Four Ghanaians have sued the government over its decision to cede the 16.2 square kilometre Achimota Forest Reserve to a foreign investor for eco-tourism.
According to filed court documents, the government had signed an agreement with Aikan Capital Limited for the Achimota Forest Reserve situated in Accra to be transformed into an eco-tourism facility, but plaintiffs in the suit are of the view that the deal will harm the environment and pose health and other risks to residents of Accra.
The plaintiffs are Dr Adolf Lutterodt, an educationist; Ms Dede Amanor Wilks, a development specialist; Mr Kwame Dadzoe, a lawyer, and Ms Elizabeth Tettey-Sei Adams, a businesswoman.
“Plaintiffs are informed that the agreement for the project has the backing of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the sector ministry in charge of forests, and the Forestry Commission,” a statement of claim accompanying the writ of summons noted.
The plaintiffs are, therefore, seeking an order “declaring that the removal of the Achimota Forest is inimical to the public welfare, public health and the interest of the people of Ghana”.
The defendants are the Attorney-General, the Forestry Commission, the Lands Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In a writ of summons filed on their behalf at the Human Rights Division of the High Court by their lawyer, Mr Bright Akwetey, the plaintiffs are pleading with the court to declare that the removal of the forest will degrade the environment and endanger the flora and fauna in the forest.
It is also seeking a declaration that the health benefits from safeguarding and preserving the forest far outweigh the economic benefits anticipated by the government by the removal of the forest.
It is further seeking an order to restrain the defendants from interfering with the forest to protect, preserve and enhance its benefits to the environment for the people of Accra.
In addition, it is praying for an order for perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants from undertaking any activity or initiating any step to transform, change or interfere with the forest in any way.
Statement of claim
A statement of claim accompanying the writ stated that the plaintiffs were of the firm belief that “the removal of the forest cover and the greenery provided by the Achimota Forest in exchange for an eco-tourism facility was inimical to the health of the people living in Accra and its environs and posed a threat/danger to the health of the environment and must be stopped by an order of the court in the supreme interest of the people of Accra”.
It said the removal of the forest would offend against the duties entrusted by law to the Attorney-General, the Forestry Commission, the Lands Commission and the EPA.
According to the plaintiffs, they, just like other Ghanaians, had a duty to safeguard and protect the environment.
According to the statement, the defendants “are shirking their legal, moral and social responsibilities by taking the decision to remove the Achimota Forest for financial benefits, to the detriment of the health of the people living in Accra”.
It said the removal of the forest reserve would further degrade the already degraded environment in Accra, to the benefit of a foreign investor’s financial gains.
It was of the view that the health of the people living in Accra should not be exchanged for the financial benefits of the investor.
It noted that unless otherwise ordered by the court, the Lands Commission would be directed by the government to issue the appropriate documents of title to the investor to undertake the eco-tourism facility project.
It also noted that unless ordered by the court, the EPA would also be directed by the government to issue appropriate authorisation and permits to the investor for the implementation of the project.
According to the statement, unless stopped, the Attorney-General’s office would use its “powers of coercion to facilitate the removal of the forest for the degradation of the environment, to the detriment of society but for the benefit of the investor”.