The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Jinapor has refuted reports that the Achimota Forest Reserve is on sale following the circulation of the Executive Instrument (E.I.) 144 which took effect on May 1, 2022.
At a presser on May 17, the Minister called on the general public to disregard the reports as they are “false, baseless and non-factual”.
“President Akufo-Addo nor myself or his government intends to sell the Achimota forest or redevelop the Achimota Forest as currently constituted. On the contrary, we intend to enrich the Achimota Forest, revamp it and hopefully, in the not too distant future, transform it into the Hyde Park of London and Central Park in New York where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of Nature and forest reserve as happens in other parts of the world.”
Delving into the history of the Achimota Forest Reserve which has necessitated the drafting of E.I.144, Jinapor explained that in 1921, the government of the then Gold Coast, by the certificate of title dated 16th December 1921, under the Public Lands Ordinance 1877, acquired from the Owoo family, the parcel of land on which the Achimota school is situated.
“Subsequent to another certificate of title dated 17th May 1927, the government then acquired from the same family, another tract of land measuring approximately, 479 hectares as an extension of the Achimota school. Although compensation was paid for the 1921 acquisition, compensation was not paid for the 1927 acquisition of the forest reserve which was required to be used as a forest reserve.
“By Order 31 of 1930 dated July 17, 1930, the government, pursuant to its powers under the Forest Act 1927 capped 157 constituted the land acquired in 1927 as a forest reserve for the purposes of fuelwood Plantation for Achimota school since 1930.
“In 1961, the government of the day released portions of land which was acquired in 1927 which had not actually been used for a forest reserve to be used as site for the construction of GIMPA.
The Forestry Commission headquarters land was also carved out of the 1927 acquisition as well as several other installations, he said.
“Following several encroachments on the 1927 forest acquisition, the pre-acquisition owners in 2007 submitted a petition to the then president, HE John Agyekum Kufuor for the release of the portion of the forest reserve adjoining the Tema Motorway. After consultations with the office of the president and the relevant authorities, it was recommended that the portions of the land of the forest reserve which was not used for the Achimota forest as currently constituted, 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 of 99 years.
“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 acquisition which has not been used for the Achimota forest as constituted to the Owoo family in lure of compensation for the 1927 acquisition. The Minister constituted a committee chaired by the chairman who was the then Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Samuel Dartey to inquire into the legitimacy of the request and its impact on the forest reserve as currently constituted.
“The Committee after its investigation concluded that the request of the Owoo family was legitimate. The Minister then sought executive approval to implement the recommendations of the committee. In September 2013, the then president of the Republic HE John Dramani Mahama gave executive approval for the conversion of the part of the 1927 acquisition which had not been used as a forest reserve to be released to the Owoo family and further granted that the forest reserve itself be converted into an ecotourism park.
“Pursuant to the said executive approval, the forestry commission, acting on behalf of the then-president, HE John Dramani Mahama, executed three leases in September 2013 granting portions of the forest reserve which had not been used as the Achimota forest reserve as currently constituted to the Owoo family for a term of 99 years. The family then registered the land in its name and granted subleases to other private developers with the consent of the Forestry Commission.
“Pursuant to the same executive approval, the Forestry Commission, acting on behalf of the then President of the republic, HE John Dramani Mahama, entered into an agreement with Aikan capital, a limited liability company for the development of the area of the forest into an eco-tourism park. The commission also executed the lease agreement with the company in February 2016 by which 227 hectares of the forest reserve was used by the company to undertake planned development.
“The Owoo family and their grantees were bid to develop the peripheral portions of the land which had already been granted to them and continued to petition the government to release the peripheral portions which continue to be classified as a forest reserve today. Government after assessing the entire situation and based on advice of the forestry commission, that the ecological integrity of the forest reserve will not be compromised by the release, decided to release the peripheral portions of the land from the forest reserve to the Owoo family”.
By E.I. 144, the portions of the land acquired as far back as 1927 for a forest reserve which has not been used for the stated purpose but has been encroached upon, are returned to its original owners, Jinapor explained.
As a way of protecting the forest reserve from the portion being returned to the Owoo family, paragraph three of the EI 144 and the Achimota Firewood Plantation Forest Reserve Amendment Instrument 2022, E. I 154 have been instituted, the Minister added.
Source: opemsuo.com/Hajara Fuseini