George Osei, Coordinator, National Forestry Taskforce
The Forestry Commission (FC) has resolved to clamp down on the activities and operations of illegal chain saw operators.
To this end, newly appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commission and former General Secretary of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), lawyer Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie famously known as Sir John has issued fresh notices to the taskforce division of the Commission to arrest and impound any individual or group of persons who would be seen or caught in engaging in illegal activities that would deplete the country’s forest reserves.
In an interview with DAILY GUIDE, Coordinator of the National Forestry Taskforce, George Osei served notice they are no longer living no stone unturned in the quest.
This was a day after they impounded several truckloads of logs of rosewood tree being carted from the three northern regions to the Tema habour for shipment abroad.
The taskforce comprise a team of officials from the Forestry Commission, the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Armed Forces who currently operate in only six regions; Greater Accra, Eastern, Western, Volta, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions.
They were acting on a tip off since rosewood is banned specie and thus is not allowed to be felled or exported out of the country.
Asked why and how come the drivers and these vehicles do not get impounded or arrested all the way until they get to the capital city, Mr Osei said “some of them that you see here are from Kintampo but they passed through the northern part of the country; through Tamale and then through the northern part of the Volta Region and then they were finding their way to Tema through Afienya and Akuse where we had information and alerted our men.”
Apart from that, he said “this is very technical; most of the police and the military don’t know they are banned species; aside that most of drivers and owners of the woods have fake documents they present as though original to cover the products which the police and military cannot detect.”
These are documents supposedly issued by the Forestry Commission, an issue the Taskforce Coordinator said they were investigating to ascertain those involved and bring them to book.
To stem the tide further, Mr. Osei indicated “we have intensified our patrolling activities and have also reviewed our penalties. When we impound a truck, we realized that the penalty were quite low and were not deterrent enough. So we have reviewed them upwards.”
Also, he indicated “the new chief executive that we have has shown much interest so we have talked to our men on the field to step up their game in clamping down on the activities of these illegal chain saw operators and soon you will see the results.”
The new CEO is said to be considering also the option of reshuffling members of the taskforce to achieve the expectation and also expand the scope and mandate of the taskforce to cover all 10 regions across the country.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu