It is emerging that, the 361-acre Achimota Forest land which the Akufo-Addo government claims has been given to the Owoo family, has since been shared and bought cheaply.
The Herald is informed of a long list of beneficiaries which, include officials at the seat of government; the Jubilee House, the Attorney-General’s Department, President Nana Akufo-Addo’s household, state officials, their friends and cronies, religious leaders, churches among others.
Interestingly, Former Lands Minister, Inusah Fuseini, says the Owoo family, the allodial owners of the land that serves as the Achimota Forest Reserve was duly compensated, by the British colonial government, for the land, insisting that “compensation was paid, £4000 pounds then in 1951, 1957…I am aware that the colonial government paid four thousand pounds for the land and that was a huge amount of money in 1951.”
However, some seven people calling themselves “Principal Elders Owoo Family” said to be the custodial owners of lands presently serving as the Achimota forest, say it has suffered grave historical injustice over the non-payment of compensation to it, for the State’s acquisition in 1927.
John Kwartey Nee Owoo, Francis Kwatei Nee Owoo, Nii Kwate Owoo, George Kwatey Owoo, Frank Nii Kwartey Owoo, Nat Holly Nii Owoo and George Annan Owoo.
But insiders have alleged that First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has played a leading role in the release of the 361-acre land to the Owoo Family using her ties to Osu, where the Owoo family is said to hail from to convince government officials to release the prime land to the family.
The family, had several times failed in the law courts to get the land back, but getting it now through a mere petition to the Akufo-Addo government.
Through the First Lady, The Herald is informed that, a prominent church in Accra, whose owner is a friend of hers, has acquired a huge parcel of the 361-acre land, to build a massive auditorium.
Discussions on the colossal plot of land covering over 40percent of the Achimota Forest, The Herald learnt, was concluded some two years ago. The recent Executive Instrument (EI 144) is a mere formality that has to be satisfied to pave way for those who got the land, under the guise of the Owoo family to legitimize its use.
The Lands and Forestry Minister, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has indeed, revealed that the 361 acres which he interestingly described as a “periphery of the Achimota Forest Reserve”, have already been given out to the Owoo family, which has also leased them to interested persons who were only waiting to regularize the transaction with the coming into force of the EI 144.
Some lawyers, have questioned the government’s decision to grant the Owoo Family a “lease” instead of a freehold agreement, but the Lands Minister, revealed that the Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, worked on the legal technicalities of the release of the land to the Owoo Family, saying he was initially very confused about the lease too.
Speaking to Bernard Avle of Citi FM on Wednesday, the Lands Minister, explained “well that’s a legitimacy question, but in these matters, I was guided throughout the process by the Attorney General, and I will tell you when it began I myself I didn’t really find my way clear when it came to the law and some of the proposals are sent to Attorney General, he reverted to me with … on understanding and appreciation of the law and the procedure and how to go about it and I have no doubt now that the advice the Attorney general gave and the processes we went through even in terms of drafting the EI and all of that is the right procedure and that is exactly what…..
Asked whether Parliament will be made to decide on the grant of rights of concession since the place is a forest reserve; a natural resource that has to go to Parliament, he responded “I’m not sure about this at all. I’m not sure we’re not granting a confession here. No. We are not. We are releasing land to a family and dealing in public land is not subject to parliamentary ratification. In any event, 1927 was an acquisition of land for purposes of developing it into a forest reserve. The part that was released is not a forest reserve and it’s not a concession. Everything about this matter is land. You read the EI carefully. The subject matter of this transaction is land”.
Asked why between the Owoo family, which had asked for a return of 90 acres of the land from the Kufour administration, is now getting 361 acres, Mr Jinapor, said that the discussion between the Owoo family and the Kufuor administration was not concluded, adding that as years went by, the quantum of land that the Owoo family wanted kept increasing.
“That was not concluded, you will see that agreement was not included. And also you will see that the increase from 90 to 180 something in 2011 or so went up in 2013 and it is what it is today. There is a whole committee that sat on this matter and used time tested professional variables and formulas to compute these lands and it’s the same for compensation. The land valuation division or the Lands Commission has a formula by which they compute compensation. If it’s in a form of money or in a form of land that is to be released to families. Is a very time tested formula and as Minister, I don’t even really get involved in that. I just have to be satisfied that the work they’ve done is aboveboard, and this committee did this work thoroughly and professionally. And did this for a period of time and came to this conclusion and the issues of compensation, you know, Bernard 1927 somebody acquires land in 1927 and happen to be compensated in 2022, the variables change, you know the value of Land then is different from the value of Land now, but those are my matters can continue to
In other instances, Mr Jinapor, explained that the acreage of the Achimota Forest to be returned to the Owoo family was determined by the Afare-Dartey Committee during the erstwhile Mahama administration.
According to him, his outfit simply approved what had been done by the previous government and had by no means any hand in how much acreage was to be returned to the Owoo family.
The Minister, at a press conference on Tuesday, May 17, said the Executive Instrument, E.I. 144, which ordered the cessation of the Reserve status of the Achimota Forest pertained to 361 acres of peripherals of the forest that the government is returning to its custodial owners, the Owoo family, because the land was not being used for its intended purpose, which included the extension of the Achimota School.
