Forestry C’ssion Fights Police

The Police Officers asking officials of the Commission to vacate the area.

There was near confusion at the Achimota forest yesterday when officials of the Forestry Commission (FC) took journalists to the reserves to see at first hand how the activities of a private developer, Platinum Properties, were affecting their operations.

Upon reaching the area where the private developer was alleged to have encroached on, a team of policemen at the site confronted the officials of the Forestry Commission and demanded to know their mission there with the journalists.

The police claimed that officials of the FC even though mandated by the constitution to protect the forest did not seek prior permission from the Regional Commander of Police before entering that portion of the forest.

That resulted in a heated argument between the two sides when the police ordered the officials of the Forestry Commission and the journalists to leave the land, with the latter insisting on having every right to enter onto the land.

By that time, tempers had started flaring—with the policemen insisting they were instructed to prevent any individual, group of persons or corporate entity from entering the disputed land.

The presence of camera-wielding journalists seemed to have prevented the argument from turning into a nasty scene.

The Commercial Development Manager of FC, David Kpelle, could not fathom why the police instead of protecting the Commission, which is a state institution, was rather working in the interest of the private developers; raising concerns as to what they   (police) stand to gain in what they did.

‘I don’t understand why the police will be protecting a private developer against another state institution,’ Mr Kpelle quizzed.

Later at a scheduled press conference, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commission, Samuel Afari Dartey, expressed disappointment in the action of the police, especially the Greater Accra Regional Commander, DCOP Christian Tetteh Yehonu, hinting that ‘instead of assisting the Forestry Commission to pursue our constitutional and legal mandate of protecting the forest reserve which belongs to the state of Ghana, he has rather sent his men to prevent us from doing so, while allowing the private developer to erect a wall.’

For him, that was incomprehensible since according to him, ‘The echelon of the police command is not aware of these actions of the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander.’

According to the FC Boss, similar actions by initial developers had resulted in the loss of about 140 hectares of the original 495 hectares to urban encroachment.

The Police Commander claimed he was acting on the instructions of the National Security in the interest of the state and not to protect any private any individual, and therefore, saw nothing wrong with his action.

The Forestry Commission as an institution had however vowed ‘not to allow the destruction of the Achimota forest to continue’, with a call on all Ghanaians to support them in the fight against the depletion of forest reserves.

In view of that, Mr Afari Dartey said, ‘We are doing everything possible to safeguard the rest of the 360hectares.

In exercise of its mandate to protect the Achimota forest reserves, the FC had instituted an action in court to stop the destruction of portion of the forest which the private developer was trying to destroy.

They had also initiated an action to erect a wall around the forest and also to facilitate ease of patrol by their protection staff.

He further pointed out that if the forest is not protected; Accra would end up importing water in the future as he strongly claimed that ‘all water bodies might dry-up.’

By Charles Takyi-Boadu & Mervin Tarlue

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