Lands Commission Fire Could Be Arson: Committee

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The fire that gutted the Lands Commission in Accra may have not started accidentally, says the interim report by the Committee that was constituted to investigate the matter.
The report presented by the head of the Committee, Justice Barbara Ward Acquah noted that though it cannot rule out arson, the evidence at hand could also not lead to a definitive cause of the fire – whether it was deliberate or accidental.
Further investigations would have to be carried out by the police and the fire service to properly find the source of the fire.
“We are of the opinion that there might be foul play; we are not too sure yet. We are not experts in that field …So the police and the Ghana national fire service will conduct further investigations on this, Justice Ward Acquah said when she presented the report to the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mike Hammah, Thursday.
The fire started in the early hours of Friday, 2 March, 2012 and before it was brought under control it had swept through a number of offices consuming anything combustive.
The fire swept through the Public and Vested Lands Management Division, the State Lands Registry, the Library, the Survey Director’s office, a Conference Room, among other departments.
The interim report mentioned that regardless the devastation caused by the fire, over 85 per cent of the Lands Commission’s documents were salvaged.
The records at the Lands Commission were mostly in paper form, so acknowledging the difficulties that will come with attempts to identify and retrieve copies of the lost documents from other sources, the committee’s report recommended an immediate digitisation of all records – which should be replicated on other MDA’s – and a backup system.
“All documents should be digitised from now on,” Justice Ward Acquah said. “And then backed up outside the commission. So we are also recommending that the government expedites action on the building of a one stop shop backup facility.”
The Lands Commission had indicated that it had just started a document digitisation process prior to the fire but, predictably, majority of the documents were yet to undergo the process.
The committee was made up of representatives from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Public Records and Archives Administration, the Lands Commission, the Land Valuation Division, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

Arch O.Ansah
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