26 October 2005

Ghana: Forestry Commission Pounces On CEPS

Sunyani — The operations of chainsaw lumber in the country has now reached an international level, with operators importing chainsaw lumber into the country from Cote d'Ivoire, contrary to the United Nations (UN) Conventions and that of the Forestry Laws of Ghana.

This, according to the Forest Services Division (FSD) of the Forest Commission (FC), was engineered by the Customs, Exercise and Preventive Services (CEPS).

The Chronicle investigations at the FSD offices in Sunyani on the importations of sawn timber revealed that the CEPS had been taking import levies on these goods and allowed them to enter the country, contrary to their own commissioner's order of 2002 and the laws of Ghana and the UN conventions.

An order from the CEPS Commissioner dated June 6 2002, issued to all sector commanders in the country, instructed the commanders not to allow any illegal chainsaw lumber into the country, since the forestry laws of Ghana had marked them as prohibited goods.

According to the order issued to the commanders and the FC, the managers of the country's forest resources had complained that CEPS officials along the county's frontiers had been issuing receipts to cover alleged importation of chainsaw lumber from Cote d'Ivoire into the country, which was locally banned.

The order further stated, "The report indicated that, this lumber are initiated within Ghana, and sector commanders are advised to check this practice as it is an offence to deal with chainsaw lumber and its related products in the country."

Our investigations uncovered a custom receipt dated October 4, this year, and issued to one Alexander Kumi of P.O. Box 431, Dormaahenkro, an importer of chainsaw lumber from La Cote d'ivoir.

The face value of the receipt, No. 587793 with custom entry number, 0030331, was ¢1,302,207.00.The point of entry of this particular chainsaw lumber was Kofi Badukrom in the Dormaa district of the Brong Ahafo and the truck involved was AS 9562 C.

This chainsaw lumber was as well valued by the customs with 418, 550 stated on the Ministry of Trade and Industry classification and valuation form.

When The Chronicle, during its investigation, contacted the new Brong Ahafo Commander of CEPS in Sunyani, he said he was not aware of the deal because he had just been posted to the region.

He therefore promised to act quickly to stop this act of subterfuge.

When asked whether it was legal to allow chainsaw lumber into the country, the Commander, Mr. Imoru Farouk Adam, stated that since the laws of this country had banned chainsaw operations and handling of chainsaw lumber in the country, it was an offence to allow such goods to traveled across the borders into the country.

Mr. Adam disclosed that the Commissioner of Customs had issued an order to that effect in 2002.

He said, sometimes, those custom officers at the frontiers may be ignorant of the order and therefore assured this paper that he would reproduce the order to all CEPS operation points in the region to ensure sanity in the timber industry.

A letter, which was signed by the Ag. Executive Director of FSD, Mr. Owusu Abebrese, and dated August 16, this year stated, "Cote D'ivoire is a conflict area and therefore if we allow their wood export through Ghana then we are seriously breaching the UN conventions, which discourages the importations of natural resources from conflict areas."

According to Mr. Abebrese, in the letter, Ghana stands the risk of its wood products being blacklisted and this would be at a great cost to the nation in view of its foreign exchange contributions.

Another timber firm that was caught in the act was Gye Nyame Company ltd, which imported teak from Cote d'Ivoire through Tema Port.

The Timber Industry Development Division warned the company, because the product was coming from a war zone area of Bouake in Cote d'Ivoire.

It was confirmed, through discussions with the TIDD, that the Managing Director of Gye Nyame imported teak through Burkina Faso into Ghana.

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