The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Odododiodioo, Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, has deserted his colleagues pushing the Akufo-Addo government to rescind its decision to hand over a whooping 361.50 acres of Achimota Forest land to saying he is a member of the Owoo Family; said to be pre-acquisition owners of the land on which forest reserve sits.
Interestingly, his side of Parliament; the Minority side, has so far issued two statements asking President Akufo-Addo to revoke Executive Instrument 144, which seeks to declassify some portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve, because it is in breach of the provisions of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925).
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, explained that per the Act, the regulation of land use and spatial planning in Ghana is not conferred on the President.
But the Odododiodioo MP, claimed that his great grandmother, Naa Kwarley Quartey, and her husband, Nii Owoo, were the owners of the land before it was taken over by the state.
Vanderpuye, who was speaking in a Good Morning Ghana interview, added that his family began the fight to claim portions of the Achimota Forest land in the 1990s when the late ex-President Jerry John Rawlings was in power.
“… The said land was acquired by Nii Owoo and my great grandmother, Florence Naa Kwarley Quartey Vanderpuye. After leaving Vanderpuye, she (Naa Kwarley) married Nii Owoo. She was quite rich, she owned a lot of lands and she gave a lot of lands out for public good.
“I grew up to get knowledge (of this history) from my grandfather. So, in the cause of time, I felt that we the matrilineal side, the Vanderpuyes, we have not been treated fairly, so I contacted our cousins the Owoos and said [look the land was acquired by our great grandmother and our great grandfather, it looks like you have taken us out].
“So, instead of litigating we joined forces to petition, in fact, we started from the days of Jerry John Rawlings… he (Rawlings) was so passionate, you know his mother also married into the family… he was so particular about this and he said I went to Achimota School and I will not allow even a quarter of this land to be taken away. He even got mad with the extension of the golf course to eat into part of the forest,” he said.
The MP, who is a former Minister of Sports, further stated that it was during the era of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor that the state began to give peripheral portions of the Achimota Forest land back to his family.
He said, the Kufuor government agreed to give his family 90 acres of the land, after the strong appeal of the family which the John Dramani Mahama and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo governments all increased after several petitions and negotiations.
Vanderpuye added that he is particularly worried that even though his family members, including himself, have not gotten their share of the land because they were waiting for it to be declassified as a forest reserve, it appears that some government officials have already acquired some acres of the land.
Interestingly, one Nii Odoi Kwao II, member of the Osu stool, has described as a “scam” any individual claiming to be a member of Owoo family demanding portions of the Achimota Forest land, insisting there is no such family name existing within the Osu Traditional Area.
In a JoyNews interview, Wednesday, May 25, he stated that, if the government wants to release portions of the Achimota Forest lands to allodial owners, then it should be the people of Osu and not the supposed Owoo family.
“It is a scam [Owoo family name] because the Owoo family does not exist in Osu. That is number one and they are saying that the Owoo family petitioned them. I am telling you there are thousands and thousands of petitions that the Accra people have made to the government.
“We are saying that, okay fine, we cannot fight the government, if the government wants to release lands and they are sure they are releasing the lands, it is not to the Owoo family, it should be to the people of Osu,” Nii Odoi Kwao II said.
To him, the man known as Nii Owoo died in 1867 without any child; meaning that, the late Nii Owoo was not succeeded by any family member.
He explained that because Nii Owoo had no child, his sisters’ children presented themselves as his successors at the time of the acquisition of the Achimota Forest land but they were not given ownership of the land.
“Nii Owoo himself died in 1867 and he had no child at the time of his death, so nobody succeeded him. Nii Owoo, has nothing, he joined with the Gbese people. So when this acquisition came in 1921, Nii Owoo’s sister’s children constituted themselves into a new Nii Owoo family and came for the land. Now when they came, they came on the ticket of the Gbese Mantse because it was the Gbese Mantse who gave him a place as a refugee to live and that place includes part of the Achimota Forest.
“If today there is an Owoo family claiming the Achimota Forest land, then it is fraud,” Nii Odoi Kwao II stressed.
