Gov’t extends ban on Rosewood export indefinitely

By Godwill Arthur-Mensah, GNA   

Accra, Feb. 14, GNA – The Minister of Lands
and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, on Friday directed that the
ban on Rosewood harvesting, transportation, processing and export announced in
March, 2019, should remain in force indefinitely.

He asked the Forestry Directorate of the
Ministry to liaise with the Forestry Commission to develop modalities for
enhancement of monitoring mechanisms within the various hotspot Rosewood
districts to eradicate its illegal harvesting.

He charged the various metropolitan,
municipal and district assembles to collaborate with other relevant state
agencies to ensure that Rosewood is not transported through any routes from the
districts

The decision comes after government
carefully scrutinised and studied the report and recommendations of a
seven-member committee established in August last year, to investigate alleged
corruption in rosewood trade.

The Government, through the Ministry of
Lands and Natural Resources,  in August 2019,
set up a seven-member Committee, chaired by Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, a Deputy
Minister, to investigate alleged corruption and illegal trade of rosewood
despite the ban placed on it in March that year.

The move follows the publication of an
investigative report by the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) in July
2019, alleging corruption by top government officials in export of the wood to
China.

Addressing a news conference in Accra, Mr
Asomah-Cheremeh said in the interim, all stockpile of rosewood lying in the
various sawmills and hotspot across the country should be evacuated to a
central location for auctioning for value-added processing.

To enhance the general outlook its trade, he
said, attention should be placed on freight forwarding companies that falsified
documentation to cover wood export, especially illegal rosewood to Vietnam,
adding that those companies should be named and shamed.

In the long term, the Sector Minister tasked
the Forestry Commission to conduct a comprehensive inventory of rosewood
resources to establish its sustainable exploitation levels and promote
plantation development.

“A recent publication shows that China has
banned illegal timber import from Ghana. This policy initiative is, indeed,
good for Ghana’s Rosewood export trade and our efforts towards the issuance of
FLEGT licence under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement,” Mr Asomah-Charemeh
said.

The Sector Minister urged interested parties
including the local and international media to focus attention on countries
like China and Vietnam that import illegal timber from Ghana.

The Committee was given five weeks to work
and present its recommendations to the Sector Minister but extended the
deadline due to the extensive nature of the investigation.

It eventually worked for eight weeks and
presented the final report on December 23, 2019.

It has representatives from the
Parliamentary Select Committee on Forestry, Customs Division of the Ghana
Revenue Authority, Civil Society Organisations, Forestry Commission and Foreign
Affairs and Regional Integration as well as some representatives from the
security agencies.

The Committee was unable to prove the
allegations of corruption made by the EIA against government officials of
colluding with rosewood exporters to short-change the state.

The video footages and other materials
provided by the EIA did not have enough evidence to back its corruption claims.

Again, the actual rosewood exported between
2012 and 2019 was 489,766 trees and not six million trees as EIA alleged in its
publication.

The Committee uncovered that a number of
permits issued for rosewood were diverted to Vietnam and the volumes approved
on the permits were altered.

Its collaboration with the Vietnamese
Customs revealed that some Ghanaian freight forwarding companies produced
fictitious documents at the blind side of the Customs Division of the GRA.

It, therefore, recommended a forensic audit
to be conducted in some selected companies who engaged in that fraudulent
export trade and bring them to book. 

GNA

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