Achimota Forest saga: Revoke EI.144 to reverse declassification- Ex-Lands Minister
Read the full statement:
House No. B.42
Northern Region, Ghana.
25th May, 2022
DECLASSIFICATION OF PORTIONS OF ACHIMOTA FOREST RESERVE AND MATTERS ARISING
My attention has been drawn to a press release by the Ministry for Lands and Natural Resources dated May 24, 2020 and captioned RE: ACHIMOTA FOREST MATTERS, in which the Ministry sets out in historical chronological order events surrounding the acquisition and subsequent releases of portions of the Achimota Forest to the Owoo Family consequent on petitions submitted to President Kufuor, the second President under the Fourth Republic and other Presidents thereafter.
The press release contain some incorrect assertions and plain misrepresentation of facts skewed against my person and the role l played as Minister for Lands and Natural Resources between the period January 2013 to June 2014. I shall attempt to state the true facts of the matter which came before me and the decisions I took on same during my stewardship at that Ministry.
Prior to the 2008 general elections, the acquisition of State Lands by elements within the then NPP/Kufour government and some appointees in the public and civil service became a major national and political issue. Mention can be made of the International Student Hotel land which now houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the La Wireless land which now houses the AU village and the sale of government bungalows to government appointees and sympathizers, one of which was challenged in court.
This was a matter of considerable public interest and concern then, as it is presently. So when President John Evans Atta Mills assumed the reigns of government, a total ban was imposed by the government on the sale or alienation of State Lands to enable the government to restore some sanity in the administration of public lands.
It is also important to state that the Achimota Forest reserve which until recently stood at 495 hectares was facing serious encroachment. There was therefore the need to protect the Forest from further encroachment. It was the view of the NDC that the best way to protect the Forest was to turn same into an Ecoturism facility as experience shows that the encroachment into the Forest is precisely because it has been lying fallow. The 2012 manifesto with which the NDC sought the mandate of the people of Ghana bears ample testimony to the avowed intention of the NDC to protect the Achimota Forest reserve from further encroachment by turning it into an Eco Park.
As said earlier, I assumed the mandate to steer the affairs of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in February 2013 with a clear directive to take steps to convert the Forest into an Ecotourism facility. I set up a Strategic Committee headed by my able deputy Hon. Babara Serwa Asamoah to look at the most prudent and feasible way we could implement this manifesto promise. I reviewed the various petitions from the Owoo Family and recommendations from Committees set up to consider those petitions. Let me state categorically that apart from the Strategic Committee I set up to implement the NDC’s manifesto promise, all other committees on the Achimota Forest Reserve up until the time I assumed office pre-dated me.
The Committee set up under President Kufuor recommended that 193 acres (not 90 acres as claimed by the current Minister of Lands and Natural Resources) of the Achimota Forest be returned to the Owoo Family with the plan to covert the forest into a second central business district for Accra. This fact has been corroborated by Kwame Gyan Esq., a legal consultant in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources for the period 2001 to early 2009 on Joy News. Indeed, he was the witness of the government of Ghana to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Owoo family at the time Hon. Esther Abena Dapaah was the Minister. This MOU was signed sometime in August 2008 but could not be implemented because the NPP lost the 2008 presidential elections.
For the records, the Afari-Dateh Committee recommended that only 118 acres of the peripheral portions of the Achimota Forest be returned to the Owoo Family, instead of the 193 acres the Kufour Administration had agreed to grant the family. I sought cabinet approval for the implementation of the committee’s recommendations and was granted same. This was the only portion of land that I had the capacity by reason of the delegated authority given to me by the executive President to grant to the pre-acquisition owners of the land.
I am unaware and unconnected to any subsequent attempts to vary the initial grant of 118 acres to the pre-acquisition owners of the land as alleged by the current minister of Lands and Natural Resources. I could not have varied the initial grant because I am fully aware of the implications of Article 58 of the Constitution of Ghana and could not have placed myself in that awkward position.
It bears repeating that I was not a party to the alleged extention of the initial grant of 118 acres to the Owoo Family. My letter of 4th April, 2014 to the Lands Commission was in respect of the original grant of 118 acres of land to the Owoo family as captured at the last paragraph of the said letter. That letter read together with the original Lease executed by the Forestry Commission in favour of the Owoo Family will leave no doubt in the mind of anyone reading those two documents that they are referrable to the same 118 acres of land granted the Owoo Family pursuant to a cabinet directive. I could not have acted otherwise.
The 4th April 2014 letter was addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission to accept for registration the lease granted the Owoo Family by the Forestry Commission which allocated to them only 118 acres of the peripheral portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve on compassionate grounds.
I welcome and support calls from the general public for the reversal of the declassification of portions of the Achimota forest reserve as contained in E.I 144 and for an independent enquiry to be launched into these matters to ascertain the truth.
Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini
Former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources