Ghana losing from lack of single consolidated forestry law

Clement Akapame, Faculty of Law, GIMPA
Clement Akapame, Faculty of Law, GIMPA

A lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Mr Clement Akapame, says Ghana loses a lot from not having a single consolidated clear legislation for its forest resources and needs to address the situation.

Speaking at a forum in Accra organized by Civic Response, an NGO in natural resource and environment, and the Editors Forum, Ghana (EFG) a GJA-affiliated body of editors and senior journalists, Clement Akapame told journalists that in place of having a single unified law, Ghana currently has multiple Acts and Legislative Instruments – some of them dating as far back as 1927, with inconsistencies.

Several attempts in the past to consolidate the various parliamentary Acts and Legislative Instruments on forestry, were all abandoned in time.

“From a cursory count, we have 27 parent legislations and LI regulating the management of forest resources in Ghana, so today if you ask the question, what law regulates the grant of permits, you must look through not less than 27 laws”, he said.

Providing an instance of inconsistency, Mr Akapame said while the Timber Resources Management Act of 1998 forbids lumbering without a Timber Utilization Contract given through competitive bidding and ratified by parliament, the Act’s 2003 amendment has the provision that the Minister can grant timber rights without parliamentary ratification and without competitive bidding.

As a result of the current legal regime and its inconsistencies and lack of clarity, Mr Akapame said there is weak enforcement of law in lumbering.

“If the laws are not clear it becomes difficult to implement. It becomes difficult to enforce because the legal regime is complicated and unclear”

The lecturer also explained that Ghana loses from not being able to attract trade by proving adequately on the international market, that lumber being exported is legal, in conformity with the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU: the definition of legal lumber is highly contingent on Ghana’s law and its clarity.

Additionally, loss of forest cover and illegal logging which is estimated to cost Ghana $200 million annually, also flourishes because the law is not clear.

“To stem illegal logging, we will need to clear our legal regime and the only way to offer clarity in a regime where you have in excess of 27 laws, is to bring them all together in one uniform body of law,” he said.

A lot of the taxes due government from lumbering is also not paid because of the lack of clarity in the law.

According to the Auditor General’s report 2013, about 37 timber companies owing about GH¢2.85 million and $3.2 million to the Forestry Commission, largely gave the enactment of the Timber Resource Management Act (Act 547) as their reason for not paying, saying that the new Act does not compel them to.

Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, Chairperson of the EFG, alluded to similar insightful forums held in the past and reiterated the EFG’s commitment to educating journalists on topical issues and providing platforms for their discussion.

The discussion of the consolidation of Ghana’s forestry legislation, started around 1996 after the promulgation of the 1995 Forest and Wildlife Policy, but got truncated in 1998 when the Forestry Commission moved to pass the Timber Resources Management Act.

In 2009, the issue of consolidating all Ghana’s legislation in forestry, was revisited after Ghana had got into the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union, which required government to establish forestry governance measures against illegal lumbering.

The process was truncated again – however in 2011, with Ghana opting for a quick fix in a Legislative Instrument.

In late 2011 to 2012, a new Forest and Wildlife Policy emerged, giving rise yet again to the issue of consolidating Ghana’s forestry legislation.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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