The Minority Caucus in Parliament has called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to, in accordance with Article 278 of the 1992 Constitution, appoint an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the matters relating to the Achimota Forest land saga.
Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the Minority Caucus had taken note of the statement by the Government to justify the patently flawed change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve.
He said 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 the Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of Act 925,” he said.
Mr Iddrisu said 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.”
He said 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.”
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…”.
The Minority Leader said besides the role of the District Spatial Planning Committee, Parliamentary approval was, therefore, a requirement for the change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve.
He said Section 96 of Act 925 required that the re-zoning be done before the Government could convey the land to any person.
It was well known that Article 257(1) of the 1992 Constitution vested public lands “in the President on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”
Mr Iddrisu said the definition of “public lands” in Article 257(2) undoubtedly covered the Achimota Forest Reserve area. Holding such lands in trust also means the President must comply with the laws of Ghana.
He noted that the said E.I. 144, which seeks to change the use or re-zone the Achimota Forest, which was a public space, had 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,” Mr Iddrisu stated, adding: “This is clearly an abuse of trust.”
“The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority, therefore, calls on President Nana Akufo-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”.
Mr Iddrisu said the NDC Minority shall continue to seek the best interest of the Ghanaian people.