Dispute over Achimota School land heads for Supreme Court

The Achimota School is lacing-up its boots to file an application at the Supreme Court to overturn an Appeals Court ruling that nullified an earlier decision by a High Court which sought to give possession of 172.68 acres of land to the school.

In ruling against the Achimota School, the Court of Appeal raised an issue of capacity. It referred to the action in the 2011 judgement of a lower court where the case started, and stated that the school was aware of that action and should have applied to state its case in that suit.

The Court of Appeal relied on previous judicial pronouncements which state that a party affected by a judgment can seek permission of the defendants in that action to join and assert the party’s case.

It however concluded that by not following that procedure, the current action is an abuse of the court’s process – and then proceeded to nullify the current action.

In this regard, the Achimota School with support of the Old Achimotan Association has decided to refer the case to the Supreme Court, and has directed its solicitors accordingly.

The School Board is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Appeals Court ruling, and to also reinstate the interlocutory injunction placed on Osu Stool by the High Court in 2016.

 Background

It all started in 2010, when the Osu Stool sued and obtained judgement against the Lands Commission in 2011 to remain in possession of 172.68 acres of Achimota School’s land.

Osu alleged in that action that government acquired the land in the 1920s but had not used it for the purpose of the acquisition; and that subjects of the Osu Stool have remained in occupation of the 172.68 acres since it was acquired in the 1920s.

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The Lands Commission did not challenge these allegations, although it is aware government vested the land acquired in Achimota School and the school occupies the land.

After the 2011 judgment to remain in possession, Osu returned to the same court in 2012 and obtained an order to recover possession of the 172.68 acres. Osu then applied for the court to compel the Lands Commission to register the 172.68 in its name and for the benefit of Osu Stool. In 2013, the Land Commission informed the school about the case.

According to management of the school, they made two attempts to assert its tittle in that case but it failed.

The management said Osu and a company called Platinum Equities Limited later approached the school and proposed settlement of the 2011 judgement, which the School rejected.

Subsequently, the school sued Osu, Platinum Equities and the Lands Commission to assert the school’s right to the 172.68 acres. The school asked the High Court to set aside the 2011 judgement and the 2012 order which the court granted them.

Proceedings in current action

The school started the current action in the High Court on two grounds.

First, that it owned the 172.68 acres and was unaware of the 2010 suit by Osu against the Lands Commission – and so the 2011 judgment and 2012 order cannot be enforced against the school’s interest in the land.

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Second, the school alleged that Osu perpetrated fraud to obtain the 2011 judgement and the 2012 order against the Lands Commission. This, the school argued, is because the land has been vested in the school by government, and that no subject of Osu Stool has ever been in occupation of the 172.68 acres. The High Court therefore agreed with the school’s argument.

Osu appealed against the 2016 ruling to the Court of Appeal, where the court overturned the ruling of the High Court.

The School’s opinion on the Court of Appeal’s decision

According to the school, the Court of Appeal did not specifically determine the key issue of capacity and the process for challenging same, although extensive arguments have been submitted by both sides – saying the court only quoted the law regarding the challenge to capacity and its effect on an action. It also referred to CAP 114 and the fact that it has been repealed.

“Significantly, the court was silent on our arguments that a repeal does not invalidate a concluded and closed matter, such as establishment of the Board.

“The law that repealed CAP 114 (the Education Act, 1961, Act 87) continued the existence of the Board and provided for the establishment of new boards for other public schools. The law that repealed Act 87 did not dissolve the Board, and the current Education Bill, 2015, provides for establishment of even more boards to manage public schools that do not have such boards,” the school said.

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