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Achimota forest: There is evidence of state lands ending up in the hands of government, party officials – Occupy Ghana

Occupyghana 620x406 Occupy Ghana has entreated government to reverse the declassification of portions of Achimota Forest

Thu, 19 May 2022 Source:

Government declassifies portions of Achimota Forest as a reserve

Government accused of attempting to sell off Achimota Forest

Occupy Ghana speaks on Achimota Forest brouhaha

Pressure group Occupy Ghana says there is a history of Ghanaians becoming extremely suspicious of government land transactions.

According to Occupy Ghana, the transfer of ownership of state lands into the hands of government and party officials and some other fraudulent means by which state lands have been lost under the guise of being transferred to their original owners is the basis for the public upheaval.

"The history of government's holding of compulsorily acquired lands is nothing to write home about. The overall management of these lands has been haphazard and messy, record-keeping has been largely (and sometimes, deliberately) derelict and shambolic, and the 2015 Report of the Sole Commissioner on Judgment Debts shows how government has been defrauded into paying compensation on such lands when none was due. There is also evidence of how some of these lands, under the guise of being returned to the original owners, have ended up in the hands of Government and party officials. These factors combine to make Ghanaians extremely suspicious of any land transaction involving government, and for good cause and reason," the group said in a statement.

This comes on the back of the government's decision to declassify portions of the Achimota Forest as a reserve and return same to its pre-acquisition owners.

The decision has led to strong public resentment, which has seen the government being accused of attempting to sell off the land for private development.

However, according to Occupy Ghana, the government, by the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, has no legal obligation to return the land, as has been argued by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources.

"We note that article 20 of the Constitution provides that the original owners of compulsorily acquired lands should be given the first option to acquire them when those lands are no longer required for the original purpose. We are also aware that the Supreme Court has held that that provision does not apply to lands compulsorily acquired before the current Constitution came into force. Thus, article 20 does not apply to the Achimota lands, and government is under no legal obligation to either return this or any such land or allow the original owners to exercise a first option to purchase."

"However, granted that government has already agreed to release some of that land to the original owners by way of leases dated September 2013 and is therefore contractually bound, that should be all. We strongly believe that government should hold the rest of that land for other, relevant national purposes," it said.

The pressure group said the decision by the government could not be said to be in the interest of the country and that government, at best, should release portions of the land covering no more than the state's agreement with the original owners in 2013.

"Government should then come back to the people of Ghana on whose behalf it holds the land, with a clear development plan that considers and includes the original forestry purpose and other modern uses to which the land may be put," it added.

The group entreated the government to freeze all planned returns of compulsorily acquired lands while further asking the state to conduct and publish an audit of all lands possessed by the government as well as outline plans for the development of such lands.

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