The Owoo family in Accra, have expressed their displeasure about the ongoing public discourse on the alleged declassification of the Achimota Forest in Accra.
According to them, they have suffered, ‘grave historical injustice’.
In a statement by the principal elders of the family on Thursday, the family disclosed that, to date, they have not taken custody of any parcel of land in the Achimota Forest.
This, they said, is on what is due, despite their engagements with various regimes in the fourth republic.
“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.
“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.
“The much talked about August 19, 2016 ceremony which has been erroneously stated in the public as an occasion when the land was released to the Owoo family is false and misleading,” the family said.
According to the family spokesperson, “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/guests.”
The Owoo family said it has always maintained that compensation has not been paid for the 1927 acquisition”, portions of the statement emphasised.
The family also added, “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 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”.
The concerns by the Owoo family, were in reaction to recent discussions on the Achimota Forest, following the circulation of an eight-paged document which was widely circulated on social media.
The document purported to mean that the classification of the Achimota Forest Reserve has been lifted to pave way for a possible redevelopment for other purposes.
According to the Owoo family, it initially restrained itself from commenting on the matter; but has been compelled to set the records straight, due to the misrepresentations in the public.
Having stated their side of the story, they pledged to conduct themselves in a manner, “which will not compromise the ecological integrity of the adjoining forest reserve”.
They also called on the general public to disregard any misleading contributions to the ongoing public discussions.
Meanwhile, 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.
According to him, “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.”
The former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources under the erstwhile John Mahama Administration made this revelation 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 was 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.
On Tuesday, there were widespread rumours about the sale of the Achimota Forest.
Following the public outcry on the alleged declassification of the Achimota Forest Reserve, the sector Minister, Samuel Abu Jinapor, dismissed the claims that the Forest has been sold.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mr Jinapor wrote that the “Achimota Forest has not and will not be sold.”
Shortly after, he held a press conference to further clarify the matter. In his address, he insisted that government has no plans of selling the Forest. Adding that, plans are rather afoot to give the Forest a world-class status.
According to him, 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”.
He, therefore, urged the public to disregard any reports about the sale of the forest.
“So for the avoidance of doubt, neither President Akufo-Addo nor myself or his government intends to sell the Achimota forest or redevelop the Achimota forest as currently constituted”, he said.