The Member of Parliament (MP) for Akuapem South, Mr. Seth Dankwa Wiafe and his District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr. Andrew Y. Nyarko-Adu are at each other’s throat over allegations of bribery and diversion of illegal chain sawn timber.
The DCE accused the MP of diverting a timber truck carrying illegally sawn timber which he and his monitoring team intercepted on July 23, 2003, but Mr. Wiafe said it was rather the DCE who demanded ¢5 million bribe from the driver of the illegal timber truck.
The Chronicle can confirm that the DCE has fired a formal compliant to the Minister of lands and Forestry with copies to the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) and the office of the President, protesting against the action of the MP.
In his complaint Mr. Nyarko-Adu said that, acting on a tip off, he and his driver, Kwame Apeatu and one Edward Ohene, intercepted a truckload of illegal chain sawn lumber, which was being carted to Accra.
He said when he questioned the driver of the truck, with registration number GR 5329 about the source of the lumber he jumped onto the front seat and contemptuously drove off.
“I then asked my driver to drive to where the Timber and Forestry Task Force were stationed which was just some 50 meters away on the main Nsawam-Accra road.
I instructed the members of the Task Force, who included an armed soldier, to chase the vehicle. We chased the vehicle to Kuntuse, a village about seven meters from Nsawam where they eventually stopped”, he said.
The DCE said that as soon he alighted from his vehicle, “a tall, dark and well-built man, came out from a taxi cab and knelt before me, held my legs and begged for forgiveness, pleading that the illegal chain sawn timber boards were his and that he would fall into trouble if the vehicle and its consignment were sent to the Nsawam Police station as I had directed”
But the DCE said when he insisted that the vehicle should be driven to the police station the owner of the lumber pulled out a mobile phone and made a call. Moments later the MP appeared on the scene in his black Grand Cherokee jeep from the direction of Accra.
“The owner of the sawn timber went to Honorable Seth Dankwa Wiafe and spoke to him in low tones,” he added. He said without bothering to find out from him what the matter was, the MP flew into tantrums, shouting at the top of his voice that he (the DCE) had no right to cause the arrest of the driver of the cargo since the driver was outside the territory of Akuapem South District.
The DCE further alleged that the MP instructed the driver not to drive to the police station as he (the DCE) had directed but to Achimota, and promised that he would go and see Professor Dominic Fobih, the Minister of Lands and Forestry.
Mr. Nyarko-Adu said at this time, a crowd from the village and a Mobile Police Patrol team had been attracted to the scene.
“I felt a nasty scene would be created if I should exchange words with Honorable Seth Dakwa Wiafe in public. The cargo truck was driven off with its load of timber boards towards the direction of Accra with the timber task force personnel and the MP following, amid jeering and hooting by the man who claimed ownership of the timber and his mate.
Mr. Ynarko-Adu said he returned to his office where he had already scheduled a meeting with the hope that the MP would ensure that the timber boards would be sent to the Forestry Commission at Achimota as he promised.
However, he recounted that after close of work, he went to the task force personnel to find out whether the boards were sent to the forestry office as promised by the MP but they told him they could not continue to escort the truck because they were attacked.
“I was told to my shock and horror that the truck which was being escorted to Achimota suffered two tyre punctures and that some people attacked the task force personnel including the armed soldier and managed to load the sawn timber boards unto another truck which appeared on the scene.”
He said the task force told him that the second truck sent the consignment to an unknown destination but they managed to retrieve 64 boards of red wood.
“That this story is too sweet to be true cannot be gainsaid. At best it can be described as cock-and-bull story designed to fool the uninitiated”, he added.
He said he came to the conclusion that if the timber boards were lost in transit then it was with the complicity of the MP. “It is my humble submission that it was due to the unwarranted and unnecessary interference by the MP which caused the loss of the lumber”, he wrote in his report.
The DCE, a lawyer by profession, dismissed the MP’s assertion that he (the DCE) could not arrest the driver because he was outside his territory, saying it portrays his lack of knowledge and appreciation of the law governing arrests. “It is trite learning that a private person has powers of arrest where an offence is committed in his presence”
WIAFE SPEAKS OUT But in an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Wiafe denied all the allegations leveled against him by the DCE and said that when he arrived at the scene, he was told by the driver of the truck that the DCE was demanding ¢5 million but they said they were prepared to pay only ¢2 million which the DCE refused.
When asked how he got to the scene, the MP, also a lawyer, explained that, the Baptist Church at Nsawam had invited him to a function and had requested him to arrange for a press coverage. It was while he was on his way to Accra that he chanced upon the incident.
Mr. Wiafe said when they reached Kutunse he saw the DCE, his driver, a forestry commission double cabin pick-up and a land rover belonging to the patrol unit, some police personnel and an armed soldier.
“I stopped and got to the scene. I realized that a truck loaded with illegal chain sawn lumber with registration number GR 5325 P was parked there. I also saw some of the occupants of that vehicle around, so I asked what was happening and I was told that the DCE had chased the driver to that point.
“The driver told me that the DCE was demanding a bribe of ¢5 million but they were prepared to pay ¢2 million which the DCE said he was not prepared to accept,” the MP alleged.
Mr. Wiafe noted that in order to avoid any “embarrassment and disgrace” he ordered the task force to escort the vehicle to the Forestry Commission at Achimota. In my presence, they escorted the truck. They took off and I by-passed them and went away.”
The MP denied that he knew the occupants of the truck and called for proof that the owner of the lumber called him on his cell phone. He also said that he did not follow the vehicle but left it in the hands of the timber task force to escort it, adding that it was news to him that the truck was not escorted to the forestry office at Achimota. He called on the security agencies to arrest the driver and the escorting team to ascertain the whereabouts of the truck.
The MP said on that day, he was in the company of the local New Patriotic Party secretary, Mr. Eric Asamoah, a former driver of the party, Asare Dankwa and his own driver, Yaw Poku.
Meanwhile, The Chronicle has gathered that there is a long-standing feud between the DCE and MP. Some senior officials at the Ministry of Local Government are reported to have met the two to broker peace but this has not succeeded.