The Forestry Commission has reemphasized its resolve to continue to arrest and prosecute people who engage in illegalities in the forestry sector.
“The Forestry Commission will not allow anybody to profit from such illegalities; we will continue to arrest people who engage in these illegal activities,” the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie cautioned at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday, January 29, 2019.
The Press Conference was held to respond to several allegations and outcries from Wood dealers from the Sokoban Wood village in Kumasi about unlawful seizure of their wood by the Commission’s monitoring team.
The wood dealers besieged the Commission’s premises recently to present their grievance to the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission.
Among their grievances were that: the Commission’s staff at various check points seize wood with supposedly genuine documents, vehicles conveying wood are stopped unnecessarily by forestry commission monitoring teams , while vehicles carrying seized are held up for days at the Forestry Commission check point and Achimota depot for weeks.
After receiving the grievances, an investigation was conducted by the Commission into the matter and it was found that owners of seized wood had forged the signatures of owners of timber milling firm on their illegally acquired waybills and gate passes. In particular, according to the Commission, the signature of the log yard manager of the LLL was forged in some instances.
“The claim of the wood dealers as having secured their wood legally from recognized saw mills were false,” the Commission maintained.
The commission admitted that some of its staff were found to be involved in issuing false documents to the wood dealers. These officials, the Commission said have been relieved of their posts.
The Commission said its task force team conducts physical inspection of every truck carrying wood at the various check points, “therefore before any truck will be arrested or detained, the team would have had some level of suspicion.”
Explaining further, Mr Oppong Sasu, Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division of the Forestry Commission indicated that some trucks also carry proper sawmill wood but the source is doubtful as the supposed sawmill owners are not able to declare the legitimate sources forests from where those trees were felled, either in the forest reserve or salvage permit areas outside forest reserves.
He said the investigation also revealed that registration numbers of trucks carrying the wood are different from the ones stated on the document covering the wood, adding that the stock numbers are repeated on different documents which is an indication of deliberate felling outside the approved number of trees.
Mr Sasu pointed out that “the investigations conducted by the Forestry Commission officials indicate that the claims of the wood dealers have no basis. The arrested truck were carrying illegally sourced wood and they have managed to cover it with forged documents.”
He noted that whenever the wood is seized, the owners or drivers of the trucks quickly submit to sworn affidavits indicating they would not indulge in such acts again.
He used the occasion to inform all prospective and present wood dealers that the doors of the Forestry Commission are always opened for consultation on how to deal in legal wood, that, he said ,” will ensure the sustainability of our forests and ensure climate change mitigation.”
Meanwhile the Commission has also given update on its staff, Mr Emmanuel Tei who was shot by an unidentified person last week at the Chipa Forest Reserve while on duty.
Given the update, Mrs Edith Abrokwa, Operations Director at the Forestry Commission said Mr Tei’s condition has currently been stabilized after a surgery was conducted on him to remove some pellet from his body.
She told journalists,” Mr Tei is in a stable condition and the incidents has been reported at the Doryum police station.”
Mrs Abrokwa added, “We therefore call mall authorities involved, to bring justice to our staff, Mr Emmanuel Tei and Forestry Commission as a whole by identifying his assailants to face the full rigours of the law. We are also appealing to the all Ghanaians to help the Forestry Commission protect Ghana’s Forests by co-operating with our staff at all levels in the enforcement of all legislation that are intended to secure the integrity of the nation’s forest reserves and protected areas.”
By Mohammed Suleman