The Builsa South legislator, has petitioned the Office of Special Prosecutor, demanding the prosecution of members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Forestry Commission officials, including Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie [Sir John] and Lands Minister, Kwaku Asomah Cheremeh.
Dr. Apaak, says all those cited in the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) investigative report for taking bribes to facilitate illegal rosewood export, should be brought to book.
A report by the Washington-based Agency, claimed that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers, are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country.
This the group said is done through “the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government” despite a government ban.
“They have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]- licensing of the timber,” the report said.
Appalled by such a development, Dr. Apaak, who addressed a news conference on the issue in Accra, on Wednesday, called on Martin Amidu to look into the issue.
Dr.Apaak, said it was worrying that one of the most influential Ghanaian traffickers who spoke to the EIA undercover investigator alleged that some seized “containers were about to be auctioned to him thanks to his [political] connections”.
“Clearly, the rule of law has been thrown to the dogs in this country. The lives of Ghanaians are being undermined and the environment is being desecrated just because a political party needs to help its members to make money.”
He said he was using the EIA report as well as the video in which the traffickers mentioned the names of the FC officials involved in the trade were attached to it as evidence to his petition to Mr Amidu.
He also added Joy News’ ‘Killing our roses’ documentary to his petition.
The MP said he is convinced the OSP will be prompt to act on the petition.
The ranking member on Parliament’s Education Committee said described the development as the highest form of injustice which is nothing near what Ghanaians voted for.
He called on President Akufo-Addo to institute an investigation into what has happened and to ensure that those involved in the illegal trade are punished.
“He should begin by dismissing the CEO of Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie [Sir John], who will obviously be complicit because of his dual responsibility as a leading NPP member and the man in charge od the Commission.
“Secondly he should also fire his Lands Minister, Kwaku Asomah Cheremeh, for supervising this rot…he should have done the honourable thing by resigning by now,” he said.
Below is the full petition…
13th August 2019
The Hon. Martin Amidu,
Office of Special Prosecutor,
PETITION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION AT FORESTRY COMMISSION FUELLING THE ILLEGAL HARVESTING AND EXPORT OF ROSEWOOD TIMBER
1) On 30th July 2019, an internationally reputable not for profit institution, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) based in Washington DC, USA, published a damning report after several months of undercover investigation titled: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.” I have attached a copy of the report.
2) According to this official report, despite government ban on harvesting, transportation and export of rosewood which has been in place since 2012 and recently renewed on 12th March 2019 by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, the illegal trade has been ongoing. Analysis by EIA shows since 2012, over 540,000 tons of rosewood – the equivalent of 23,478 twenty-foot containers or approximately 6 million trees – have been illegally harvested and exported to China.
3) Undercover investigations by EIA revealed that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government. The investigation revealed that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) members and their compatriots in government “have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and illegal licensing of the timber.”
4) The report said these NPP members and their cronies are using a number of tactics to get the illegal trade going including; “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of permits.”
5) The investigators found that Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission even allegedly receives a percentage of the value of the rosewood exported illegally. He was allegedly being bribed to sign export permits illegally. EIA published a video of one of the rosewood traffickers confessing to bribing the wildlife boss. A copy of the video is attached.
6) The investigators found that “conveyance certificate,” from local Forestry Commission offices without which the rosewood cannot be transported from forests to the harbour are still being issued illegally despite the ban when bribes of up to 3,000 Ghana cedis is paid commission officials. The report revealed that as recently as 15th May 2019, several months after the ban, forestry commission officials allegedly received financial inducements to sign an export permit. A copy of the permit is contained in the report.
7) The report also pointed out that some of the traffickers hire well-connected personnel who guarantee the secure movement of rosewood logs from the logging site to Tema port to escort the rosewoods. The report said; “these groups are connected to ministers and officials in the timber business and are well aware of whom to pay along the road.” It also said once the logs arrive in Tema port, shipping agents help obtain – or forge – all documents required to clear customs.”
8) In February 2019, a Joy News documentary produced by Joseph Opoku Gakpo uncovered similar evidence that despite the ban on rosewood, there’s been the continuous felling of the valuable species fueled by acts of corruption and bribery as confirmed in the documentary by even District Security officials in my constituency. I have attached a copy of the Joy News documentary.
Request 9) The Office of Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) passed by my colleagues and I in parliament says your office is “a specialised agency to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers, and political office holders in the performance of their functions as well as individuals in the private sector implicated in the commission of corruption and prosecute these offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.”
10) I am humbly writing to invoke your jurisdiction to investigate the following persons and institutions mentioned in the report over allegations of bribery and corruption leveled against them so you can either prosecute them if found culpable or clear them. a. Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission b. Any other officials of the Forestry Commission c. Members of the New Patriotic Party d. Rosewood traffickers e. Port officials and any related persons or institutions mentioned in the report.
11) These acts of crime are things we all have fore knowledge of even before this report was issued. In my own constituency, such illegal felling of rosewood fueled by bribery and corruption of public officials have been ongoing for several years unabated even before this EIA investigative report. I will be ready to testify personally to your investigators on what I know about some of these acts.
12) I will also be ready to work with you to get officials from the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) to provide your good office all the necessary support you will need to properly investigate the allegations. EIA is a reputable organization with an undented track record when it comes to investigating environmental crime. They are referred to as the FBI of environmental crime and have conducted similar investigations in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and several other countries. I am confident that if your good office pursues the revelations made by the undercover investigators to the latter, we will be able to get to the bottom of this illegal trade and bring the perpetrators to book to save our environment and protect the lives of our people.
Dr. Clement Apaak (Hon) MP for Builsa South Parliament House, Accra, Ghana 0200117620 and email: email@example.com
Attachments (on accompanying pen-drive) 1. Report: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.” 2. Video version of the report: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.” 3. Video of Joy News report, “KILLING OUR ROSES.”