Illegal loggers of rosewood in Northern Ghana are unleashing havoc on residents and the environment.The Criminals have raided forests in far flung communities in the “Overseas Valley” in the Northern region and are hacking down fresh rosewood trees with blatant impunity.
A Starr News investigation has revealed that the scale of felling is so massive that it threatens the sustainability of the environment, farmlands, food security and communal harmony.
The illegal felling is the consequence of permits issued by the Forestry Commission on the instructions of Lands and Natural Resources Minister Nii Osah Mills.
The signs of devastation brought about by the illegal loggers are visible right from Kpasenkpia through Kunkua to Jadema. Roads and bridges constructed for light vehicles and motorcycles have been ruined by heavy duty trucks laden with 40 footer containers bearing the illegal lumber. These heavy duty trucks carrying such logs have rendered some sections of the roads unmotorable.
In Communities such as Yikpabongu, Yizeesi, Taantala and Tuvu, the illegal loggers have been chased out. As a consequence, their operations have gone underground.
Nonetheless, some use these villages as transit points and access routes to reach the new locations being used for their illicit affairs.
Today’s spike in demand for rosewood traces its roots to the construction of the Bui Dam in the Brong Ahafo Region and the construction of the Sawla Fufulso road in the Northern Region.
“The Government decided to develop the Bui Dam area. They were going to flood the all the areas behind the dam. These areas had quite a number of rosewood material which needed to be salvaged before they flooded the area. We did not want to repeat the episode that happened in the Volta Lake where the flooding was done before the trees were removed. So we gave permits to salvage the trees within the waters, and that was the start of the mass exploitation of rosewood and the sale and export of same,” according to Raphael Yeboah, Executive Director, and Forestry Services Division of the Forestry Commission.
This first batch of permits culminated in the massive devastation of lands by illegal loggers prompting then Lands and Natural Resources Minister Inusah Fuseini to ban the harvesting, export and collection of lying rosewood in 2014.
“Companies would come to me, and say before the ban of the rosewood, we had felled some trees. Give us permission to go and collect the logs we have felled. When they go, they don’t collect, they fell more. So anytime you want to ban, you will find more rosewood in the bush. The only way was to make it totally unattractive. They are in the forest and cutting, they do it in the night and you can’t control that. So they only way to deal with the problem was to ban it-no one moves rosewood. It was a total ban,” said former Minister Alhaji Inusah Fuseini.
For a little over a year, this ban succeeded in freezing the unguarded felling of the trees.
However, the resurfacing of this illegality is intimately linked to instructions issued by Nii Osah Mills, authorizing the Forestry Commission to grant approvals to some 13 Companies to pick wood which had been salvaged.
Although similar permits in the past triggered widespread plundering of large swathes of woodland, the Lands Minister, still gave the go ahead for Time Concepts Ghana Limited, Kofi Vinyo Company, Brasoma Ltd, Savannah Investments Ltd among others to be allowed to access to the logs.
These approvals have emboldened traffickers to march into these far flung villages to tear down trees.
In order to monitor the activities of the companies, the Forestry Commission announced a special taskforce comprising personnel of the Military, Rapid Response Teams, and Representatives of the Timber Division. However, Bernard Naasara Saibu who spent 1 week in the affected communities, reports that evidence of the taskforce could not be found, as illegal chainsaw operators unleash harm on the environment. Checkpoints erected along the highways to Accra to smoke out illegal logs being conveyed to Accra are dormant.
In some Communities such as Taandoo, some Farmers have been threatened with death by the illegal loggers. Yakubu Alidu a hapless young man, escaped the indignity of menial jobs down South to return home to farming. However farming is getting risky because farmlands endowed with rosewood are being targeted:
“My farm had 12 rosewood trees. One hot afternoon while relaxing under their shade, a group of young men wielding chainsaws came onto the farm claiming they wanted to cut the trees.I stated that the trees were on my land and I wouldn’t allow them to be touched. The trees had been there since the days of my grandfather. They shield us when the sun gets unbearable. Why cut them down,” Yakubu told Naasara Saibu in Yizeesi.
Yakubu tells Starr News he was threatened by the traffickers.
“They insisted the trees would be cut because they had permits. They also mentioned that they enjoyed the protection of powerful people and would not hesitate to end my life if I dared stop them.”
Under the circumstances, Yakubu narrated in a despondent tone, “I surrendered his farm to the whims of the loggers”.
In one of their most daring adventures, the loggers have invaded Ghana’s Mole National Park.
In a serialized multiple part documentary, the investigation reveals that the loggers have won Chiefs onto their side through modest inducements, rendering Assembly Members incapable of acting.
Attempts to reach the Lands and Natural Resources Minister to justify the grant of permits have not been successful.
– Source: Starrfm