General News of Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Accra, Oct. 29, GNA - The Nii Owoo Royal family, the family from whom the Achimota Forest Reserve was acquired by the colonial government in 1921, has denied that it is being put up for sale by the government.
In a statement signed in Accra on Wednesday by eight elders, the family said the colonial government paid compensation of 4,000 pounds for the land where Achimota School is located and its environs, which was designated as a woodlot now known as the Achimota Forest.
"However, by a subsequent legislation in 1927, the last remaining strip of the Owoo family land, bordering the forest acquisition, was further annexed by the colonial government as a buffer to protect the forest from encroachments. However, no compensation whatsoever was paid to the family."
The Owoo family said in 1998, the Achimota School Board of Governors devised a building scheme entitled "Site and Service Project" to sell parts of the western corridor to private developers and demarcation work began.
It said the family sued Achimota School for recovery of possession, and the judge, Mr Justice Yaw Appau ruled that, "the Achimota Board were mere custodians of the government and that if they had breached the covenant for use 'for public education purposes only' then we need not have even come to court. He directed us to the Allodial Title Owners to seek redress from the government who is the legal owner."
The statement said the family sent two petitions to President John Agyekum Kufuor in 2006 and 2007 to regularise "the encroachments and the release of the appropriate strip of land, for which no compensation was paid".
It said the government agreed "to regularise the encroachments subject to the payment of penalty and to work with the appropriate state institutions to sanitize the encroached areas in conformity with approved planning standards".
Regarding the release of the buffer strip, the family was informed by the government that steps were being taken on their behalf to release half of the expropriated strip for which compensation had not been paid in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
"Government further observed that the Accra Central Business District is choked with no room for further expansion, and that while Accra is becoming a central business hub within the West African sub-region, the limited business areas do not support the vision of transforming Ghana into the gateway to West Africa.
"The government further noted that construction of the George Bush Motorway along the site provides an ideal opportunity to transform the area into a high density commercial centre property to improve the outlook of the city and provide the private business community with opportunity to expand their businesses. Government's position also supports the Ghana Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy objective of making the private sector the engine of growth."
The statement observed that the outcome of these consultations were that the "Achimota Forest remains essentially intact" and "the portion being returned interfaces the motorway and the forest and represents a mere five per cent of the total."
The Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines has also denied reports that it had been directed by the Office of the President to fast track the sale of the Achimota Forest to an entrepreneur for the construction of a shopping mall.
A statement issued by Mr Charles Wereko, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry, said government had no plans to sell or dispose of the only greenbelt in the metropolis.
"The Ministry can confirm receipt of a petition from Nii Owoo family, the original owners of a portion of land adjoining the Tema Motorway extension around the Dimples Junction, requesting the ministry to return the said land to them. "Nii Owoo family petitioned government for the land which was originally acquired in 1927 under the Public Ordinance Certificate title No. 220/1927 for the construction of Achimota School."