How Akufo-Addo intends to fund the National Cathedral

BY: Kweku Zurek
Budget 2019: How Akufo-Addo intends to fund national cathedral
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta has disclosed how President Akufo-Addo intends to fund the construction of a National Cathedral without placing undue financial burdens on the state coffers.

Mr Ofori-Atta reading the 2019 Budget and Economic Policy in Parliament today, Thursday, 15 November 2018, said Akufo-Addo has proposed a partnership between the State and the Ghanaian Christian community both at home and in the Diaspora which will raise funds for the controversial project.

He said the formal launch of the national fundraising campaign has been slated for December 28, 2018, in Ghana, and February 2019 in the United States.

He said: "National Cathedral: Mr. Speaker, on March 6, 2017 - the 60th year of our independence - the President cut the sod for the construction of a National Christian Cathedral for the country that will provide the space for national events of a religious nature. A National monument, the Cathedral will house impressive chapels and baptistery, 5000-seat main auditorium, expandable to 15000 people for national events and celebrations. It will include among others, a grand central hall, a music school, and will house Africa’s first-ever Bible Museum and documentation centre, The National Cathedral project will also bequeath to the country a gracious national park for all Ghanaians; bring new skills, technology and jobs to the country; and will act as a beacon to national, regional and international tourists. Mr Speaker, the state is facilitating this process by providing the land, the Secretariat, and seed money for the preparatory phase.

"Mr. Speaker, the President is determined that the building of the National Cathedral would not put undue financial burdens on the state. He has therefore proposed a partnership between the State and the Ghanaian Christian community both at home and in the Diaspora. The formal launch of this national fundraising campaign is slated for December 28, 2018 in Ghana, and February 2019 in the United States. This National Cathedral partnership framework operationalizes, and indeed is a practical expression, of the social partnership envisaged to foster participatory development of country as our collective goal".

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On March 6, 2017, President Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the construction of a National Cathedral to be sited close to the State House in Accra.

He described the Cathedral as an inter-denominational Worship project in thanksgiving gesture to God for the blessings He has bestowed on the country on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.

That ceremony had in attendance the heads of various Christian denominations in the country including the Accra Metropolitan Archbishop, the Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle, and Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams of the Action Chapel.

The architecture of the national Cathedral was designed by British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye, the founder and principal of Adjaye Associates.

“I have sought to craft a building that not only understands its landscape but one that will be unique to Accra and the Ghanaian Nation,” Sir Adjaye said in a statement

"The new structure, inspired by the concepts of unity, harmony, and spirituality, will sit on 14 acres of gardens near the Osu Cemetery in Accra, and it will be a gathering place for people of all faiths".

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Some critics questioned the importance of constructing a Cathedral before other development projects but Akufo-Addo in October this year mounted a defence describing the project as "a priority among priorities".

Responding to a question from the Editor of the Financial Times, Mr Lionel Barber, at the 5th Financial Times Africa Summit in London, the President said with Christians constituting 70 per cent of the Ghanaian population, the project would be a rallying point for strengthening the unity among Ghanaians.

Akufo-Addo said just as national cathedrals could be found elsewhere in the world, including Washington, DC, USA, so did Ghana also see it as an important spiritual need, for which the means would be found to build it.

Court suit

In March 2017, Mr James Kwabena Bomfeh the acting General Secretary of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, arguing that Ghana was a secular state hence it was wrong for the state to be “excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice”.

He implored the court to declare as unconstitutional the building of the National Cathedral and state involvement in the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

He is seeking “a declaration that the decision of the Government of Ghana to purposely endorse, assist, aid, partly sponsor, and/or support the construction of a national cathedral near the State House of Ghana, for Christian interdenominational church services amounts to an excessive entanglement of the Republic of Ghana in religion and therefore unconstitutional’’.

In September 2018, Mr Bomfeh filed an application for an interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain any activity towards the construction of the cathedral, including the demolition of residences of judges.

The suit will next be heard on November 21, 2018, after the Supreme Court directed the parties involved to file their legal arguments.