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23.03.2006 Regional News

Legalise chainsaw operation - Chief

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Accra, March 23, GNA - A traditional ruler on Thursday advocated for the legalisation of chainsaw operation and operators given timber concessions within their various localities to curb the rampant and indiscriminate felling of trees. Obrempon Gyapire Agyekum II, Chief of Akyem Ayirebi of the Akyem Kotoku Traditional Council, who made the call at a public forum for forest-sector community organizations, said because the activities of the chainsaw operators were illegal, they tended to undertake it in a nefarious manner.

"The country allows the importation of chainsaws. The owners are supposed to license it and register it with their district assemblies. But they are not supposed to use it. This law is not working and it needs to be reviewed," he said. Obrempon Gyapire said if the operators of the chainsaw were allowed to operate within the confines of the law that allowed them to operate openly, the "underground business" would be stopped and more monies would accrue to all the interested parties. He was contributing to a discussion on 'Meeting the Challenge of Strengthening Civil Society' at a day's forum in Accra organized by the Civil Society Strengthening Facility (CSF), a nongovernmental organisation.

The Civil Society Strengthening Facility is a DFID funded grant giving facility, that has worked to ensure a balance in the voices that govern the forestry sector by supporting activities that identify, prepare, equip and strengthen grassroots civil society groups to influence policy formulation and decision-making. Over 70 participants including the donors, civil society groups and government representatives attended the forum, with the civil societies coming mainly from Techiman, Birim North and Nzema East Districts. Obrempon Gyapire said if chiefs were given the deserving authority on their lands, they could effectively supervise timber contractors and mining companies and ensure that the lands were properly managed for prosperity. He said, as the Constitution stood currently, chief are only custodians of lands, but anything within it such as minerals and timber belonged to the Government, giving chiefs very little say when concessions were being given out.

"Since independence, the power of chiefs had been taken from them leading to the situation where most communities now do things behind the chiefs," he said. He called for the redistribution of royalties that accrued from mineral to communities saying out of the 55 per cent to district assemblies, 30 per cent should be given to communities direct for their own projects.

Obrempon Gyapire said the 25 per cent that accrued to stools was for the maintenance of the stools and regalia and the hosting of visitors to the community and not for the community members as it had been perceived in some quarters.

Mr Adjei Yeboah, Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, said timber companies were supposed to sign agreements with chiefs before moving into the forest to work. But most contractors worked on the ignorance of chiefs and refused to provide the community with the needed social responsibility, he said.