Story: Caroline Boateng
THE Omanhene of the Agogo Traditional Area, Nana Akuoko Sarpong, has thrown a challenge to politicians to resource the chieftaincy institution to operate a constitutional requirement that guarantees chieftaincy as an institution.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, Nana Sarpong, who is a lawyer, stressed the fact that the 1992 Constitution was the embodiment of the soul of the nation used to govern the affairs of the nation.
“The guarantee of the chieftaincy institution under the constitution is a major statement of policy, that is not made in a vacuum,” he stressed.
“It means that the country is prepared to finance the institution to the fullest and ensure that it is an equal partner in development,” he added.
Nana Akuoko Sarpong, a Minister of the Interior, Presidential Advisor on Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman of the National Commission on Culture (NCC) under the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, was of the view that politicians, over the years, had helped to weaken the institution through draconian laws such as the State Lands and Stool Lands Act passed in the 1960s.
He explained that those laws that enabled the administrator of Stool Lands to take 10 per cent of revenue accruing from traditional lands with no mechanisms to make him accountable or innovatively make money for the upkeep of the secretariat was unacceptable.
Nana Sarpong said between 40 and 60 per cent of the revenue went to the government while district assemblies took two thirds of what was left, about 30 per cent.
He said chiefs retained only about 10 per cent of that, a situation he described as "oppressive, an institutional handicap and a means to strip chiefs of all means of income."
When asked about allegations of chiefs selling and reselling land, he said there were practices such as the traditional audit and distribution system that served as a regulatory mechanism on chiefs, and act as a check against some of the practices they were being accused of.
On chieftaincy conflicts, Nana Akuoko Sarpong emphasised the fact that the Constitution had provided an effective mechanism for the resolution of conflicts through the respective judicial committees of the traditional councils, regional and national houses of chiefs.
He said if these institutions were properly resourced, cases would not pile up for conflicts to get out of hand as it did in Anlo.
He said the Attorney General was supposed to appoint lawyers as members of the various judicial committees, but poor remuneration of members of the committee, including the lawyers, was derailing efforts at carrying out functionsof the houses of chiefs.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Kwame Osei Prempeh, has said the lack of lawyers on most judicial committees in the various houses of chiefs could not be blamed on the government.
He said the AG’s Department did not appoint but only recommend while the various houses of chiefs were the appointing authorities.
He said lawyers appointed to the various houses of chiefs were taken on the rank of principal state attorneys with the same terms of remuneration as their counterparts in the public service.
He said all lawyers in the public service enjoyed the same service conditions that were complained of but said the government was open to suggestions in order to make things better for all.
DAILY GRAPHIC, Monday, November 26, 2007 PG 40