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General News of Friday, 14 February 2020

Source: Class FM

Make Rosewood committee report public – Apaak

Builsa South MP, Clement Apaak, has asked the government to release its investigative report on the illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.

In August last year, the Government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources set-up a seven-member committee to probe allegations of rosewood smuggling in Ghana.

This followed the US-based Environmental Investigations Agency’s (EIA) publication that alleged that rosewood smuggling is rampant in the country despite a ban.

The committee was headed by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural resources, Benito Owusu-Bio.

The committee presented its report to Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in Accra in January this year.

Mr Apaak, however, is worried the report has not been made public. According to the lawmaker, Ghanaians deserve to know the findings of the committee’s report.

In a statement, Mr Apaak said: “It has been almost two months since the committee government formed and tasked to investigate allegations of illegal rosewood trade in Ghana submitted its report to the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources.

“Sadly, the details of the report are yet to be made public. For whatever reason, no one knows why the minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, is sitting on it. But, as someone who knows the ins and outs of this illegal rosewood trade and has seen at first-hand, how officials in this administration are fond of tainting everything they touch with corruption, I find it very discomforting that government is refusing to make the report public till date.

“Ghanaians who have followed this issue over the years will understand why I am apprehensive. When the NPP government took over the reins of power in 2017, then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources John Peter Amewu, announced the renewal of the ban on harvesting and export of rosewood from the country. Despite that, a documentary by Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo titled “Killing Our Roses” revealed how the illegal harvesting of the species was still ongoing unabated. As expected, Forestry Commission and government officials including the current Minister for Lands and Natural, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, denied the findings in the report.”

Mr Apaak added that: “Then, government officials and appointees were exposed by the internationally reputable group, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) which published a detailed report showing officials of the New Patriotic Party were being given permits illegally to harvest and export rosewood in collaboration with leading officials of the Forestry Commission. It is this international embarrassment that forced the hand of government to set up a committee led by Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu Bio, to investigate this issue.

“However, without shame, nothing has changed. The cover-up has continued. This is why every Ghanaian with love for the environment should be worried about the government’s attempt to cover up this evil. This government has shown a tendency to take advantage of illegal acts to fund their political campaigning activities as we have seen recently being exposed in the issue of illegal mining ('galamsey') and excavators. After many years of cover-up, the cat is finally out of the bag. It is obvious that the same scheme is playing out in the rosewood issue, a reason why despite an enhanced ban, the evil lives on.

“I see a deliberate attempt on the part of this Nana Addo led administration to cover up the illegal trading activities ongoing with regards to the rosewood trade using this committee’s report. The work of this committee is already tainted. The investigative committee consists of the same group of people who have allegedly been involved in the illegal trade. How do you expect a committee stacked with officials of the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry as well as Forestry Commission to make any adverse findings against those involved when the two bodies have been implicated?"

“I am also reliably informed that the committee did not even invite officials of the EIA to testify, although they were the authors of the report. But the committee found a reason to invite me to the committee sitting, which I rightly declined. How erroneous."

“Let me use this opportunity to demand that the government immediately releases the full, uncensored report, of the work of the committee without any reductions and without any massaging. I am reliably informed that there is an ongoing attempt to clear those who were cited in the investigative report by the EIA, and that will be bad for mother Ghana."

"Thus, I am obligated to call on Ghanaians not to trust whatever the minister will release subsequently because it would have been massaged greatly. Regardless of my sentiments and suspicions, I believe that since the committee was resourced with public resources, government must release the report."

“Let me conclude by stating that, I am still awaiting the outcome of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation, which I petitioned him to do. I will be glad to see the office of the Special Prosecutor speedily get to the bottom of this issue to provide clarity and an independent, fair report, on what has actually been happening in the rosewood trade."

"That independent investigation will rather provide us with a clear picture of exactly what has been happening and will most likely indict the real NPP kingpins and senior forestry commission officials who have been involved in this trade.”

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