Feature: What’s All That Jazz About Achimota Forest?

The Achimota Forest, surely belonged to the Owoo family when in 1922, the colonial administration decided to take a portion and paid £4,000.00 as compensation. In 1927, the colonialists came back for more, promising to use part as an extension of the Prince of Wales College, now Achimota School and the other part as a forest reserve for the cultivation of fuel wood for the school. This one they paid no compensation.

In this day and era, the Owoo family has been demanding release of the portion of the land which had not been utilised for the purpose it was acquired for. According to records at the Lands ministry, the Owoo family begun the request during the J.A. Kufuor administration, continued to the Mills/Mahama administration and recently in the current Nana Addo administration. It looks like over 146 hectares of the forest land has gone back to the Owoo family. By the new land laws, since the family were not compensated for the land before the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution, the Owoo’s have the right to every inch of space of that land.

Government of the Republic of Ghana, must return the land to the family and if there has been any development on it, GoG must be the intermediary between the Owoo family and the occupants for a peaceful resolution.

In the heat of this saga, Manasseh Azure, decided to produce a will allegedly to be Sir John’s, and listed portions of the Achimota forest bequeathed to the late Forest Commissioner’s relations.

All hell, was let loose and instead of Ghanaians investigating the authenticity of that Will, people went to war against the current administration in particular and political office holders, past and present, in general. The Lands Commission came out with the news that it has no records to indicate that Sir John owned any land in the Achimota Forest and Ramsar Site, Sakumono. Yet, Ghanaians still believed what Manasseh put up.

Of the total landmass of 479 hectares of forest, only 145 hectares are in contention at the moment. That 145 hectares of land belong to the Owoo family by right, so what are we waiting for?

It is seemingly obvious that Ghanaians, in general, will allow some mischievous people to set an agenda for them and boom, there will be hitherto unknown citizens who would come to talk about the right things to do and accuse people who choose to remain silent about things that only occur in the minds of such citizens.

The whole country is then taken on a roller-coaster ride as people who want us to believe they care, will come and tell us things they want us to believe.

The real danger to this country is the rapid losing of forest cover in our forest belt. That is what Ghanaians should be talking about and not some 479 hectares in general or 145 hectares of some family’s private land in particular.

In 1972 or thereabouts, I travelled with my family from Abidjan, headed north, on road and entered Ghana at Brong-Ahafo, towards Kumasi. On the way, we came to Koforidua and I never forgot that name because I was then a student in Effiduase, Koforidua in the Eastern Region.

All the way from the Ghana border, there was what seemed like a cloud cover, but it was not a cloud cover. It was canopies of trees that made the area so serene and cool in such rich forest. Koforidua was no exception and I could hardly see the sky until we went through the town.

Thirty years on, and I went to the burial of a friend’s wife and when I got to Koforidua it was like I was on the Accra-Ada Road. All the trees were gone and none was being planted in replacement.

Between 1990 and 2010, a period spanning twenty years, Ghana lost 33.7% or 2,508,000 hectares of its 7.44 million hectares of forest cover. From 2000 to date the average rate of deforestation in Ghana is 0.6% loss of forest cover per annum.

The reasons for deforestation are topped by illegal logging and most recently by galamsey or unregulated mining practices.

We are in this Ghana,when forestry officials will permit foreigners like the Chinese to go cutting down protected species like rosewood and ensure safe passage out of the country.

We are in this Ghana, when some immigration officials were alleged to have granted visas to some Chinese illegal immigrants who were even fined by the court for the degradation of some Ghanaians lands while illegally exploiting for gold.

We are in this Ghana, while our lands and rivers are polluted by foreigners in connivance with some Ghanaians as this country is gradually getting to El-Salvador’s standards before that country declared total ban on all forms of mining when 90% of its water bodies were polluted.

These are more serious issues than some blessed family’s 479 hectares of land which is now topic of discussion, a mere 0.4% of total forest cover we lose yearly, due to recklessness, partisanship, greed, unjustified traditional authority and what have you. The day we will wake up and see arid land within our compound, no one should blame politicians or political office holders.

Now, again, this Achimota Forest saga has enable those persons who only seek the least opportunity to tell the whole world what knowledge they have and how much they care for the country, when in fact they do not, to come out talking about acquisition of state lands and properties by political office holders.

Where were they when private businesses were forcibly taken from the owners and made state businesses and after these businesses flopped due to mismanagement, they were sold to the private sector?

Edward Osei Boakye started operating the United Mattress and Foam Company in 1959 at age 26. He became to be known as Boakye Mattress and his factory was a leading one in West Africa. He also built the first fully service private hospital in the 70’s. For some reasons, the state under Rawlings took over all his businesses and his hospital became the state-owned Police Hospital.

J.K. Siaw, established Tata Brewery in 1969 and ten years later, this largest wholly own African brewery company in Africa, was confiscated by Rawlings, who gave it to the state and called it Achimota Brewery and later gave it to an international brewery company, Guinness Ghana.

B.A. Mensah started a successful tobacco company under the name International Tobacco Ghana (ITG) and like the others, Rawlings seized it in 1988 and sold it SSNIT, then to British American Tobacco and Duraplast.

Edward Boakye, J.K. Siaw and B.A. Mensah among many others had their genuine businesses unjustifiably acquired by the state. This is the real issues that should occupied our minds, because the above-named gallant Ghanaians were truly going to set the pace for a highly advanced private sector which was going to be the engine of growth of Ghana’s economy. If those businesses were allowed to stay in the hands of their original owners and more private businesses were encouraged to come up, today the nation would have been the winner.

We are here, rather talking about Achimota Forest and worse, nothing reasonable about how to return the land to the Owoo family but only about people who have acquired state lands. The state is most guilty when it comes to acquiring private properties.

We should not forget how the depressed bank, Bank for Housing and Construction (BHC) which went into liquidation and all its prime lands were sold for the price of agbeli kalaklo without copra.

We should not forget, the once vibrant Nsawam Cannery which went into private hands of an NGO founded and owned by then first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings.

We should not forget the once leading shipyard in Africa, the Tema Shipyard, which was given to private hands and sooner than later, it all fell apart.

These and all the above, are things that should engage our minds. We know which regime came to destroy the private sector and brought down any chances of Ghana rising up economically. If today we are facing challenges, we need to look at the 1980’s through to the year 2000. There we will know where we went wrong.

We should stop these lies about Sir John’s Will and the jazz about Achimota Forest.

Hon Daniel Dugan


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