Home / General News / Ghana rosewood committee didn’t do justice to our findings – EIA

Ghana rosewood committee didn’t do justice to our findings – EIA

Washington-DC based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is unhappy with the committee set up by the Ghana government to investigate serious allegations of corruption and collusion by officials in the matter of illegal logging of rosewood in the country.

The EIA is disappointed that even though it submitted all of its findings including the methodology it used in estimating the volume of rosewood lost to Ghana and contacts of all individuals accused of collusion in their report, with additional information, the organization doesn’t think the committee did a fair job.

Meanwhile, Chinese customs trade data shows that 147,760,190 kg (value $87,628, 864) of rosewood was imported into China from March to December 2019, with the most recent ban in effect since March. As recently as December 2019, data shows that 7,941,771 kg (value $5,368,120) of rosewood was still being imported from Ghana by China, the EIA says.

The committee was set up after the EIA published its report on Ghana showing massive felling of rosewood trees that were being exported to China with the active connivance of government officials.

The government issued a press statement sharing highlights of the committee’s report, a week after an investigative report by ghanabusinessnews.com, detailing the scope of the problem in the country’s three northern regions.

In an exclusive interview with ghanabusinessnews.com to seek the EIA’s response to the committee’s report, Lisa Handy, the Director of Forests Campaign of the EIA, says even though they submitted all the details of their investigation and additional information to the committee, they were unhappy with the conclusions of the committee which found no government official culpable and disputed almost all the findings of the EIA, including the volume of rosewood felled in Ghana during the period under review.

When ghanabusinessnews.com asked Handy if the EIA was contacted by the committee, she responded: “Yes, they did eventually contact us asking for our evidence, our methodology and the contact of the people we refer to in the investigation. We were happy to share with them all the evidence used publicly in our report as well as additional information,” she says.

She added: “We made a point to share our database regarding the trade data and the clear methodology that allowed us to estimate the equivalent of rosewood trees traded from Ghana, based on the Chinese customs data. We were expecting them to contact us to further discuss what we presented, as mentioned in the letter they addressed to us, but such outreach has not occurred to this point. It took a long time for them to formally request the information from us in the first place. On October 14, 2019 we received a letter from the Ministry (dated October 7).”

The key issues we raised have not been properly addressed, and unconvincing justifications have been given. This applies to the trade disparity, issuance of export permits despite the ban, issuance of CITES permits despite the ban, etc. The explanation offered to justify the difference between Ghanaian and Chinese data due to misdeclaration is very unclear to us.”

In response to the committee’s position that the multifaceted allegations by the EIA on institutionalized corruption, collusion, trafficking, and the lack of law enforcement in the rosewood trade in Ghana, stand to damage the country’s international reputation and its compliance with legality requirements under the VPA-FLEGT mechanism, Handy has this to say: “Let’s be clear: this is not our intention. EIA is a very strong supporter of the VPA-FLEGT processes, and very much support the VPA negotiations taking place in Ghana. We believe Ghana can play an important international role to show the way to better forest governance, in particular through the long engagement of the country in the VPA-FLEGT process.”

Stating the intentions of the EIA, she said; “What we want actually is to strengthen this process. When nearly 20 per cent of the timber traded by Ghana internationally (in value) over the past years is excluded from the VPA-FLEGT process – where the goals are to focus on important issues of legality and governance – we believe something must be done. Bringing the rosewood timber trade into the VPA standard, in terms of legality, transparency and general governance is essential.”

On the committee’s disagreement of the EIA estimates of the volume of rosewood exploited from Ghana to China, indicating that the EIA’s estimate of over six million rosewood exported from Ghana between the period 2012 – 2019, is a gross over-estimation of Ghana’s rosewood export trade volumes, noting that the actual volume exported in the same period, 2012 – 2019 was 489,766, the EIA, says it stands by its research and calculations.

“We have shared our methodology and underlying data in full with the committee. It is public. Let’s now compare methodologies, as we would welcome the opportunity to know how the government arrived at a number that is ten-fold less. We would like to work together to sort this out, and would welcome the opportunity to establish a direct dialogue with the Forest Commission in Ghana to address the issue,” Handy said.

The committee while, admitting that there is a large disparity between Ghana’s recorded export volumes and China’s import volumes, it attributed that principally to the deliberate misclassification and misdeclaration by Freight Forwarders, as a result of a lack of institutional capacity in the Ghana Revenue Authority – Customs in relation to timber species identification.

According to Chinese customs trade data, 147,760,190 kg (value $87,628, 864) of rosewood was imported into China from March to December 2019, with the most recent ban in effect since March. As recently as December 2019, data shows that 7,941,771 kg (value $5,368,120) of rosewood was still being imported from Ghana by China.

Welcoming the creation of the investigative committee, the EIA argues; “the results we see now, many months after the deadline set by the Minister, are far from what we expected.

The key issues we raised have not been properly addressed, and unconvincing justifications have been given. This applies to the trade disparity, issuance of export permits despite the ban, issuance of CITES permits despite the ban, etc. The explanation offered to justify the difference between Ghanaian and Chinese data due to misdeclaration is very unclear to us.”

“The real problem at the moment is that all the attention is focused on what the government said, what EIA answered, etc. while the systemic issues we uncovered continue to go unaddressed – the traffickers continue their destructive work and the forests continue to be devastated.

According to Chinese customs trade data, 147,760,190 kg (value $87,628, 864) of rosewood was imported into China from March to December 2019, with the most recent ban in effect since March. As recently as December 2019, data shows that 7,941,771 kg (value $5,368,120) of rosewood was still being imported from Ghana by China.

“What is of greatest concern to us is the fact that the rosewood crisis we described in August 2019 is still happening in February 2020,” she said.

See the committee’s report.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Copyright ©2020 by Creative Imaginations Publicity
All rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in reviews.

Check Also

Police administration to serve personnel on lockdown duties meals

The Police Administration has decided to serve personnel meals to avoid the situation where officers …