Three persons have been arrested two are on a run after they attempted to smuggle rosewood in the Mole Forest Reserved near Grupe in the West Gonja District of the Savannah Region.
The three suspects were arrested Thursday evening 7th November 2019 by the forestry guards that accosted them entering into the forest reserved by a vehicle with registration number GE 666-19 to load rosewoods that have been illegally cut and abandoned by loggers.
The suspects who are currently in the police custody in Damongo are two drivers and a mate. They said they were employed by Mr Maxwell a rosewood dealer based in Sawla but hails from Mandari near Bole to come and load the abandoned woods in the reserved.
The suspects said they were in connection with two other natives who are currently on a run after they were arrested. They are Yussif and Hunter all from Sawla and are said to be Maxwell boys according to the suspects.
The driver of the crane truck narrated that when they were going into the forest they realized that it was a protected area and so he decided to make a U-turn and that ensued a scuffle between them and Maxwell’s boys who jumped out of the vehicle immediately the forestry guards came and arrested them.
He said they are from Tema and were brought into Sawla four months ago by Maxwell to load and transport his wood which they were finally arrested.
The Assistant Park Manager in charge of Protection and Law Enforcement Mr. Ali Mahama who confirmed the arrest to the media said they heard a tip-off about the vehicle that has been parked in the community for sometimes now until Thursday evening the vehicle attempted to enter into the reserved to load the rosewood that has been cut down by loggers. He said since the inception of the ban people were still logging at the various parts of the forest reserve. “When our guards picked the signal in the community about the vehicle, they followed up until they heard a sound off in the reserved going to load rosewood,” he said.
He said after the three were arrested the understanding they got was that they were going into the forest to load some logs but did not know it was in the Mole Forest Reserve.
Mr Mahama said even though there has been a ban on rosewood logging in the country, the mole forest reserve has not slept because people were still logging within and around the boundaries of the reserve.
He said the management regularly deployed men on the day, night and extended patrols to make sure that they combat the illegal logging in the reserve.
Mr. Mahama said the manner at which the reserve has been trespassed by illegal activities including rosewood logging is worrying and therefore government and stakeholder should intervene.
He called for a military intervention to be stationed permanently at the forest reserve to help deal with criminals because they are well-armed.
Mr Mahama expressed disappointment at the police in the region for not punishing people that were arrested during a collaboration between the forest guards and the military when there was a serious incursion in the reserved.
“When there was a serious incursion in the reserved we did a collaboration with the military because the forestry commission made that arrangement possible in which several arrests were made and sent to the police but little did we know the police set them free and as for me it was a discouraging collaboration and exercise from the law enforcement- the police” he indicated.
He said the forestry guards will continue to be in a lookout for these criminals wherever they are in the forest and go after them.
Mr Mahama indicated that the intervention of the military to be stationed at the forest reserve permanently will help deal with these loggers in the reserved because they are well-armed.
He said Mole Forest Reserve is a national asset and therefore the government should make resources available to deal with illegal logging within and around the reserve.
Mr Mahama said the reserve is 4500 square kilometres and ranging from one camp to the other is about several km. He stated that the forest reserve is currently running a range system and therefore need more satellite camps around some of the areas that share boundaries with the reserve to accommodate staff in those areas and to be able to work effectively. “Putting some of these satellite camps around some of these areas is a way to go and I think that government should act” he indicated.
Mr Mahama also called for communication network for its operations because only 30 % of the reserve is been covered by the telecommunication network and thereby making it difficult to disseminate information in the reserved. Mr Mahama believes that getting the entire reserve covered with the network will ensure early reporting of cases of illegal activities going on in the forest. He also made a passionate appeal for the government to supply those sophisticated weapons and communication gadgets to enhance their operations.
A Rosewood Crusader Mr Seidu Jeremiah who has been in the forefront with the fight against illegal logging of rosewood in the Savannah Ecological Zone said Mole Forest Reserve and many other forest reserves in the savannah ecological zone are under threat. He mentioned Kalapkpa in the Volta, Mole in Savannah, Gbelle in the Upper West and Digyaa in Bono East regions and many others.
Mr Jeremiah said the Mole Forest Reserve is ill-resourced and therefore call on government to immediately resource and review the equipment that is currently been used by the guards. He said the encroachers of the reserve are well armed and therefore there is an urgent need for the state to provide protective weapons in order to enable the officers to be able to carry out their mandate.
He wonder why if the Mole Forest Reserve is a national asset and the nation cannot protect it.
Mr Seidu said there is a systemic breakdown of national law enforcement in the country, therefore, government should be committed to dealing with people that are destroying the environment through rosewood logging. He said the only way to also deal with this rosewood menace is to ensure that there is community environmental governance, Empower local communities and individuals to own, manage, grow and plants trees. He said government should also enforce the national law, especially the forest law that classifies Savannah Ecological Zone as fragile and therefore no logging whatsoever be permitted or allowed in the Zone. “But what do we see, permits upon permits, bans upon bans, salvage permits upon salvage permits to the extent that Hospital Receipts were presented to a Traditional Ruler in the area as salvage permit to log rosewood in His traditional area. He said bans rarely ever work
Mr. Seidu also expressed his dissatisfaction in the police handling of these rosewood cases anytime arrest are made by Him and other people who are not security persons. “There is a systemic, complete and a total breakdown of the application of the national law enforcement in the country because the people who are supposed to enforce the law are themselves guilty” he stressed. He said he does not trust the Damongo police because they will not act.
“Trust me if these people are taking to the police especially the Damongo police they will let them go and as for me, I don’t trust them. You were here when we arrested five Chinese and some other Benin nationals who were engaging in illegal rosewood business in Yipaala but what didn’t you see at the police station, the people were made to go free by the police” he stated.