Fourteen civil society organisations want the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the de-gazetting of 361 acres of the Achimota forest reserve.

They are Civic Response, A Rocha Ghana, Nature and Development Foundation, EcoCare Ghana, Viridis Environmental Consult, Kasa Initiative Ghana, and the Ghana Wildlife Society.

The others are Advocates for Biodiversity Conservation, Forest Watch Ghana, 350 Ghana Reducing Our Carbon, United Force for Development, Rights Advocacy Initiative Network (RAIN), Tropenbos Ghana and KCODEC.

They want CHRAJ to expose any situation of conflict of interest and reveal any procedural flaw in the alleged allocation of lands in the forest as well as the Sakumono Ramsar site.

The CSOs said: “Ghana’s forest reserves should be protected in perpetuity for the purposes for which they were gazette”.

“Loss of any amount of forest reserve or other protected areas, no matter how small, should never be allowed”, CSOs noted.

In their view, the “de-gazetting of some of the Achimota forest sets a very bad precedent for Ghana’s other protected areas”.

“The reversal of these transactions on the bases of conflict of interest will send a strong message to other public officers who might be tempted in future to use their position to grab state property,” the CSO said.

Meanwhile, pressure group OccupyGhana has written to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Jinapor, in relation to the recent reclassification of the Achimota forest reserve in specific and the general phenomenon of returning government lands to their former owners, saying there is “evidence of how some of these lands have been quietly sold to government and party officials”.

“Since sending that letter to you, we have had further cause to believe that this state of affairs is worse and much wider than is apparent”, a statement issued by the group on Monday, 23 May 2022 stated, adding: “We are also concerned that there might have been serious instances of conflict of interest and conflict of duty involving government officials and other government actors, concerning those lands”.

“We, therefore, 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”, the group insisted.

Instead, it noted, “We demand a full public inquiry under Chapter 23 of the Constitution into the matter of the Achimota Forest Reserve”.

The government has been explaining that it is returning 361 acres of peripheral lands bordering the forest reserve to the custodial owners, being the Owoo family.

It recently emerged that some of those lands were captured as an inheritance in the will of the late CEO of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kojo Owusu Afriyie (Sir John).

Read OccupyGhana’s full statement below:

23 May 2022

Abu Jinapor, MP
The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources
Accra

Dear Sir:

RE: OCCUPYGHANA LBG DISAGREES WITH ANY FURTHER RELEASE OF ACHIMOTA LANDS

In our letter to you dated 18 May 2022 on the above-entitled matter, we conveyed our vehement disagreement with the alleged plans to return substantial portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve to its former owners.

Regarding the general matter of returning government lands to former owners, we stated as follows:

“There is also evidence of how some of these lands have been quietly sold to government and party officials.”

Since sending that letter to you, we have had further cause to believe that this state of affairs is worse and much wider than is apparent. We are also concerned that there might have been serious instances of conflict of interest and conflict of duty involving government officials and other government actors, concerning those lands.

We, therefore, 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.

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

While the Achimota Forest Reserve issue requires immediate attention, we further demand a similar inquiry into all alleged return of government lands to former owners that have occurred under the Fourth Republic. The purpose of the inquiries would be to reverse any illegal acts perpetrated, and improper gains made, by government officials under the guise of returning lands.

Yours in the Service of God and Country

OccupyGhana LBG

Source: Classfmonline.com