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Achimota Forest Brouhaha: The inside story so far

The Achimota Forest Ghana A walkway inside the Achimota Forest

Thu, 19 May 2022 Source:

There have been a lot of conversations about why one of the famous towns in Accra, Achimota, has recently been in the news.

The Achimota forest, which is perhaps the only ‘fully-covered’ vegetative area in Accra, was reported to have been declassified, making way for private development.

And with the news catching on like wildfire, the government, led by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, quickly came in to offer a better understanding of the issues.

But what has been the story so far? Here is a breakdown by GhanaWeb:

Social Media Reacts to News of Achimota Forest Declassification:

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, social media was buzzing over reports that the Achimota Forest was to be open for private development.

In an Executive Instrument (E.I.) signed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, it stated that the Achimota Forest Reserve is to no longer be a forest reserve.

Taking to social media, many Ghanaians have alleged that the government’s re-designation of the land is a ploy to sell the vast land off or to share it among its officials.

Portions of the E.I. purported to have been signed by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, which has not been verified by GhanaWeb, indicates that the Forest Reserve is no longer a forest reserve.

“An Executive Instrument (E.I.) 144 gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister Samuel Abdulai Jinapor indicates that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve.

“The President’s action was in accordance with Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157) which gives him the authority to declare that particular land is no longer required as a forest reserve,” portions of the purported E.I. read.

John Agyekum Kufuor’s involvement:

This is the account of the role the former president played in the Achimota Forest brouhaha, as contained in a statement by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor:

“Following several encroachments on the Forest Reserve, the pre-acquisition owners, the Owoo Family, in 2007, submitted a petition to the then President, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, for the release of the portion of the Forest Reserve adjoining the Tema motorway.

“After consultations between the Office of President and the relevant bodies, it was recommended that that portion of the Forest Reserve be released to the Owoo Family.

“This culminated in an Agreement dated 24th November 2008 between the Government, acting by the then Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines, and the Owoo Family for the grant of a lease over ninety (90) acres of the land to the Owoo Family for a term of ninety-nine (99) years. The Lease agreement was however not executed as agreed.”

Mahama's involvement:

According to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, former President John Mahama, by executive approval, gave out the Achimota Forest for redevelopment in 2013.

He made this remark while debunking reports that the ruling government has sold the forest out to private developers.

“On September 5, 2013, the then President, John Dramani Mahama, gave Executive Approval for the conversion of the forest reserve into an ecotourism park, and to release the peripheral portions of the forest reserve to the Owoo family, in accordance with the recommendations of the committee,” he said in an interview on Peace FM.

The minister explained that because the land remained a forest reserve, by virtue of Order 31 of 1930, the lessees and sub-lessees could not develop the land, although they had obtained all the necessary permits.

When it was released:

According to the statement, “In 2011, the Owoo Family, submitted another petition to the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Mike Hammah, for the grant of portions of the Forest Reserve. The Minister constituted a committee, chaired by the then Chairman of the then Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr. Samuel Afari Dartey, to inquire into the legitimacy of the request and its impact on the Forest Reserve.

“The Committee after its investigations concluded that the request of the Owoo Family was legitimate.

“The Minister then, sought executive approval to implement the recommendations of the Committee.

“On 5th September 2013, the then President of the Republic, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, gave Executive Approval for the conversion of the Forest Reserve into an Ecotourism Park, and to release the peripheral portions of the Forest Reserve to the Owoo Family, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.”

Jinapor’s explanation:

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, shot down reports that the government may be in the process of selling off the Achimota Forest for private development.

According to the minister, the government has not sold off the forest and has no intention to sell the vast forest land off.

“Achimota Forest has NOT and will NOT be sold!!!,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

What family it has been released to:

From the above narrations, it is clear the family the lands have been linked to is the Owoo family.

Owoo Family Breaks Silence:

According to the Owoo family, they have suffered grave historical injustice as the family has had to, in the past, accept terms to enable it to move on, which it strongly believes have been unfair and unjust.

In a statement released by the elders of the family, it said that “the much talked about 19th August 2016 ceremony which has been erroneously stated in the public as an occasion when the land was released to the Owoo family is false and misleading. That ceremony was a sod cutting ceremony for the development of the Achimota Forest into an Eco-Tourism Park. The Owoo Family were mere invitees/guest.”

Osu Traditional Council claims:

Following the news, the Osu Traditional Council came out to contest the release of 136 acres of peripheral portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve to the Owoo family, who claim to be the allodial owners of the land.

Nii O.T. Ankrah, a spokesperson of the Osu Stool, said on Angel FM’s Anopa Bofo Morning Show that the forest “perfectly” belongs to the Osu Stool but it was handed over to the State for the construction of Achimota Senior High School and subsequently, its extension.

He explained, “the Owoo family is from Ga Mashie; they cannot come from Ga Mashie and come into the bosom of someone’s land and say that land belongs to them.

“The land first belongs to the State – so Ga Mashie – La – Osu – [then] the state. Now when it moves to the State, it comes to the family; that’s the Weku, the Wei then when it comes to the family, it comes to the individual…so if it is not for Gbese then how did it come to Owoo Family?

“We have a problem with where the government is sending the land to…So, the Gbese family would be surprised to learn that it [the land] has been given to the Owoo Family…

“Our concern is that if the government says they are releasing the land then it should go to the rightful owners, the 136 acres should go to the rightful owners…”

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