A 12-member task force instituted to curb the export of illegal timber has been inaugurated.
The inter-agency Task force, constituted by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is chaired by Kwadwo Owusu-Agyeman, Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.
It is expected to curb the export of rosewood and teak in particular.
Professor Bruce Banoeng Yakubu, Chief Director of the Ministry explained that there was leakage in the timber industry as a result of the illegal activities, adding 'wood is illegally harvested and put into containers and then exported and the country is losing a lot of money as a result.'
He said on daily basis several trucks and containers loaded with rosewood and teak harvested illegal from transitions zones are packaged to look like transit cargo from Ghana's neighbouring countries.
He urged members of the task force to work hard to block the leakages and ensure sanity in the timber industry.
Mr. Owusu-Agyeman, before leading members of the task force to pledge their commitment, stated that the task force would liaise with the various shipping agencies to monitor the release of containers loaded with teak and rosewood.
The terms of reference of the taskforce, he said, would include investigating the source of logs that are being shipped and refering illegal cases detected to the Ministry 'for the necessary action to be taken.'
He noted that the task force would work for an initial period of three months after which it would be mandated to determine the next move 'we should be able to strengthen the capacity of regulatory agencies to effectively take up this function as well as improve collaboration between these agencies.'
It is also envisaged that the Taskforce's intervention would also help highlight challenges in implementing the ban on the issuance of licences to harvest rosewood and bring up proposals to assist the Ministry to address the unsustainable exploitation of the nation's forest resources.
Other members of the taskforce include Alec Oppon and Nii Nikoi Amasa of the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority, Seidu Adam from the Ministry of Finance, Appiah Doyina from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Kwaakye Ameyaw, representing the Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission.
The rest are Eric Abequeye from the Timber Industry Development Division, Kwame Owusu Bamfo and Kit Laryea, representatives of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) while DK Glover, John Boadu and R.A. Bediako represent the National Security and the Attorney General's Department and civil society organizations respectively.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey