Community Development Alliance (CDA) Ghana, a non-governmental organization, has demanded immediate prosecution of Helena Huang, a Chinese national, and her accomplices caught in illegal rosewood logging despite a state ban on its harvesting.
Ms Huang, 41, was reported to have been arrested by the police in Tamale on May 7th 2019, for illegal transportation of four containers of rosewood to unknown destination.
Mr Salifu Kanton, the Executive Director of CDA Ghana together with Civil Society Coalition for Climate Justice, told journalists in Wa that more than one million rosewood species have been cut from Upper West Region (U/WR) alone since 2012.
He warned that if the illegal act is not halted immediately, the region would not be habitable for humans by the next five to 10 years due to excessive heat.
He called on the state machinery to expeditiously prosecute the illegal loggers and if found guilty, prescribe appropriate punitive sanctions to serve as deterrent to others to safeguard Ghana’s environment.
The activities of Ms Huang and other Chinese nationals engaged in the rosewood enterprise, he said, “violated the laws of Ghana, especially the Timber Resources Management Act, 1997 (Act 547) and Timber Management Regulations, 1998 (LI 1649)”.
Section 17 (2) of Act 547 of the Timber Resources Management Act, frowns on a person who harvests timber without a valid timber utilization contract, or operates a vehicle to carry, haul, evacuate or transport harvested timber.
It is also an offence for a person to offer for sale, sell, buy or stock timber harvested and anyone who commits the offence, is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than six months and not exceeding two years.
Mr Kanton was also outraged that barely two days after the arrest of Ms Huang, three trucks carrying four containers suspected to be rosewood were also spotted in Wa Township and being escorted by Chinese nationals in a white pickup around Total Filling Station at Konta in the night at about 09:00pm.
He said the Wa Municipal Police Commander was informed who immediately went to the spot but by the time they arrived one of the trucks had moved on.
Though the police promised to intercept the vehicle at one of the barriers along the Kumasi trunk road, nothing had been heard about it and from the police and suspected that “the Chinese seemed to have fled with the woods.”
According to Mr Kanton, an investigation conducted by CDA into rosewood business in UWR revealed that “Chinese nationals are mostly financiers or sponsors and drivers of the illegal act,” violating the laws of Ghana with impunity.
He accused state agencies mandated to protect the environment of “condoning or abetting “crimes committed by foreign nationals to further destroy the precarious ecological system of northern Ghana.
“CDA is therefore calling on authorities to prosecute Madam Huang and her collaborators in accordance with the relevant laws to serve as a deterrent to other foreign nationals who brazenly violate our laws with impunity,” he said.
The call was premised on the fact that desertification had been aggravated in Upper West and northern Ghana as a result of uncontrolled illegal rosewood logging activities.
Mr Kanton urged the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission to take urgent steps to enforce the existing ban on logging, selling, buying, transporting and exporting of rosewood from Ghana.
He also appealed to government to implement and enforce environmental policies to protect the northern savanna ecological zone that had been adversely affected through the ongoing illegal logging of rosewoods.
He demanded state authorities take immediate steps to confiscate all available rosewood logs, equipment and machines scattered across the UWR.
The CDA Ghana had served notice that it would proceed to the law court to compel government to do the needful thing if it failed to halt the indiscriminate illegal felling of the tree species.