Builders of the controversial National Cathedral are scheduled to start work on March 5, 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo has announced.
“On the eve of our nation’s 63rd independence anniversary on5th March, construction will begin,” he said.
He made this known at a fundraising ceremony for the project in Kumasi on Thursday.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that the National Cathedral was important because Ghana has been spared civil wars, extreme famine and epidemics since gaining independence in 1956.
Thus, the structure will be an act of thanksgiving for God’s blessings, favour, grace and mercy on the country.
Secondly, he explained that 71 per cent of Ghanaians are Christians and an interdenominational national cathedral will unify the Christian community and promote national cohesion.
Mr Akufo-Addo also welcomed a decision by the Supreme Court in rejecting a suit challenging the constitutionality of the action by the government to embark on the project.
For Mr Akufo-Addo, a completed national cathedral at the designated location at Ridge in Accra will serve as a thanksgiving token and fulfilment of his promise to God for the New Patriotic Party’s victory in the 2016 polls.
He was optimistic that the cathedral will be an iconic infrastructure for national, regional and international pilgrimage and tourism.
The National Cathedral of Ghana, designed by British-Ghanaian architect, David Adjaye, received a backlash by a section of the public when President Akufo-Addo unveiled the estimated $100 million project in 2018.
The cathedral will have an auditorium capable of seating 5,000 as well as the requisite chapels, and a baptistery. The site will also house a music school, an art gallery, and a museum dedicated to the Bible.
Many believe it is a misplaced priority as the country grapples with unemployment, low infrastructural investment, high debt, health issues and other developmental needs.
“At a time when taxes are going up, banks have collapsed and you can’t pay for social programmes, is it really the thing to do to build a cathedral?” Yaw Nsarkoh, Executive Vice-President of a multi-national company, Unilever for Ghana and Nigeria, is quoted by the Financial Times in an article published on November 2, 2018.
However, a section of Ghanaians has endorsed the building of the national cathedral.
“You can’t say: ‘Until we are wealthy, we cannot afford national pride,’” Edward Effah, Chairman of Fidelity Bank, is reported to have said by the Financial Times publication.
One of the disgruntled individuals is the General Secretary of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Kwabena Bomfeh, who instituted legal action in March 2018.
He was 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’’.
However, in January 2019, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, by seven-member panel ruled that the constitution has not been breached by the President’s actions.
The verdict was presented by presiding justice, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyera. The other Supreme Court panellists were Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Anin Yeboah, Mr Justice Sule Gbadegbe, Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo and Mr Justice A. A. Benin.