Amewu clears air over School of Survey and Mapping closure
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John-Peter Amewu, has moved to clear the air over the demonstration and destruction of properties by some students of the Ghana School of Survey and Mapping earlier this month, which subsequently led to the closure of the school.
Speaking at a press briefing in Accra, Mr. Amewu explained that the students acted unlawfully since they (students) have full knowledge of every activity undertaken on their campus.
Providing a background to the students’ agitation, the minister recounted that the students first demonstrated on the premises of the Lands Commission on 19th November, 2015, alleging several issues against the authorities.
The students alleged thatthe land on which the school is located has been sold to a developer to build a shopping mall. The students stated that the land on which the school is located belongs exclusively to the school adding that the proposed head office project for the Lands Commission on part of the land would destroy the future of the school. The students also accused authorities of misapplying a fund for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centre.
Mr. Amewu noted that management of the Lands Commission quickly organized a meeting the following day – 20th November, 2015– with the leadership of the school, and addressed all the concerns raised.
“Management of the Lands Commission responded that the land has not been sold but rather the commission had gone through due procurement processes to engage an investor/developer to develop its head office complex on a land swap arrangement,” he added.
The Minister when he took office, called for a review of the procurement processes that the Lands Commission undertook in respect of the project and confirmed that the processes were transparent in full compliance with the Procurement law.
“I have also subjected the procurement processes of the Lands Commission head office project to the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) for a thorough review and advice. I am happy to inform you that the report by EOCO does not reveal any ill-finding or financial malfeasance in respect of the project.
Mr. Amewu, on the allegation that survey pillars have been destroyed, confirmed that no such survey pillars have ever been destroyed. He categorically stated that there are five survey pillars on the SMD premises opposite El-Wak Stadium and are currently being used on daily basis, adding that, the safety of the Continuous Operating Reference Stations (CORS) located on the Guggisberg building is indeed guaranteed.
According to him, he could not trace any evidence in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources that a former Minister of theministry had approved a budget to procure ICT infrastructure and training equipment for the school.
The Minister added that management has also established that the school does not own the parcel upon which the school is sited.
“Management of the Lands Commission confirmed that the erstwhile Survey Department [currently the Survey and Mapping Division] was issued a Title Certificate in 2000 over the land. Indeed, on account of Section 41 of the Lands Commission Act, 2008 the said parcel of land has become a bonafide property of the Lands Commission,” he added.
Mr. Amewu said the Lands Commission assured the students at the said meeting that threestrategies – short term, medium-term and long term – would be employed as pre- and post-construction measures to ensure that teaching and learning at the school was not jeopardised.
According to him, these arrangements were agreed upon to achieve smooth academic work during the construction of the head office complex and also with a view to ultimately provide a permanent site for the school.
In the short-term, Mr. Amewu said within three years of the construction period, the current premises for the school will be hoarded off and the hostel facilities which was abandoned would be refurbished by the contractors and converted into additional classrooms to provide adequate space for teaching and learning.
He added that in the medium-term, the units/departments of the Survey and Mapping Division (SMD) are currently operating from the premises opposite El-Wak Stadium would be relocated into the new regional office complex to free up the facilities for the school to move in.
Then in the long-term, the commission said it is committed to acquiring land and use its funds to develop permanent facilities for the school. “Management of the Lands Commission has identified five parcels of land in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area and is in negotiations with the land owners,” he added.
Mr. Amewu assured the press that all these arrangements were fully discussed with the students’ leadership at the said 20th November, 2015 meeting which was held in the conference room of the Lands Commission.
“To reinforce the commitment of the Lands Commission on the agreed upon short-term, medium-term and long-term arrangements, the board members of the Lands Commission met with the students’ body in one of their lecture halls on 11th December, 2015 to reiterate the three strategies and also assure the students that the board of the Lands Commission will ensure that the three-strategies are followed through to safeguard the interest of the students and the future of the school,” he added.
Mr. Amewu noted that it is very clear that the basis of the students’ demonstration in the past and the recent rampant destruction of properties and disturbances on Lands Commission project site is unwarranted, unlawful and disrespectful to authorities and a breach of administrative procedures.
“I totally condemn the students’ behavior and actions and accordingly authorize that the Ghana School of Survey and Mapping be closed down indefinitely and with immediate effect. Students are directed to vacate the school premises and the hostel facilities with immediate effect,” he added.
Mr. Amewu further directed the management of the Lands Commission to ensure that the staff who are teaching at the school be re-assigned other duties that would effectively support the agenda to reduce the turnaround time in land title registration in the country.