Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul has said his comment about former President John Mahama’s stay in a property built on a “disputed land” close to Burma Camp, which has been “earmarked” for acquisition by the government for military purposes, has helped him to “achieve” his “aim” of deterring encroachers from that area.
Mr Nitiwul, at a press briefing last week advised the former president to vacate the area, since, in his view, encroachers were using Mr Mahama as an “impetus” to develop the area.
Mr Mahama’s office later issued a statement describing the Bimbilla MP’s comment as “reckless” and “irresponsible”.
Mr Mahama’s Aide, Joyce Bawa Mogtari, in a recent interview, demanded an apology from Mr Nitiwul after the East Dadekotopon Development Trust (EDDT), a rival claimant to the title of the sprawling land, told journalists at a press conference that: “It is not a military land; [even] the Burma Camp land is an old airport land acquired in 1944″.
Clarifying his statement on Accra-based Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Wednesday, 13 December, Mr Nitiwul told host Kojo Yankson that: “…My aim was to make sure that people do not make reference to the former president as the person who is living there for others to have the impetus to do that. And I think I have achieved that aim.
“… Oh yes I think I have because today anybody who intends to go and encroach that land will think twice, anybody who would want to go and build on the military land today will think twice, anybody who now wants – whether Burma Camp or outside Burma Camp – to develop that area will think twice, I think I have achieved that aim,” Mr Nitiwul reiterated.
In his view, his comment was more of an advice to Mr Mahama.
“With specific reference to former President Mahama, I said as a former Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, where he is living is not good for him and if I were him, I would not even live there. I did not even talk about the ownership of his property or the property of the area in question.
I just said where he is living, it is not very good for him to live in that area because you are the former Commander-in-Chief and he knows that the military asked that that area should not be encroached and they gave it out to Chain Homes, gave it out to individuals, in fact the military had to put a cemetery there to stop people from encroaching, so the cemetery shares a wall with Chain Homes as we speak today.
Anybody who thinks I’m joking should drive there, the military had to quickly put a cemetery there to stop people from encroaching more into it, so I want to say to East Dadekotopon that I don’t get myself involved in the ownership of land in Labadi or Accra, I don’t get involved at all and I don’t think any minister will get himself involved at all in this area”.
Explaining himself further, Nitiwul said: “What I said to the former President is that: ‘Where you are living, it is not something very good because you are a former Commander-in-Chief and you know that the military was in contention with the land owners for them to be able to have access to that land, so it’s not good for you to live there, full stop.
He said “…I never talked about the ownership of the land” because it is the subject of litigation in court.
Asked if he made reference to the former President so as to politicise his stay in the area, Mr Nitiwul said: “Oh no I will never do that, I said, and if you listened to my words, that because he is staying in that disputed area, it is not good for him and it is giving others the impetus to encroach, that is exactly what I said and that’s exactly what I meant.”
“I said that as former Commander-in-Chief, where he is living is not helping matters, I never talked about he owning land or he owning a property … what I said is that he is not helping matters because he is giving me and the military sleepless nights and people are encroaching, when you talk they say: ‘Is it not the former president who is living here?’”
He added that even though he neither spoke to the former president directly nor wrote to him in connection with the matter, he personally sent messages through former Deputy Attorney General Dr Dominic Ayine to be conveyed to Mr Mahama.