THE chief and people of Bia have expressed their dismay over the illegal acquisition of land in the area by MTN, the leading mobile telecommunication firm in the country.
Bia is a village in the Bui Gorge catchment area, where the Bui Hydro-electric power plant is being constructed,
According to the chief and his people, the way and manner the parcel of land was acquired was clearly illegal, while the construction of a mast on it by the mobile telecommunication company constituted an unlawful entry on their property.
The chief, Nana Kwesi Nyarko, speaking to the Daily Graphic, said the action of the MTN was likely to degenerate into a disagreement between his people and the people of Jama, an adjoining village in the area.
Giving reasons for his statement, he said late last year, officials of MTN went to Jama to acquire a parcel of land for the erection of a telecommunication mast.
When they approached Nana Kojo Panbour II, the Chief of Jama, he pointed out to them that the land they were interested in rather belonged to the people of Bia, and thus led them to meet with a representative of the chief of Bia, Mr Kofi Donkor, because the chief of Bia had travelled by then.
An official of MTN, Mr Mohammed Bashiru, who is supposed to be a land acquisition agent for MTN, together with other officials of the company, in the company of Nana Panbour II and Mr Donkor, went ahead to conclude negotiations on the land in English language, something Mr Donkor did not understand.
According to Nana Nyarko, when he returned, he ordered MTN to stop work and rather begin negotiations with him and his people, as the first transaction was made in the presence of only one representative of the village who had no idea on what the terms of the deal were, making the whole deal fraudulent and incomplete.
He said MTN, on the other hand, tried to make payments to the Jama Traditional Council, a non-existent institution in May, this year. But Nana Nyarko said he impressed upon the people of Jama not to get involved in an illegality, and so the cheque was eventually returned to MTN.
The situation, he added, generated confusion between himself and his people on one side, and the chief and people of Jama on the other hand.
He said MTN had not gone back to negotiate the rightful terms of the acquisition of the land, adding that his efforts at contacting any official to set the records straight were being frustrated as staff at MTN kept tossing him from one person to another, all of whom claimed they did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
Currently, Nana Panbour II of Jama and Nana Nyarko have reconciled their differences through a formal writing to the Managing Director of the MTN to cancel the deal that was formerly sealed on the acquisition of the land.
A copy of the letter, which was made available to the Daily Graphic, asked MTN to cancel all former transactions and re-negotiate for the land from the rightful owners.
When contacted, Stratcom Africa, the organisation in charge of the corporate communications of MTN, produced letters from the Bui Power Authority and Nana Panbour II, welcoming MTN to the area.
The letter from Nana Panbour II had a plan of the land for the Bui catchment area, and other areas that the people of Jama had given out for resettlement of people directly affected by the construction of the dam.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Bui Power Authority, Mr Fred Oware, when contacted on phone, said the Authority had just brought to the notice of MTN the fact that the area of the Bui Dam was still being negotiated for by the Government of Ghana, and that any changes in the future would have to be complied with accordingly.
DAILY GRAPHIC, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2008, PG 35