Benjamin Mensah, GNA
Accra, Aug. 14, GNA - Despite a ban placed on the harvest and trade of rosewood for the fifth time in March this year, the illegal logging and export of the specie continues unabated.
The ban was put in place in 2012, but the unlawful harvesting and trade is still occurring, with at least six million trees being exported to China.
Dr Clement Apaak, MP for the Builsa South Constituency, speaking at a press conference in Parliament House, said “…We were all overjoyed when on 12th March 2019, Mr Kwaku Ansoma Kyeremeh, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, announced a renewal of this ban.
“The evidence is clear that this ban was being flouted and the illegal felling is ongoing but the Minister and his Deputy continue to deny it -“now the truth is out.”
Sourcing information from a recent report from the Washington based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Dr Apaak, who is a leading campaigner on the illegal harvesting and trading in rosewood, blamed the Minister and the Deputy for not being truthful about the activity and accused members of the ruling government for being behind the flouting of the ban.
“After several months of investigations using undercover agents, they discovered that despite the Minister’s latest ban announced recently, the Forestry Commission is still issuing permits to political activists to harvest and export rosewood illegally,” Dr Apaak said.
Quoting the report, Dr Apaak said “powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country with the help of some ruling party members.”
“The report said these activists are using a number of tactics to get the illegal trade going including “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of use timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of permits.”
“There is a high level of corruption, collusion, institutionalised trafficking and the lack of enforcement at the heart of the illegal rosewood business, “Dr Apaak said, adding that some traffickers hire well-connected personnel who guarantee the secure movement of rosewood logs from the logging site to Tema port.
Describing the EIA report as very juicy, Dr Apaak gave more details of the illegal activity for which after they are stopped, that traffickers pay pittance penalty fee of GH¢1500.00 - GH¢1700.00 against the right amount US$15,000, “and receive respective conveyance and permits in return, and then the logs are released to escorts and traffickers so that they can export.”
Dr Apaak said he has petitioned the Office of the Special Prosecutor over the bribery allegation, to prosecute offenders.
He called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo to institute a probe into the illegal rosewood business.
Dr Apaak said the Lands and Forestry Minister should have resigned from his position by now, as he is accused of lying over the felling of rosewood to Parliament.
Dr Apaak said the activities of illegal rosewood fellers is threatening the very survival of the people of Builsa South, as their activities is causing desertification, drying up of water bodies, less rain, food scarcity and more north- south migration.