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Committee to probe Rosewood smuggling can’t be trusted – Dr. Apaak

Source The Ghana Report/Gloria Kafui Ahiable

The Member of Parliament for Builsa South Constituency in the Upper East East Region, Dr. Clement Apaak has expressed fears that government’s committee set up to probe the smuggling of Rosewood in the country cannot be trusted to do a good job.

The MP is dumbfounded as to how the same board reportedly implicated in the smuggling of rosewood has been tasked by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources to investigate the issue.

According to him, the involvement of the board who have been alleged to be deeply complicit in the ongoing illegal rosewood trade raises a lot of concerns hence making their commitment to the job, questionable.

“I truly cannot expect any meaningful outcome from the seven member committee. The true motive for setting up this committee is yet to be known, but I suspect it’s to cover up and or deflect attention from my petition to the Special Prosecutor,” portions of the post read.

Dr. Apaak’s comments come on the back of the inauguration of a seven-member committee to investigate the findings of the US-based Environmental Investigations Agency’s (EIA) publication that alleged that rosewood smuggling is rampant in the country despite a nationwide ban by government.

The Investigative report by the EIA revealed that “powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through the help of ruling party members in government”.

According to the Builsa South MP, the “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of permits,” as quoted by the EIA report is course for worry hence the need for thorough investigations.

Government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has inaugurated a seven-member committee to investigate the findings of the US-based Environmental Investigations Agency’s (EIA) publication that alleged that rosewood smuggling is rampant in the country despite the ban.

The committee is to be headed by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural resources, Benito Owusu-Bio.

Members of the committee have five weeks to investigate the matter and report their findings.

Read below Dr. Clement Apaak’s facebook post on rosewood

Rosewood Diaries – Folks the committee set up by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources to investigate the allegations made in the EIA report can’t be trusted. The committee is put together and will report to the Minister, it’s chaired by one of his deputies and has members drawn from the Forestry Commission, the Ministry, Customs among others.

How can the very same entities alleged to be deeply complicit in the ongoing illegal rosewood trade investigate a matter they are alleged to be involved in or superintending over?

I truly cannot expect any meaningful outcome from the seven member committee. The true motive for setting up this committee is yet to be known, but I suspect it’s to cover up and or deflect attention from my petition to the Special Prosecutor, here is why:

1) On 30th July 2019, an internationally reputable not for profit institution, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) based in Washington DC, USA, published a damning report after several months of undercover investigation titled: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.”

2) According to this official report, despite government ban on harvesting, transportation and export of rosewood which has been in place since 2012 and recently renewed on 12th March 2019 by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, the illegal trade has been ongoing.

3) Undercover investigations by EIA revealed that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government. The investigation revealed that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) members and their compatriots in government “have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and illegal licensing of the timber.”

4) The report said these NPP members and their cronies are using a number of tactics to get the illegal trade going including; “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of permits.”

5) The investigators found that Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission even allegedly receives a percentage of the value of the rosewood exported illegally. He was allegedly being bribed to sign export permits illegally. EIA published a video of one of the rosewood traffickers confessing to bribing the wildlife boss.

6) The investigators found that “conveyance certificate,” from local Forestry Commission offices without which the rosewood cannot be transported from forests to the harbour are still being issued illegally despite the ban when bribes of up to 3,000 Ghana cedis is paid commission officials. The report revealed that as recently as 15th May 2019, several months after the ban, forestry commission officials allegedly received financial inducements to sign an export permit. A copy of the permit is contained in the report.

7) The report also pointed out that some of the traffickers hire well-connected personnel who guarantee the secure movement of rosewood logs from the logging site to Tema port to escort the rosewoods. The report said; “these groups are connected to ministers and officials in the timber business and are well aware of whom to pay along the road.” It also said once the logs arrive in Tema port, shipping agents help obtain – or forge – all documents required to clear customs.”

8) In February 2019, a Joy News documentary produced by Joseph Opoku Gakpo uncovered similar evidence that despite the ban on rosewood, there’s been the continuous felling of the valuable species fueled by acts of corruption and bribery as confirmed in the documentary.

Folks, I pray and hope that the Special Prosecutor would not be influenced by this needless committee. I’ve faith that the Special Prosecutor will do his job regardless of the sudden coming into being of this questionable committee.

I remain a citizen.

Dr. Clement Abasinaab Apaak
M.P and P.C, Builsa South

 

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