The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Jinapor, has charged the Bono East Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to take an express look at illegal logging in the region, as the three Bono regions happens to be Ghana's only hope to salvaging the forest reserves for posterity.
He stressed that the issue of illegal logging in the region is of prime concern to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and, therefore, tasked them to, with immediate effect, set up a task force to come up with strict strategies and plans to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book and help halt the illegalities.
Mr Jinapor said he has heard about cartels and syndicates who are posing a threat to the lives of the officers in charge of Ghana’s forestry and threw a challenge to them to arm themselves and meet the perpetrators head-on.
He said "reports reaching us are that there are some cartel syndicates from outside the region and the country engaging in logging and the people, we are told, are armed to the teeth; beating up and harming our officers. We can't sit and allow this”.
“I expect you to also prepare yourselves to push back and chase them out of our country".
He added that "the level of illegal small-scale scale mining is not as much here in the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions as it is in the other regions but that is also not to say that you shouldn't keep an eye on that ball; please do but the most pressing matter here is logging, so, keep an eye there".
Mr Jinapor also asked the Bono East REGSEC to work on placing a ban on charcoal burning in the region as this is also a major cause of depletion in the forest reserves.
He further tasked them to set up an audit committee to thoroughly review the forestry system, reiterating that as the minister, he has never granted any concession for lumbering or other illegal activities to take place and so they should ensure that they find ways to determine which companies or individuals are harvesting trees in the region, review their licenses and include all those involved in the whole value chain, from company owners, to transporters, to chainsaw operations among others.
The minister advised that they engage in this auditing process in a transparent manner and with accountability and integrity in mind.
He said they should "occupy a moral high ground as much as possible in this regard".
Mr Jinapor gave the assurance that the ministry is going to provide all the needed logistics to ensure results, disclosing that there has even been provisions made in the upcoming 2022 budget for the REGSEC.
He said "the Finance Minister is going to present a budget to parliament and the budget, as a result of this new security architecture of you being the fulcrum around which the fight against illegal mining and deforestation revolves, there is a budget line item purposely for REGSEC's work as they relate to the enforcement of the lands and natural resources of our country".
He stated that the meeting with REGSEC in all the 12 regions he has visited is central to his nationwide tour, which is aimed at soliciting support in relation to the protection and conservation of the national resources of the country.
He said this during a meeting with the Bono East REGSEC at Techiman on Tuesday, 16 November 2021.
The Bono East Regional Minister, Mr Akwasi Adu Gyan, for his part, admitted that the issue of tree lumbering with its cartel syndicates and charcoal burning truly exist in the region, saying that "we are very much aware of the situation and it is worrying but we are happy you are here to help us deal with it".
He, therefore, accepted the challenge thrown by the minister and assured him that they are going work tirelessly to ensure that a strong task force is established and the perpetrators of the logging are dealt with.
He also assured the minister that the auditing will be done and results presented to his outfit as soon as possible, stressing that "we really look forward to working with you at all levels and we are 100% behind you".