The Forestry Commission of Ghana has directed the Executive Director of the Forest Services Division, Mr Oppong Sasu to proceed on leave with immediate effect starting Monday January 11, 2021.

A statement signed by the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr John Allotey explained that, the leave is to pave way for a smooth and unbiased investigations into the recent seizure of illegal wood worth almost Ghc 400,000.00.

At the beginning of this year, the Okyeman Mining Protection Unit impounded a truckload of illegal wood worth almost Ghc 400,000.00 at Akyem Nsutam in the Eastern Region.

The truckload of milled wood originated from Sankore in the Western Region and passed through all the major Forestry Commission checkpoints without any hindrance but was intercepted at Akyem Nsutam by the Okyeman Mining Protection Unit during a routine monitoring operation.

According to the report, upon interrogation, occupants of the truck mentioned Mr Oppong Sasu, the Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division as the owner of the wood.

A statement by the Forestry Commission said, a three-member committee has been set up to investigate the matter and submit a report to the Chief Executive by February 1, 2021.

The members of the Committee are Brig. Gen (Rtd) Joseph Odei, Chairman of the Forestry Board, Mr Musah Abu-Juam, Technical Director, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, and Mr George Wereko Brobby, Member,1 Forestry Commission Board.

Their terms of reference are to determine the ownership of the said consignment of timber and establish the sources of the consignment.

They are also to investigate circumstances under which the truck was able to outwit all forestry Commission Check Points without detection from its point of origin to the point of arrest.

The Committee will also establish whether Mr Oppong Sasu is in anyway involved in the transaction relating to the consignment of timber and to offer recommendations to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness at the Check Points.

Threats to the forest

Ghana is known for having rich natural resources including vast tracts of rainforest but logging and other illegal activities have rendered the primary forest almost empty.

According to the Okyeman Mining Protection Unit, prior to these operations, it has impounded five trucks fully loaded with illegal wood.

An analysis of satellite data published in the year 2019 by U.S.-based World Resource Institute (WRI), found Ghana experiencing the biggest relative increase in primary forest loss of all tropical countries. According to the report, the loss of Ghana’s primary forest cover jumped 60 percent from 2017 to 2018 – almost entirely from its protected areas.

But, the operations director of the Okyeman Mining Protection Unit, Okogyemang Apedja Ofori, has vowed to do their best, watch over the activities of the illegal timber operations, especially in the Atewa Forest enclave and bring the perpetrators to book.

By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda