- Government and experts have moved in to calm the storm on social media following allegations that the government intends to sell the Achimota Forest Reserve
- A lawyer, Kwesi Fokuor-Benyin, explained that government was merely rezoning a portion of the Achimota reserve that had already been given out to enable redevelopment
- The government has also said the false reports were part of propaganda because it is committed to maintaining the ecological integrity of Ghana
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Following an uproar on social media that the Nana Akufo-Addo administration intends to sell portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve, experts and government agencies have moved in with the bare facts.
Reports on various media platforms on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, claimed that the president has issued an Executive Instrument (EI 144) to declassify the Achimota Forest and is in the process of selling the property.
According to the reports, fueled by a leaked document, Akufo-Addo under Executive Instrument 144 has lifted the 1927 classification of the Achimota Forest in the Greater Accra Region as a Forest Reserve, paving way for its redesignation, reclassification, sale, and development by other interests.
The news report triggered a storm of reactions and government bashing as many interpreted the report to mean a plan by the Akufo-Addo administration to destroy Ghana’s ecology for personal profit.
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The Achimota forest is currently managed as a botanical garden and wildlife rescue centre. There are hyenas, pythons, a camel, ostriches, monkeys and many more wild animals at the forest.
What the experts said about the issue
A private legal practitioner with deep insights into the matter, Kwesi Fokuor-Benyin, explained that the entire area of land known generally as Achimota Lands was compulsorily acquired by the Gold Coast colonial government in the 1920s for the establishment of the Achimota School, then Prince of Wales College.
The Lawyer explained that the land was acquired from the Owoo Family of Osu for £4000. Subsequently, a section of the land was constituted into a forest reserve to provide among others, a buffer between the college and the city of Accra, and also to provide cheap fuelwood for the college. That is what is currently known as Achimota Forest Reserve.
The current size of the forest reserve of approximately 360 hectares is what is left after it lost a sizeable swathe of 135 hectares to various projects, including the establishment of the Greenhill campus (GIMPA).
The Owoo family from whom the land was purchased begged the government in 2006 and 2007 to release of unused portions of the acquired land back to them. In 2013 the government granted this petition and agreed to grant them a leasehold interest of 99 years in the peripheral areas of the forest amounting to 118 acres.
However, due to the zoning of the area as a forest reserve, the released portions cannot be used for purposes not in line with the zoning. This caused the Owoo family to apply for a rezoning of the area to make it suitable for the intended development purposes of its grantees.
Hence, the EI 144 that is being circulated on social media does not mean the Achimota Forest Reserve lands have been sold, but rather, a notice that the area is no longer zoned as a Forest Reserve.
What is the government’s explanation?
At an emergency press conference on Tuesday, May 17, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resourced said the propaganda to taint the government had failed.
He said the instigators of the false reports deliberately refused to add that the E.I. 144 was published together with another (Amendment) Instrument, 2022, E.I. 154, The Forests, (Achimota Firewood Plantation Forest Reserve) which states emphatically that the area of the forest shall remain a forest reserve and that both instruments contain adequate provisions that seek to protect the ecological integrity of the Forest Reserve.
Mr Jinapor gave the firm assurance that:
"The Achimota Forest remains an integral part of Government’s plan for the protection of our forest cover, and our agenda for aggressive afforestation and reforestation."
The Minister also promised that the government has a firm plan to enrich the Achimota Forest Reserve into the likes of the High Park of London and Central Park of New York where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Achimota Forest: Government Denies Sale of Reserve For Commercial Development
Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh reported in a related story that the government has denied reports that the Achimota Forest Reserve has been sold for commercial development following thousands of critical comments online.
Thousands took to social media to bash the government, particularly President Nana Akufo-Addo, for allegedly selling the rich reserve for development.
It is not clear where the allegations of the sale of the reserve originated from on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, however, a document sighted by YEN.com.gh when the claim went viral read in part:
“All the five parcels of land specified in this Schedule as Sites A, B, C, D and E containing an approximate total area of 361.50 Acres or 146.30 Hectares more or less situate, lying and being at ACHIMOTA-ACCRA in the Greater Accra Region of the Republic of Ghana all of which five parcels of land are more particularly delineated on Plan No. 073/2022 attached hereto and thereon shewn edged pink.”