The Forestry Commission has uncovered the illegal activities of some wood dealers after a thorough investigation into their operations following complaints made to the Commission over the wrongful seizure of wood by staff of the Commission.
A group of 45 wood dealers besieged the Forestry Commission Headquarters in Accra with complaints of wrongful seizure of their wood.
Among the complaints were that, the staff of the Commission and the Monitoring team at the various check points, seized wood with supposedly genuine documents; that vehicles conveying wood were stopped and checked unnecessarily by the Commission and vehicles carrying seized woods were held up for days and weeks at the Commission’s checkpoints and depot.
Mr Oppon Sasu, Executive Director Forest Services Division, who briefed the press, said the Commission after the complaints decided to conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain the truth about the complaints and find measures to deal with them.
He said the investigation took the form of studying the documents presented by the wood dealers, visit to the companies where the wood was purported to have originated from, obtain reports from the check points, and interviewing with persons involved in the issues.
Mr Sasu said investigations revealed that owners of seized wood had forged the signatures of owners of timber milling firms and timber companies on their illegally acquired waybills and gate passes.
“The claims of the wood dealers as having secured their wood legally from recognized sawmills are false and some Forestry Commission staff are also found to have been involved in issuing false documents to the wood dealers,” he said.
Mr Sasu said the Forestry Commission taskforce teams conducted inspection of every truck carrying wood at the various check points, therefore, before any truck would be arrested or detained, the team would have had some level of suspicion.
“Some trucks also carry proper sawmill wood but the source is doubtful as the supposed sawmill owners are not able to declare the legitimate source forests from where those trees were felled, either in the forest reserve or salvage permit areas outside forest reserves”, he said.
He said the Commission through the investigation noticed that registration numbers of the trucks carrying the wood were different from the ones stated on the documents covering the wood.
Stock numbers were also repeated on different documents, which was an indication of deliberate felling outside the approved number of trees, he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Emmanuel Tei, a Chief Resource Guard with the Tema District of the Forest Services Division, Forestry Commission, was shot on January 25, this year.
Mr Tei was in the company of his assistant, Mr Atsu Tormeh on a routine patrol.
The victim was then rushed to the Kordiabe Health Centre where he was stabilized and referred to the Dodowa Government Hospital for further treatment.
Mrs Edith Abrokwah, Operations Director Forestry Service Division, said an x-ray conducted on him revealed that he had five pellets embedded in his body and a surgery was needed to be conducted to remove them.
She called on the security services to bring justice to Mr Tei and the Commission as a whole by identifying his assailant(s) to face the law.
“We are also appealing to all Ghanaians to help Forestry Commission protect Ghana’s forests by co-operating with our staff at all levels in the enforcement of all legislation that are intended to secure the integrity of the nation’s forest reserves and protected areas,” Mrs Abrokwah added.