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Opinions of Thursday, 15 October 2015

Columnist: Ali, Prince Justice

Deforestation in Sissala West District

As a concerned citizen, I write to draw the attention of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, Director of Forestry Commission, Civil Society and other groups to the large-scale deforestation of our lands in Sissala West District, Gwollu, by two timber companies Kofi Vinyo Company and Time Concept Company.

Climate change is now a reality more than ever; every nation and locality is making frantic efforts to cut down on activities that accelerate desertification, which leads to climate change and finally global warming. It is as if the above made no news in Sissala Land when we saw two timber companies felling nearly every tree that has a diameter of 50 cm or more. The communities worst deforested are Kuntulo, Gumo, Dakuma, Duwie, Niator, Dasima, Wasai, Hiel and surrounding areas. In each of the aforementioned villages, you can see large areas of lands previously covered with trees reduced into open parks.

I investigated the activities of the said companies in Sissala West District. Thus far, it remains unclear whether the said companies have licences to operate. Even if licensed, the companies are devouring the natural environment so much that concerned Youth strongly believe that no State Dept will license a timber company to cause this category-one havoc.
Allegedly, the said companies were among the several ones operating in the Northern Region. However, their devastating activities prompted a letter with reference number FC/A21/FF/8/106 to be written on August 18, 2015, to them to stop operation whatsoever. Out of the several companies, the above two mysteriously relocated to Sissala West. Every evidence shows that they have already sent advanced men to survey all other parts of the Upper West for them to start region-wide operations.

Seeing their lands being over-degraded, the irate Youth of Sissala West made frantic efforts to halt the activities of the companies. However, the whole situation is surrounded by two ironies. First, Mr Ali Yahaya Fuowie from Jefissi the brain behind the operation of the said companies, was arrested by the police on Monday October 12 and released the same day. And where else will the poor citizens rechannel their genuine complaints. This is the second irony.

The Upper West Regional Minister and Chairman of the Regional Security Community, Hon. Alhaji Amidu Sulemani, is a native of Sissala West. Thus, one naturally will expect him to stop these illegal lumbers within seconds. His failure to do so shows that the devastation of the lands is mostly likely self-inflected; this reason is why Help from outside the Region is urgently required to stop Sissala Land from continuous and irreparable degradation.

To confirm our suspicion that the Regional Minister is well informed about the activities of the illegal loggers or is even a beneficiary of their activities, I spoke to one of the arrest-and-release police men who pleaded anonymity. Below is all that he said:

If Hon. Regional Minister, the Member of Parliament for Sissala West, authorised us to release him, we dare not say no.

More shockingly, another anonymous caller, who is very close to the Sissala West District Police Commander, emphatically mentioned that Hon. Alhaji Amidu ordered the police to release Mr. Ali Yahaya with immediate effects. In compliance, the police allegedly never took a statement of the ‘culprit’. The caller further claims that Hon. Minister wants to please Mr Yahaya, who is somehow very influential, because of the upcoming NDC Parliamentary Primaries.

The release of Mr Ali Yahaya provoked all opinion leaders, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity. To register their displeasure of the circumstances leading to the immediate release of Mr Ali Yahaya, the Leadership of the District organized a meeting on Wednesday October 14 at the District Assembly Hall. The District Police Commander ASP Raymond was expected to explain the basis for Mr. Ali Yahaya’s immediate release.
When asked whether the ‘culprit’ wrote a statement as evidence of his arrest, ASP Raymond rather got angry and left the meeting, a clear signal of involvement from above. Rumours have it that Mr Ali Yahaya and the companies he leads promised paying lump sums of the monies to some chiefs.
Accusing fingers are pointing to the Jeffissi Chief as one of the beneficiaries. One of the chief’s subjects, whose name has been advisedly withheld, told me that when Mr. Ali was arrested, the Chief went to the Police Commander and asked him not to take any statement from Mr. Ali and that he (the Commander) should release Mr. Ali immediately and should not even let others know of the arrest.

I therefore appeal to the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, the Regional and National Forestry Commission and All Concerned to take appropriate actions to stop these illegal loggers from degrading our lands the more. I believe that the appropriate authorities in the District and Region, who are to monitor these resources, have failed to act or are themselves direct beneficiaries of the illegal logging. Any group mandated to investigate this menace may consult them.

The author Mr. Prince Justice Ali is a sentimental advocate for development and positive change.

Cell: 0204803328.

The author Mr. Prince Justice Ali Sentimentally Advocate for Development And Positive Change.
Cell: 0204803328.