A document from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, making reference to an E.I., stated that the Achimota Forest Reserve is to no longer be regarded as a forest reserve.
It read in part: “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.
But, Samuel Abu Jinapor, Minister, Lands and Natural Resources, dismissing these accusations at a press conference on Tuesday, said the Executive Instrument, E.I. 144, pertained to 361 acres of peripherals of the Achimota forest that the government is returning to its custodial owners, identified as the Owoo family because the land was not being used for its intended purpose, which included the extension of the Achimota School.
He added that the E.I. 144, pertained to 361 acres of peripherals of the Achimota forest that the government is returning to its custodial owners, identified as the Owoo family because the land was not being used for its intended purpose, which included the extension of the Achimota School.
The Owoo family’s quest to retain its land dates back to 2007 when it petitioned President John Agyekum Kufuor for the release of the portion of the Forest Reserve adjoining the Tema motorway.
After consultations between the Presidency, it was recommended that the petition be granted.
In 2011, the Owoo Family, submitted another petition to the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, for the grant of portions of the Forest Reserve.
Mike Hammah and Alhaji Inusah Fuseini were former Lands and Natural Resources Ministers, under their tenure various decisions were taken concerning the request of the Owoo family.
The two former ministers of state have been giving their own understanding of what the government of Ghana, through the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry intends to do for the ‘aggrieved’ family.
Mike Hammah, a former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources under the JEA Mills administration, on an Accra-based Citi FM, applauded the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led administration on the step taken to return portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve to its rightful owners.
He noted that the government, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is acting in the right direction.
Mike Hammah explained, “the Constitution protects citizens from being deprived of their properties. It also talks about the government ensuring that when it acquires land, it ensures prompt, fair, and adequate compensation is paid to the original landowners. If the government doesn’t use the land for a very long time, the government will have to return it to its pre-acquisition owners. And the pre-acquisition owners here are the Owoo family.
“The key thing here is about biodiversity and not to go in there and clear the portion for buildings. You maintain what is there and even improve on it for development. So, aside from spending money to protect the forest, you get some from tourism. The EI will not even allow for the [building of apartments] because it is not part of the plans.”
He continued: “Yes, there was a petition from the Owoo family, and the reason is that, over the years, the government has acquired a lot of the land and some compensation has not been paid. They thought that they were being denied their land.
“Under the circumstances, we set up a committee to look into the petition and come up with recommendations consistent with our policy directions; moving away from the consumption value of the forest to the non-consumption value of the forest and promoting ecotourism and biodiversity conservation. That is what I inherited from my predecessor, Collins Dauda.”
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini
On his part, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, a former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources under the John Dramani Mahama administration, said, the Owoo family, the allodial owners of the land, received an amount of 4000 pounds as compensation from the colonial administration in 1951.
“I am aware that the colonial government paid four thousand pounds for the land and that was a huge amount of money in 1951,” he said on Accra-based Joy FM’s Top Story, Wednesday, May 18.
Fuseini added, “a study was done and then we all agreed, including the Owoo family that, that was what they were entitled to. There was a ceremony to release that part to them that took place in the forest itself. I was there, the Wulomei was there, the Owoo family was there, and my deputy and everybody were there…about ninety to hundred acres thereabouts was released to them.
“With the greatest respect to the Owoo family, they have always maintained that they are not entitled to a dime. That’s why in my letter, I only maintained that it was only on compassionate grounds with the realisation and acknowledgement of the fact that they were the allodial owners of the land,” he said.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini noted that the Owoo family to the best of his knowledge “have never claimed compensation of the land.”
He continued: “what they have always said is because that vast amount of land was taken from them, it deprived them the benefit of the use of the land and now they are almost robbed of their resource and so government should reach out to them and see how it can put them in a better position to continue to carry on as a family.
“The ultimate purpose for the return of the land to the Owoo family on compassionate grounds under His Excellency John Mahama was to try to protect what was left of the forest. So, if you don’t protect the forest and you just declassify the forest, what is the guarantee that there won’t be further encroachment?”