“We want to go to court. We will be going to court, even though we have some reservations and then we will petition the government …. if they want to release the land, we are all for it,” he added.
But Haruna Iddrisu, who is the MP for Tamale South contended that the President’s exercise of power for the issuance of the Executive Instrument 144 pursuant to section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157) is untenable as “Section 90(1) of Act 925 provides that: Where a provision of this Act is in conflict with any other enactment relating to land use, the provision of this Act shall prevail.”
“The Executive Instrument numbered 144, the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 issued “By Command of the President” and signed by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, claims to be made in exercise of the power conferred on the President by section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157). However, the current law regulating land use and spatial planning in Ghana is the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925). It is clear that Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of Act 925,” portions of the statement read.
For this reason, the Minority wants the President “to do what is right and proper by respecting the provisions in the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925)and the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution of actually holding public lands on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”
“It would be in the President’s own interest and the interest of his Government simply to revoke the E.I. 144 instead of, once again, showing contempt for the laws of Ghana and the interest of the Ghanaian people,” the statement from Minority read.
The Caucus said Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space requires Parliament’s approval before such action. Thus, they believe once Parliament has not given approval to such action, government cannot declassify the Achimota Forest reserves land.
“Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space, states unequivocally that: “… the change of use or re-zoning of a public space shall be subjected to approval by Parliament.
“Therefore, besides the role of the District Spatial Planning Committee, Parliamentary approval is, therefore, a requirement for the change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve area. Section 96 of Act 925 requires that the re-zoning to be done before Government can convey the land to any person.”
Meanwhile, a former Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, who has been speaking on the matter and also pushing against the release of the land to the Owoo family challenged the circumstances which led to the increase of the acreage of Achimota forest land ceded to the Owoo family.
Reacting to the recollection contained in a statement issued by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor on Tuesday [May 24, 2022], Alhaji Fuseini said he was not a party to the alleged extension of the initial grant of 118 acres to 198.501 acres.
“I am unaware and unconnected to any subsequent attempts to vary the initial grant of 118 acres to the pre-acquisition owners of the land as alleged by the current minister of Lands and Natural Resources,” Alhaji Fuseini said in a statement.
“I could not have varied the initial grant because I am fully aware of the implications of Article 58 of the Constitution of Ghana and could not have placed myself in that awkward position”.
Per the Ministry’s statement, despite the fact that the Afari-Dartey Committee recommended the release of an acreage of 118.023 on September 30, 2013, the Forestry Commission executed three (3) leases in favour of the Owoo Family totaling One Hundred and Forty-Eight point Four One One acres (148.411 acres).
It said the Forestry Commission further issued a Deed of Variation in 2014, granting the Owoo Family another 50.09 acres, bringing the total acreage granted to the family to 198.501 acres, adding that “by a letter dated 4th April 2014, the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, MP, wrote to the Lands Commission to amend its records to reflect the grants made to the Owoo Family”.
However, Alhaji Fuseini in a statement copied to Graphic Online said his April 4, 2014 letter to the Lands Commission was in respect of the original grant of 118 acres of land to the Owoo family and not the increase.
“It bears repeating that I was not a party to the alleged extension of the initial grant of 118 acres to the Owoo Family. My letter of 4th April, 2014 to the Lands Commission was in respect of the original grant of 118 acres of land to the Owoo family as captured at the last paragraph of the said letter. That letter read together with the original Lease executed by the Forestry Commission in favour of the Owoo Family will leave no doubt in the mind of anyone reading those two documents that they are referrable to the same 118 acres of land granted the Owoo Family pursuant to a cabinet directive. I could not have acted otherwise,” he said.
He further disclosed that that letter was addressed to the “Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission to accept for registration the lease granted the Owoo Family by the Forestry Commission which allocated to them only 118 acres of the peripheral portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve on compassionate grounds”.
He also expressed his support for the reversal of the declassification of portions of the Achimota forest reserve as contained in E.I 144 and for an independent enquiry to be launched into the matter.