The military has vehemently defended its invasion of a disputed land around Mallam in Accra where traders had their wares, including bags of salt, completely destroyed.
Public Affairs Director of the Ghana Armed Forces Col Aggrey Quarshie told Joy News his men were only carrying out a duty, imposed on them by another state agency.
He has told the aggrieved traders to “respect orders” and not to “challenge authority.”
A piece of land which used to be a landfill site but has been reclaimed has become a subject of controversy. The traders are claiming ownership of the property but it appears the Sanitation Ministry has other uses to which it will put the land.
Spokesperson of the traders, Nathaniel Winston told Joy News’ Emefa Apawu they bought the land in 1995 from the Gbawe Quartei family and had since been paying for it.
He insisted they had long been taking tolls from residents when the disputed land was used as a landfill site.
According to him, immediately they bought the land, they began the reclaiming process in the hope of developing the land. It, therefore, came to them as a surprise when one commander Koomson, who claimed to be working on behalf of the Sanitation Ministry ordered them to stop developing the land because the land has been earmarked for a gas extraction project.
It was a scene of chaos, Monday when scores of soldiers allegedly destroyed over 185 bags of salt which had been kept on the disputed land by the traders.
One of the affected women told Joy News’ Kwesi Parker Wilson she requested for a grace period of 24 hours from the military men so she will take her goods out but her appeal fell on deaf ears.
Right before her own eyes, the bags of salt were torn and the content emptied into water.
“About 25 bags, everything has been destroyed,” she said.
Another woman who says she had gone for a bank loan to purchase the bags of salt for sale, cried as she narrated how they were manhandled by the military officers.
“They need to compensate me, I took a loan to buy this salt but now everything is destroyed. How do I repay my debt and if my creditors come and arrest me, who will take care of my children,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
But the Military men maintain they were doing their job. Col Quarshie could not tell who the rightful owner of the land is, except to say that they were given an order from a state agency to protect the land and they carried it out.
“We work more closely [on this project] with the Ministry of Sanitation,” he said. When he was asked what his understanding of the tussle was, he said: “That is an issue for them to deal with. We don’t come in there. We go to perform a task that has been given to us by a state agency.”
“People are not supposed to use that piece of land. If anyone goes there, he will be trespassing,” he warned and commanded the aggrieved traders to “respect authority.”
“If you are given instructions, just abide by them” he added.