The Forestry Commission (FC) has sent a notice to the Aburi Botanical Gardens, urging the, management to process and prosecute the Akuapem South District Chief Executive, Kwadwo Atari; GvanTand his accomplices, who invaded and destroyed a portion of the Gardens’ forest reserve by illegally cutting down some economic trees.
The Forestry Commission considers the action of the DCE and his accomplices as criminal, which must be punished by the law, –
“If you use a chainsaw machine to convert a tree into lumber without authorization from a competent forestry officer, you are liable for imprisonment to a term not exceeding two years and a fine or both.
“So, the DCE without authorization should be tried at the court”, noted an insider at the Forestry Commission, who is privy to the court directive communicated to the Curator of the Aburi Botanical Gardens.
He added, “It is a joint action between the Forestry Commission and the Aburi Botanical Gardens.
But we are urging the Gardens to go to court because the DCE and his people do not have any documentation.”
The directive, The Chronicle learnt, was communicated to the Curator of the Gardens, Mr. Albert Asiedu, about two weeks ago.
On Friday, March 7, 2014, Mr. Afari-Gyan stormed the .172-year old Forest Reserve of the Aburi Botanical Gardens with some chainsaw operators, and directed them to cut down the timber species, in preparation for the proposed office complex for the Assembly.
Mr. Afari-Gyan, The Chronicle learnt, had earlier proposed to the Minister of Local Government & Rural Development, during his visit to the Aburi Botanical Gardens, to develop a portion of the forest reserve for the Assembly’s office complex.
But the Minister, cautious of the implications of the said proposal, directed him (Mr. Afari-Gyan) to engage the traditional authorities of Aburi, the custodians of the land, and authorities of the Department of Parks and Garden':, under whose care the Aburi Botau cai i trdens operates, to see how best they could arrive at a decision in getting a piece of land for the said project.
But Mr. Afari-Gyan, for unknown reasons, 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 forest reserve for the project.
The demarcation was followed by the clearing and cutting down of the timber species and other medicinal plants on the piece of land for the said project.
But in the course of clearing the land, a security man at the place raised the alarm, leading to the arrest of the chainsaw operators, who were later handed over to the police for interrogation.
About an hour after their arrest and subsequent detention, Mr. Afari-Gyan went and bailed them, with the explanation that he ordered them to encroach the forest reserve.
But the Forestry Commission says such an attitude flouts the laws of the land, hence a legal action against the DCE and his accomplices, to deter others from carrying cut similar criminal offenses in future.
“The tree is different from the Parks and Gardens. Even if the Department of Parks and Gardens need any of the trees for their work, they have to seek the permission of the Forestry Commission before they can cut it down.
“It is like if I have a land and there is a mineral in it, I still have to see the Mineral Commission for documentation before I can process anything on it”, argued the insider, who did not want his name to be mentioned because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.
Nonetheless, he argued that it was going to be a difficult task, looking at the government appointee at the center of the controversy.
Authorities of the Aburi Botanical Gardens, when contacted over the matter, remained tight- lipped, but deep throat sources within the Gardens say such a directive would be very hard to comply with, since the DCE and management of the Aburi Botanical Gardens are all agents of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
“The directive looks very awkward and impossible for the Gardens to pursue”, noted the source who spoke to The Chronicle on condition of anonymity.
According to him, the directivi was to take legal action against tl chainsaw operators they arrested and handed them over to the Poli for illegally cutting down some economic trees in the forest resei in preparation for the constructio of an Assembly office complex posed by the DCE.
“The advice was for us to taki legal action against the chainsaw operators we arrested, but in reft ence, it was directing us to prose cute the DCE. It was the DCE v admitted to engaging the service of the chainsaw operators and sc going to court is impossible.
Imagine that we go to court, will do so under instruction fror the Ministry of Local Govemnu and Rural Development.
The DCE, who is also an ag« of the Ministry, would take the same path. So at the end of the we will end up fighting ourselv explained the source.
The source averred that sine directive was also coming fron another government body, the Gardens would do its best to a solidate the advice and find air ble solution to the impasse.
In the meantime, the source authorities of the Botanical Ga have decided to replant the ecc nomic trees felled by the DCE an attempt to reclaim the degn portion of the forest.
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