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Monday, January 30, 2023

Achimota Forest Declassification: “Monetary Compensation Would Break Government’s Back” – Owusu-Bio

Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources said monetary compensation to the Owoo family, custodians of the land pieces that make up Accra’s Achimota Forest, would have broken the Government’s back.

Mr Owusu-Bio was responding to environmental concerns raised by some civil society organisations, who said that if the government was serious about maintaining the Achimota Forest, the sole green belt in the Greater Accra region, it would have compensated the family financially rather than ceding off portions of the land.

The Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 (E.I 144) makes the peripheral portions of the Forest Reserve, which had already been granted to the Owoo Family in September 2013, portions of which have already been developed, cease to be a Forest Reserve, to ensure a development that is consistent with the area of the Forest Reserve.

Further, E.I. 154, on the other hand, states that the area of the forest shall remain a Forest Reserve. Both instruments contain adequate provisions that seek to protect the ecological integrity of the Forest Reserve.

By this, the Owoo family will be receiving in compensation in lieu of the land some acres of land surrounding the forest. Though the Deputy Minister agreed that monetary compensation was possible, he stated that the government could not afford it.

“I don’t know how much that would have been but I can envisage that that would have been a huge amount and that would have broken the back of government,” On Thursday, May 19th, the Minister in Charge of Forestry addressed journalists on a working visit to the forest following President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-publishing Addo’s of Executive Instrument E. I. 144, which “declassified the Achimaota Forest.”

The Member of Parliament also appealed to Ghanaians to be considerate towards the family who according to him have not been duly compensated decades after the government took over the parcels of land.

In 1921, the Government of the then Gold Coast, by a Certificate of Title dated 16th December 1921, made under the Public Lands Ordinance, 1876, acquired from the Owoo Family the parcel of land on which the Achimota School is situated.

Subsequently, by another Certificate of Title dated 17th May 1927, the Government acquired from the same Family another tract of land measuring approximately four hundred and seventy-nine (479) hectares as an extension to the Achimota School. Although there are receipts indicating payment of compensation for the 1921 acquisition, there are no records of payment of compensation for the 1927 acquisition, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said.

By an Order 31 of 1930, dated July 17, 1930, the Government, pursuant to its power under the Forests Act, 1927, (Cap 157), constituted the land acquired in 1927, as a Forest Reserve for the purposes of Fuel Wood Plantation for Achimota School.

Following several encroachments on the Forest Reserve, the pre-acquisition owners, the Owoo Family, 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 the 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.

“You must make every effort to ensure that we are likewise concerned about pre-acquisition owners, particularly when our prior government has acknowledged that they had a reasonable request. So yes, we are all concerned about the environment, but what about the family. And when previous governments have also granted leases back to them. Were we just trying to lie to them,” Mr Owusu-Bio queried?

The peripheral consists of the detached regions surrounding the forest, including as the N1 road, the Achimota Police Station area, and the Accra Regional Forestry Commission,” Mr John Allotey, the Forestry Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, informed journalists.

The plants of the Achimota Forest could be classed as shrubs at first glance. Since 2017, the Commission has been planting trees through the Youth in Afforestation Programme to make it “a true forest reserve.”

“We continue to plant seedlings including mahogany, the rainbow eucalyptus tree among others in order to create a true forest. We don’t want to destroy the shrubs since they contribute to biodiversity by providing food for some animal species,” Mr Allotey added.

The team also visited the nursery where the nursing of tree species is ongoing as the nation readies for the 2nd edition of the Green Ghana Day slated for 10th June.

By: Zubaida Mabuno Ismail | www.zamireports.com | Accra.



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