Corruption Watch and fourteen civil society organizations have petitioned the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate the acquisition of state lands and related matters arising from the publication of the will of Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie.
On Monday, The Fourth Estate broke the story on the will of the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, who was the chief executive of the Forestry Commission until he died in 2020.
His will, which has shocked the nation with the massive wealth the politician has bequeathed to his family and loved ones, contained lands owned by the state.
Corruption Watch, in a petition dated May 24, 2022, wants the Special Prosecutor “to investigate the alleged acquisition of several acres of alleged state lands situated in the Achimota Forest and Ramsar sites in Sakumono by three artificial persons namely Jakaypros Limited, Fasoh Limited, DML Limited, and two natural persons namely Charles Owusu, an officer of the Forestry Commission and Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John, now deceased, who served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission from March 2017 until July 2020.”
Corruption Watch, an anti-corruption initiative by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and a coalition of anti-corruption civil society organizations wants the Special Prosecutor to find answers to the following questions in its investigations:
- Whether the said lands were owned by the Republic of Ghana at the time of their alleged acquisition by Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, Jakaypros Limited, Fasoh Limited, DML Limited, and Charles Owusu.
- The circumstances of the alleged acquisition
- The Beneficial Owners of the companies implicated in this transaction and compliance with the reporting requirements of such persons where they are PEPs under ss. 13, 35, and 126 of the Companies Act 2019 (Act 992)
- Who authorized the alleged sale or purchase of the lands?
- Whether the interests in the lands have been registered?
- Under what authority the person/s/ institution authorized the said sale or purchase?
- Whether any amount of money was paid for the said lands and to whom?
- Whether the PEP and public officers who own these properties have complied with the Code of Conduct for Public Officers under Chapter Four of the 1992 Constitution, particularly as it relates to Article 286 of the Constitution?
- The propriety or otherwise of the said sale or purchase?
- Whether other natural or artificial persons who are PEPs have also acquired lands illegally in the Achimota Forest and Ramsar site in Sakumono
- Any other related matters
Fourteen CSOs petition CHRAJ
In a similar development, fourteen CSOs have filed a separate petition with CHRAJ to probe alleged conflict of interest by state officials in acquiring lands at the Achimota forest and Sakumono Ramsar site.
This petition, also dated May 24, 2022, comes in the wake of the extensive reportage by The Fourth Estate on the humongous properties left behind by Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John.
Mr. Afriyie who was a former secretary of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) left behind a will that included parcels of land at the Achimota Forest and Sakumono Ramsar site among others. These lands in particular have come under heavy scrutiny because they fall within protected lands under the laws of Ghana.
The fourteen civil society organizations want CHRAJ to “investigate the matters surrounding the Achimota Forest, the de-gazetting of some portions, and the people who purportedly now own or have leased or sub-leased portions of the forest either personally or through a business.”
They also want the commission to “investigate both the substantive and procedural flaws in the allocation of the lands in the Achimota Forest and Sakumono Ramsar sites and reverse all such transactions where there is a conflict of interest involving public officers, their assigns, hirelings, and related companies.”
The petitioners argue that Sir John’s ownership of those lands while in office as the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission amounted to a conflict of interest and therefore steps should be taken to return those assets acquired to the State.
They said while the alleged acquisition of state land by state officials and the related conflicts of interest and possible collusion with other state officials ran very deep, public officers who are required by Ghana’s Constitution to declare their assets have not done so.
The Petitioners also believe “that any allocation of portions of the Achimota Forest lands to public officers or companies of which they are shareholders or the beneficial owners since 2017 amounts to conflict of interest and all such leases, assignment or however the interest or right should be canceled and returned to the state.”
Protected lands and Sir John’s will
According to the Forestry Commission, the Achimota Forest Reserve, a 360-hectares land and arboretum, was gazetted in July 1930 to create a green buffer between the Achimota School and the city of Accra. With time, provisions were made by the government to turn the forest into a Nature Reserve, Recreation Park, and Nature Study Facilities for children, students, and researchers.
The Ramsar sites on the other hand are lands reserved to serve as the relaxation and feeding grounds for over 70 waterbird species.
A few days after the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John A. Jinapor, announced the declassification of parts of the Achimota Forest as a forest reserve, The Fourth Estate revealed that Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie had already acquired some portions of the Achimota Forest lands through Fasoh Limited, DML limited and jointly with some named individuals. The details were contained in his will.
On page 5 of the will, it is stated: “I give my land also situate at the Achimota Forest in the name of Fasoh Limited and measuring 0.987acres to my nephews Michael Owusu, Yaw Boadu and Kwabena Amoateng forever.”
On the same page, the will states: “I jointly own a piece of land at Achimota Forest with Charles Owusu. Upon my demise, my portion of the said land should be given to Ruth Korkor Odonkor.”
Still, regarding the Achimota Forest on page 5 of the will, it states; “I give my portion of land that jointly own at the Achimota Forest in the name of DML Limited to Elizabeth Asare Boateng who at the time of making this will is domiciled in the USA forever.”
The 14 CSOs, led by Civic Response, a natural resource and environmental (NRE) governance policy advocacy organization, have petitioned CHRAJ to investigate the alleged conflict of interest by state officials.
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