However, the Minority in Parliament and some Civil Society Organisations, have argued that the Owoo family is entitled to only 90 to about 100 acres of the land, instead of the 361 acres being mentioned by the Lands Minister.
Reacting to these claims, the Lands Minister said, “Everything I have done I inherited it; the matters to do with the acreage, all of it. We never made any determination about acreage, we never made any determination about whether they’re entitled, what acreage they’re entitled to and so on and so forth.
“All of those were inherited. And those were done by the Afare-Dartey committee. Those determinations were made by the Afare-Dartey committee. All we have had to do was to amend the E.I, the Forest Reserve E.I in order to de-gazette the part which has already been determined and agreed upon.”
He stated that their concerns about the acreage have been noted and his Ministry will interrogate all claims being made. “Look I’ve heard people raise issues about the acreage, I wouldn’t say I come to these matters totally above board, we will take a look at it, that’s what I can say. That’s what I can say for the time being, we’ll take a look at it. If it’s such a major issue we will take a look at it, and the chips will fall where they may.
“I’ll have no difficulty before I come to the conclusion that the acreage is too much or any examination or interrogation were to come to the conclusion that the acreage is too much, we’ll act upon it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister has insisted the government is not selling the land. According to him, plans are rather afoot to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.
Speaking on the matter, Inusah Fuseini, a former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources under the erstwhile John Mahama administration, insisted the Owoo family, the allodial owners of the land that serves as the Achimota Forest Reserve was duly compensated, by the British colonial government, for the land.
“Compensation was paid, £4000 pounds then in 1951, 1957…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 this on Joy FM’s Top Story, Wednesday.
Besides, Mr. Fuseini recalled that during his regime as a Lands Minister in 2013, a ceremony was held in the forest to release about ninety to hundred acres of the land to the Owoo family.
“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 were released to them,” he said.
This, he said, was to prevent any further encroachment on the forest and to enable the forest to be put to good use.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Fuseini contended that the Owoo family is not entitled to any further compensation from the government.
“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 acknowledgment of the fact that they were the allodial owners of the land,” he said
He noted that the Owoo family to the best of his knowledge “have never claimed compensation of the land.”
He maintained that “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 Former Lands Minister also disagreed with the government’s declassification of the Achimota Forest reserves.
He questioned whether such a move by the government will prevent any further encroachment of the forest lands.
“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,” he quizzed.
According to the Owoo family which is said to be the custodial owners of lands presently serving as the Achimota forest, it has suffered grave historical injustice over the non-payment of compensation to it for the State’s acquisition in 1927.
The family said it has consistently requested that successive governments enable it to repossess the land, but that had not been done until recent news from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources that the government is ceding control of 361 acres of the land which is part of the forest to them.
The news has been received with mixed reactions with some claiming that the only entitlement the family has over the land is just about 90 acres and not 361.
But the family in a statement addressing the issue said the decision on the acreage due them was taken together with technical negotiators and experts.
“The Owoo Family has always maintained that compensation has not been paid for the 1927 acquisition, and the acreage due the Owoo family was arrived at through a long-standing negotiation which in many respects predates the current administration. This was done with the active involvement of various State technical negotiators and agencies,” the family said.
Persons taking on the government for ceding ownership of the land to the forest argue that since it is only adjoining to the remaining forest reserve, the ecological integrity of the forest will be compromised, however, the family has given assurances that “we commit to conducting ourselves in a manner which will not compromise the ecological integrity of the adjoining forest reserve and call on the public to please disregard any misleading contributions to the ongoing public discussions.”
Read their full statement below:
RE: ACHIMOTA FOREST AND MATTERS ARISING
We, the Owoo Family, have restrained ourselves from participating in the ongoing debate as a result of good advice and judgment.
We however reluctantly wish to set a few records straight as follows;
1. The Owoo Family, the pre-acquisition owners, of all the land acquired in 1921 and 1927 for the Achimota School, have suffered grave historical injustice;
2. The family have had to, in the past, accept and/or acquiesce to terms to enable it move on which it strongly believes have been unfair and unjust;
3. The much talked about 19th August, 2016 ceremony which has been erroneously stated in the public as an occasion when land was released to the Owoo family is false and misleading. That ceremony was a sod cutting ceremony for the development of the Achimota Forest into an Eco-Tourism park. The Owoo Family were mere invitees/guest;
4. The Owoo Family has always maintained that compensation has not been paid for the 1927 acquisition; and
5. The acreage due the Owoo family was arrived at through a long standing negotiations which in many respects predates the current administration. This was done with the active involvement of various State technical negotiators and agencies.
The Owoo family has petitioned all governments in the fourth republican dispensation and indeed is yet to take possession of any parcel of land to date.
We commit to conducting ourselves in a manner which will not compromise the ecological integrity of the adjoining forest reserve and call on the general public to please disregard any misleading contributions to the ongoing public discussions.
John Kwartey Nee Owoo
Francis Kwatei Nee Owoo
Nii Kwate Owoo
George Kwatey Owoo
Frank Nii Kwartey Owoo
Nat Holly Nii Owoo
George Annan Owoo.