Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul Wednesday morning hit sombre notes, speaking in subdued tones from his animated demand to ex-President John Dramani Mahama last week to relocate from his La property in Accra because it was built on encroached military land.
He says he was not claiming ownership of the land in question for the military or government, what he did then was simply to comment on the behaviour of the former president to acquire a property in the said location very close to military settlement when he was also aware of the desire of government to acquire.
Nitiwul, while speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, intimated that he cannot be made to bear the cross of the media if it chooses to carry his message as though he was claiming ownership, and that he had by his earlier comments only sought to advise the former president to move out of the place so his behavior does not encourage others to do the wrong thing.
Asked by Joy FM’s Kojo Yankson if he would concede to having got it wrong or he was misunderstood in his earlier assertion that officialdom had conspired to appropriate to themselves lands belonging to the military, he had the following explanation to give.
“First of all, I want to put it on record that as we speak today, the military, and for that matter the government which obviously would acquire land for the military has a land in that particular area, legitimately acquired as far back as 1944. Let me state clearly that Government or the military doesn’t have land there, they will only acquire lands from the indigenes who are the Gas in the area so nobody, including myself, will talk about ownership of land, that is why I was very clear when I made reference to former President Mahama, the way he is behaving. I did not talk about the ownership of the land in that area…”
A fortnight ago, Nitiwul, who was main speaker when the Defence Ministry took its turn to “Meet the Press” at the Information Ministry, minced no words recounting what he said was a poor management and outright thievery of military lands by persons who should have known better.
“Top officials who are supposed to have provided and covered the Armed Forces, were now writing to the Armed Forces to say that if you have no money, then release the lands to the owners. Not knowing they were buying the lands themselves. How can you do this? I want to advise the former President that he should look for a place and leave…It is not good for him because he was a President. He should not live there. I am not satisfied with the state of that land, and I will advise the former President to leave that place because it is not good. He should have protected the Armed Forces, but today if you are living in that area you are giving others the impetus to do what they are doing and it is not good for us.”
“I am talking about the former President, John Mahama. I will say no more, but I am very disturbed about this. It is happening in Tamale, it is happening in Takoradi and Lands Commission is colluding to do that. People in Lands Commission were selling Armed Forces lands. Not under this watch, that cannot happen any longer, and anybody who decides to encroach on Armed Forces lands should leave. It is not in your interest. I am sorry; but that is the truth that we did not manage the Armed Forces lands very well.”
At the time he issued the edict, the Defence Minister admitted he was not sure of all the facts pertaining to the ownership of the disputed piece of land, and said it was being investigated.
“It may be true or may not be true, because we are still investigating that some portions of that land has not been acquired, but Armed Forces does not have money to acquire. It is the duty of government to acquire the land for the Armed Forces, and I think that the way Armed Forces lands were handled, I am not happy about it. That we decided to sell that land to ourselves, including top politicians, and I think it is a shame that we did that, because now we have squeezed our Armed Forces in Burma Camp, and I think that if I had my will, and we are still going by it because we are in a democracy, I would have gone after those people.”
“It is not good. Within two years, we have sold every piece of land. Over 300 acres of land to individuals; so that what happens? It is the duty of government to acquire the lands for Armed Forces.”
The office of the former president has since damned the minister’s comments and demanded that he to apologises.