stop work. Produce permit” inscriptions in bright red paint on the walls of buildings. The inscriptions on walls have become something of a big joke and some say, evidence of corruption in the issuance of permits!

It is certainly now time for the government to intervene and act decisively in the interest of the orderly development of the port city and its suburbs.

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Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney