The Minority Caucus of Parliament has noted the Statement by the NPP Government to justify the patently flawed change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve.
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 the 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.
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.” Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of public space, states unequivocally that: “… the change of use or re-zoning of a public space shall be subjected to approval by Parliament.”
Section 198 of Act 925 interprets “public space” to mean a “generally open area accessible to and used by the public including resource lands … natural park areas, forests, urban parks, recreational areas…”.
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 be done before Government can convey the land to any person.
It is well known that Article 257(1) of the 1992 Constitution vests public lands “in the President on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”
The definition of “public lands” in Article 257(2) undoubtedly covers the Achimota School Reserve area. Holding such lands in trust also means the President must comply with the laws of Ghana. The said E.I. 144, which seeks to change the use or re-zone the Achimota Forest, which is a public space, has no legal basis and should be disregarded by all.
It is remarkable that the President seeks conveniently to use provisions in an outdated colonial law, while disregarding current law, to dispose of parts of the Achimota Forest Reserve against the will and interest of the Ghanaian people. This is clearly an abuse of trust.
The NDC Minority, therefore, calls on President Nana Akuffo-Addo 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.
We call on the President, H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to, in accordance with Article 278 of the 1992 Constitution, appoint an Independent Commission of Inquiry into all the matters relating to the Achimota Forest land saga.
The NDC Minority shall continue to seek the best interest of the Ghanaian people.