The highest court in Ghana has reversed a $16 million verdict against Ghana Telecommunications Company in a land dispute that dates back to 2015.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ghana Telecom on Wednesday, overturning the judgments of the lower courts that had awarded the huge sum to Ogyeedom Obranu Kwasi Atta IV, Chief of Gomoa Afransie, and his family.
Background of the dispute The case involves a piece of land at Gomoa Afransie where Ghana Telecom, formerly known as P&T, built a microwave station in the 1970s. The chief and his family claimed ownership of the land and sued Ghana Telecom and Lands Commission for title, possession, and damages for trespassing and illegal occupation of $4 per square metre of the land.
In 2017, the High Court in Swedru ruled against Ghana Telecom and ordered it to pay more than $16 million to the chief and his family. Ghana Telecom appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal in Cape Coast upheld the High Court ruling in 2020 and increased the costs awarded against Ghana Telecom.
New twist The case took a new twist when Ghana Telecom appealed to the Supreme Court, which allowed both parties to present new evidence. Ghana Telecom produced documents that showed that the land had been acquired by the state in 1969 and compensation had been paid to the chief’s late predecessor.
The chief, on the other hand, brought two expert witnesses who testified that they had examined the signatures of the late chief and found that he was not the one who signed the documents and received the compensation.
Controversy The case also generated controversy in March 2021 when the chief filed a complaint with the General Legal Council, accusing his former lawyer of taking $100,000 from him as bribe money to influence the Supreme Court ruling. The lawyer denied the allegation.
Outcome The Supreme Court, presided over by acting Chief Justice Jones Dotse, unanimously quashed the judgments of the lower courts and all their orders, and said it would give its reasons today. The court also awarded costs of GH¢100,000 to Ghana Telecom, although its lawyer had asked for GH¢500,000.
Ghana Telecom was represented by Mr Ace Ankomah, while Mr Alexander Abban led the legal team for the chief.