The Supreme Court has upheld an appeal by Ghana Telecommunications Company against a $16 million judgment by the Swedru High Court in a land dispute with Ogyeedom Obranu Kwasi Atta IV, Chief of Gomoa Afransie, in 2017.
In 2020, the Court of Appeal in Cape Coast affirmed the High Court judgment. But in a short ruling delivered by the acting Chief Justice, Jones Dotse, the Supreme Court unanimously set aside the Court of Appeal judgment with all consequential orders, and reserved the reasons for the decision to be delivered today.
Bone of contention
The dispute surrounds a parcel of land at Gomoa Afransie where the former P&T, now Ghana Telecom, constructed a microwave station sometime in the 1970s. But in 2015, Ogyeedom Obranu Kwasi Atta IV sued Ghana Telecom and Lands Commission on behalf of the Twidan Family of Afransie for declaration of title to the land, recovery of possession and special damages for trespasses and unlawful occupation of $4 per square metre of the land.
In 2017, the Swedru High Court gave judgment against Ghana Telecom and awarded the Chief and the Family damages in excess of $16million. In 2020, Ghana Telecom’s appeal against the judgment was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Cape Coast, which affirmed the High Court judgment and doubled the amount of costs originally awarded against Ghana Telecom.
The matter, however, took a dramatic turn after Ghana Telecom appealed to the Supreme Court. In a rare move, the Supreme Court allowed both Ghana Telecom and the Chief to produce new evidence about the case.
While Ghana Telecom’s new evidence showed that the land had been compulsorily acquired in 1969 and payments made to the chief’s late predecessor, the chief called two expert witnesses, each of whom claimed to have forensically examined signatures of the late chief and concluded that he was not the person who signed the documents and received the compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the land.
The drama surrounding this matter reached fever pitch in March 2021 when the chief filed a petition with the General Legal Council, alleging that he had paid $100,000 to his former lawyer in the case, ostensibly as bribe money to influence the Supreme Court judgment. The lawyer has denied the allegation.
After setting aside the previous judgments on the matter, the Supreme Court awarded costs totalling GH¢100,000 to Ghana Telecom, although Ghana Telecom’s lawyer had requested GH¢500,000 as costs.
The Supreme Court was presided over by the acting Chief Justice Dotse, with Justices Kotey, Owusu, Mensa-Bonsu and Kulendi as the other members of the panel.
Ghana Telecom’s team of lawyers was led by Mr Ace Ankomah, while Mr Alexander Abban led the chief’s team of lawyers.