Member of Parliament for Builsa South in the Upper East Region, Dr. Clement Apaak has petitioned office of the Special Prosecutor, to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption at Forestry Commission fuelling the illegal harvesting and export of Rosewood from Ghana.
The Builsa South legislature submitted the petition on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at the office of the Special Prosecutor, the same day the President of the Republic Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, visited his constituency as part of his two days tour in the Upper East Region.
Below is the full details of his 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.
9) The Office of Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) passed by my colleagues and I in parliament says your office is “a specialized 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.
Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission
Any other officials of the Forestry Commission
Members of the New Patriotic Party
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
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