16 May 2014

Ghana: Aburi Gardens Workers Threaten Demo Against DCE

Aburi — WORKERS OF the Aburi Botanical Gardens have threatened to demonstrate against the Akuapem South District Chief Executive (DCE), Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, should he continue to gag them and further encroach on the forest reserve for the proposed Assembly complex.

"If he does not stop the lies against us, we shall expose him. But our main concern is that he should refrain from destroying the forest reserve. That forest you see over there is our life, our blood, and everything," one of them noted. To the workers, any attempt by the Assembly to encroach on the forest reserve for the proposed office complex would be met with stiff opposition.

Since the creation of the Akuapem South District Assembly, the Assembly has had a terrible time transacting business with the public, as a result of unavailable offices. Due to the problem at hand, the Department of Parks and Gardens was directed to accommodate the Assembly at the premises of the Aburi Botanical Gardens. The Assembly currently occupies a section of the Horticultural Training Center, located within the Botanical Gardens.

Owing to the lack of office space for business, the Assembly, led by Kwadwo Afari-Djan, set its eyes on developing a portion (23 acres) of the forest reserve for an office complex. On March 7, 2014, the District Chief Executive invaded the forest reserve with a group of chainsaw operators, and directed them to cut down the timber species, in preparation for the proposed Assembly complex.

Mr. Afari-Gyan, The Chronicle learnt, had earlier proposed to the Minister of Local Government & Rural Development, Akwasi Oppong-Fosu, during his recent visit to the Aburi Botanical Gardens, to develop a portion of the forest reserve for the Assembly's complex. But the Minister, cautious of the implications of the said proposal, directed the DCE to engage the traditional authorities of Aburi, the custodians of the land, and the authorities of the Department of Parks and Gardens, under whose care the Aburi

Botanical Gardens operates, to see how best they could arrive at a decision in getting a piece of land for the said project. For unknown reasons, Mr. Afari-Gyan, took the law into his own hands without engaging any of the above-mentioned authorities, and took the Assembly's surveyors to study and demarcate a portion of the 172-year-old forest reserve for the project.

The demarcation was followed by the clearing of the timber species and other medicinal plants on the piece of land. However, the DCE's dream was cut short, when a security personnel of the Gardens detailed at the forest reserve raised the alarm, leading to the arrest of the chainsaw operators, and the subsequent halt of the Assembly's project.

There are widespread reports that the DCE, bent on executing the project, was planning to stage a comeback, but workers of the Gardens say any attempt would be met with stiff opposition. Mr. Afari-Gyan, when contacted, to ascertain the above-mentioned issues, declined to comment.

"Do I have an appointment with you? You can't just wake up and come here. You need to book an appointment with me," he noted, while directing his Secretary to book an appointment for the reporter. "Give him next week, Monday," he ordered. But, surprisingly, without any appointment with the radio stations, the DCE gracefully responded to the issues earlier raised in the Thursday, May 15, 2015 edition of The Chronicle, noting that his action was based upon the directive of his superiors.

"It was the Minister of Local Government & Rural Development who issued a directive that the head of the Parks and Gardens should allocate a portion of the undeveloped portion of the gardens for the Assembly complex. So, it was the Curator who took me there and allocated a portion of the undeveloped gardens to us, since the contract had already been awarded," he said.

That notwithstanding, he accused the workers of the Aburi Botanical Gardens of mismanaging the facility. "They are running away from the truth. But I will continue to pursue that agenda and bring sanity into the gardens. I will expose them. People are enriching themselves at the expense of the tax payer," he added.

But the workers, in a sharp response, said it was rather the DCE who was trying to make life unbearable for them. "What the DCE is doing here is not good. Why should he destroy our livelihood? It tells you that he wants to sack us - I mean he wants to make us jobless," argued a 58 year staff, who had worked in the gardens for 28 years and would want to remain anonymous.

Another staff with 27 years of working experience in the gardens, Emma Addo, said "I was born and bred here at Aburi. Ever since I grew up, I have never seen the forest reserve being encroached upon. The DCE must be brought to order." Mr. Obeng Manu, also with 27 years working experience in the Gardens, said the action of the DCE had affected research into medicinal plants, because where he degraded was rich in timber species and medicinal plants. "If his predecessors had put on such [an] attitude, would he ever had come to meet the forest reserve?" he queried.

Another worker with 37 years of working experience in the gardens, Maxwell Adjamoah, recounted how a similar incident occurred in 1986, and the culprits ordered to replant the trees by the then Head of State, Jerry John Rawlings. "Why should he destroy our heritage? Where did he get that power to destroy the forest? He must let us know, else we shall demonstrate against him if he tries again. The President must order him to replant the trees, just like what Rawlings did," he fumed.

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