March 2, 2012 (Lead story)
THE Lands Commission has constituted a committee to investigate the cause of fire outbreak at its premises early this morning.
The committee is expected to make recommendations for appropriate action to avoid any future occurrence.
Members of the committee will be drawn from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Public Records and Archives Administration.
The rest of the members are from the Lands Commission, the Land Valuation Division, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
At a press briefing in Accra on March 1, 2012, the Chairman of the Lands Commission, Nana Adjei Ampofo, told reporters that the various stakeholders were yet to nominate persons to represent their respective organisations.
Nana Ampofo urged the public to remain calm and not to panic about the safety of their documents which were in the custody of the Commission.
He also stated that the Commission had begun the process to digitize its records before the fire outbreak adding that the Commission’s office was opened for normal business.
Sections of the head office of the Lands Commission at Cantonments in Accra were early this morning reduced to wreckage as fire swept through the Public and Vested Lands Management Division and the Survey and Mapping Division including Accounts, State Lands Registry, Library, Internal Audit, Conference Room and Survey Director’s office.
Thousands of vital documents which were housed in these offices were destroyed by the fire which began at 5 a.m.
The raging fire left in its wake burnt vital documents, total black out at the entire Lands Commission, idle and heartbroken workers who had no office to operate from, visibly shaken government officials and worried members of the public who feared they might have lost vital documents.
Work also grounded to a halt at other departments not affected by the fire outbreak because of the total black out. Officials were not certain when electricity would be restored for work to resume.
A woman collapsed and was rushed to seek medical attention. A young lady, who stood among bewildered staff of the Commission openly cried when she realized there was nothing to salvage.
It took seven fire tenders, six from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and one from the Ghana Armed Forces and approximately four hours to bring the fire under total control.
Several files, computers and accessories, tables, chairs and electrical appliances among many others were reduced to rubble.
The entire premise of the Lands Commission was engulfed in thick smoke when the Daily Graphic, officials of the Lands Commission and other members of the public got to the scene around 5:40 a.m.
Policemen were dispatched to maintain law and order as well as prevent any person from taking undue advantage of the situation.
Both entries to the Commission were closed to the public. A security man was kept at post to ward off intruders and teeming members of the public. Scores of people observed the incident from outside.
A turntable ladder from the GNFS was used to control the fire from raging through the ceiling to other offices. Some of the workers whose offices had been destroyed managed to get over their shock and began taking photographs of the ruins. Others also formed groups and discussed the incident.
As at 1.00 p.m., some members of staff, who had no office to operate from sat under trees reading newspapers. Officials of the Commission were also locked up in a meeting for several hours discussing the next line of action to be taken for normal work to resume.
The security man on duty informed reporters that he detected the fire at 4:57 a.m. from the file room but was silent on the action he took to contain it.
According to the Deputy Regional Commander of the GNFS, Mr Peter Donkor, a Fire Officer on his way to work detected smoke from one of the ceilings of the Lands Commission and quickly alerted the office which rushed to the scene at exactly 5:20 a.m.
He said the immediate cause of the fire was unknown but indicated investigations were ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Also present at the scene were the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Mike Hammah, the National Chairman of the Lands Commission, Nana Adjei Ampofo, the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Lands Commission, Oko Nikoi Dzani, the Mayor of Accra, Alfred Vanderpuje and the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, Dr Odami Larbi.
Each of the officials looked shocked upon seeing the damage. Mr Hammah was particularly shaken and close to tears when he visited the scene.
He shook his head several times when he went round to observe the extent of damage.
Mr Dzani allayed the fears of the public and gave the assurance that there was back-up to all files.
He said documents on state, individual and stool land lands could be recovered and further stated that the Commission would later take stock and know the exact quantum of damage.
On his part, Mr Hammah, explained that the government would wait for investigations to be completed before concrete action would be taken on the unfortunate incident.
He, therefore, called for thorough investigations into the cause of the fire.
The fire tenders drove off at exactly 9:16 a.m. after they had put out the fire completely.