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State-land grabber Freddie Blay defends Sir John’s loot

The National Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Freddie Blay, wants Ghanaians to cut the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, alias “Sir John”, some slack over the content of his purported will.

Freddie Blay, who together with then Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, the Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpianim, KT Hammond and a tall list of government appointees got part of the International Students’ Hostel land during the John Agyekum Kufuor era, insists it is extremely unfair for anyone to assume the industrious Sir John amassed wealth and acquired assets because he was in political office.

Freddie Blay, got the land, while serving as the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and also the Member of Parliament for Ellembelle, Dr Kofi Koduah Sarpong, got it while serving as the Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the wife of the current CEO of Petroleum Commission, Egbert Faibille, Nana Yaa Faibille and high-profiled personalities like the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, got lands at Cantonments, Accra at knockdown prices.

“People have misconstrued and exaggerated it. I have known Sir John, he is my contemporary. He is a lawyer, worked at several places and owned some businesses. I don’t know how he acquired his assets, but I will not be in a hurry to say that he obtained everything within two years. So we shouldn’t use this to judge Sir John”, he emphasised.

Lands Minister shoots down Sir John’s Will on Achimota Forest and Sakumono Ramsar site May 24, 2022

Freddie Blay, spoke to the media over the weekend on the sidelines of the Western Regional NPP delegates conference at Ampain in the Ellembelle District.

Ghanaians have been outraged and have taken to social media to express dissatisfaction after a purported Will of Sir John emerged on social media platforms with portions of the Achimota forest lands allegedly belonging to him, given out to his relatives at a time the government is giving portions of the Achimota Forest land.

Sir John, also disclosed in the Will that he also owned land at the Ramsar area in Sakumono in Accra.

Touching specifically on the subject matter of the portions of the Will that had to do with State lands Sir John owned, Freddie Blay, was convinced the acquisition was not made through dubious means.

He stressed that his one-time political fellow, will not abuse his power as head of the Forestry Commission to obtain land for himself, adding that the public should exercise some restraint and allow for thorough investigations before making any conclusions.

“Investigations have started as to what it is. Perhaps, it is part of the land that has been given to the [Owoo family] that Sir John might have purchased. It is not that he, as a former CEO of the Forestry Commission, has gone to get a place for himself. It is not so.”

The NPP Chairman insists it will also be hasty to rope in the larger NPP into the development and cast corruption-related aspersions against its members.

“Fortunately, it has come out, and it is part of our drive against corruption. If indeed he acquired them illegally, why not? But people shouldn’t make it look as if Sir John has bought State lands, all NPP members are crooks, and they have all acquired properties illegally”, Freddie Blay advised.

Commenting on the Achimota lands in particular, the Honorary Vice President of policy think tank Imani Africa has observed that about 70% of the Achimota Forest Reserve has been declassified.

Speaking on Newsfile on Saturday, Bright Simons said that as stated in the Executive Instrument (EI) 154, only 372.75 acres of the original government recognized 1185 acres of land have been left as a forest reserve.

He told the host Samson Lardy Anyenini that “the EI 154 suggests that because the former President, John Mahama intended to make a part of it an eco-tourism park and a part of it to be given back to the Owoo family, for that reason, we need to now leave a segment as the forest reserve.”

He explained that “the land (left) specified in the schedule is 372.75 acres. You go back to the original area as recognised by the instrument itself and you do a subtraction to see which part has actually been declassified. When you do that math, 70% of it is gone, the majority of the forest reserve is gone.”

Mr Simons said that contrary to the argument that the forest reserve had been taken over by encroachers, the forest in its 100-year history had been managed well and better than other reserves until 2015.

He stated that the Achimota Forest reserve had not seen a significant degree of build-up or destruction as compared to the Gua Koo reserves and Shai Hills.

“This lays the foundation for the critical argument that if for almost 100 years, we have managed despite all our challenges to keep something in the degree of about 73% of the forest, relatively unscathed then, its quite surprising that declassification has now put the forest at the greatest peril since it was created.”

Bright Simons said that the move to declassify the forest reserve is a dangerous one; adding that “we spend about 100 years to get about 27% encroachment and now with one swoop of a pen, we are going to desecrate 70%, that is not acceptable.”

His explanation follows the wide circulation of an eight-page document on social media, which purported to mean that the classification of the Achimota Forest Reserve has been lifted to pave way for a possible redevelopment for other purposes.

The Instrument gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, stipulated that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve, pursuant to Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157).

However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, said the government is not selling the land.

According to him, plans are rather in place to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.

Addressing the press on Tuesday, May 17, the sector Minister emphasised that widespread reports about the supposed sale of the Forest are false and baseless, as the government has no such plans.

“The government intends to enrich the Achimota forest, revamp it and hopefully in the not too distant future, transform it into the likes of High Park of London and Central Park of New York, where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature and forest reserve as it happens in other parts of the world”.

But, Mr Simons insists that the Achimota Forest under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a classified area and thus can limit the use of the land by certain activities.

He explained that Ghana’s IUCN obligation development allowed forest reserves to primarily focus on agriculture, forestry and tourism, not residential development or commercial development like the malls or the central business district plan that was touted in 2008.

“Things like hunting (with licenses)and being able to take wild honey from the forest, let’s say sustainable harvesting of some type of wood species, these are the kinds of things you do in the reserve and tourism.”

But “most of the things that we see happen when they release the land, even though it is a forest reserve is illegal. Because, it’s not in compliance with our own domestic legislation and international norms which we have subscribed to,” Mr Simons added.

Written by Web Master

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