Lands Minster, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor has said government is committed to protecting all public lands from unlawful possession by individuals and state officials.

He says government will act on any improper acquisition of public lands, “regardless of how it was procured, whether now or in the past, and the Achimota Forest lands will not be an exception.”

Mr. Jinapor said this in a statement he issued on Tuesday, May 24 over claims that the late former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, owns lands at the Achimota Forest and Sakumono Ramsar Site.

Owing to those allegations, the Minister says he has tasked the Forestry and Lands Commissions to take immediate actions over the claims.

He says those alleged lands must be treated as invalid, saying they would not be given to the said relatives, even when they are found to have been legally acquired.

“That said, given the totality of the circumstances of the said allegations, I, as Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, have directed the Lands and Forestry Commissions to deem any ownership of lands, both in the Achimota Forest and the Sakumono Ramsar Site by the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie as void and are to take the appropriate actions accordingly.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the bequeathing of the aforesaid lands, if established, will not pass any interest/title to the named beneficiaries in the alleged Will. These lands, the subject matter of the alleged Will, shall remain public lands, whether or not it falls within the de-gazetted lands pursuant to E.I. 144,” the Damongo legislator said.

He added that further checks at the Lands and the Forestry Commissions show no record of ownership of lands at the Achimota Forest or the Sakumono Ramsar Site by the late Sir John.

According to him, preliminary investigations have revealed the alleged Will of Sir John is a subject matter of litigation in the courts.

CSOs protest declassification of Achimota Forest

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including the OccupyGhana, have demanded the suspension of the operation of Executive Instrument (E.I.) 144 by government.

In a letter dated May 23, 2022, addressed to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the CSO said, “We write to demand that you revoke or suspend the operation of the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 (EI 144) and the Forests (Achimota Firewood Plantation Forest Reserve) (Amendment) Instrument, 2022 (EI 154) forthwith.”

OccupyGhana added that “Instead, we demand a full public inquiry under Chapter 23 of the Constitution into the matter of the Achimota Forest Reserve.”

Background

Last week, the President signed an Executive Instrument to declassify the Achimota Forest.

The Instrument gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, stipulated that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve, pursuant to Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157).

The cessation, per that document, was to be effective on May 1, 2022.

However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has said the government is not selling the land.

According to him, plans are rather afoot to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.

Addressing the press on Tuesday, May 17, the sector Minister emphasised that widespread reports about the supposed sale of the Forest are false and baseless, as government has no such plans.

“The government intends to enrich the Achimota forest, revamp it and hopefully, in the not too distant future, transform it into the likes of High Park of London and Central Park of New York, where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature and forest reserve as it happens in other parts of the world”.