The Convener for the Media Coalition against illegal mining, Dr Kenneth Ashigbey has accused the leadership of the Forestry Commission for the recent invasion of the Atewa forest reserve by illegal miners.
He stressed that the invasion of the forest is due to the lack of supervision by the Forestry Commission.
“The leadership of the Forestry Commission should be held responsible. How did it happen that they did not see that the excavator was in there, and they want to pretend as if they have done something?”
Some unknown persons on Monday, January 30, 2023, invaded the Segyemase section of the Atewa Forest with an excavator and other mining equipment.
The Commission moved in to set ablaze the excavator and mining equipment at the site but was unable to make an arrest.
The Commission in a press release said its officials on January 30, 2023, identified a mining operation outside the Forest Reserve, which has affected a portion of the Forest Reserve.
“Following reports of alleged illegal mining activities in the Atewa Forest Reserve, in the Eastern Region, today, 30th January 2023, the Forestry Commission immediately deployed officials to comb the Forest to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the reports,” the release said.
“After thoroughly combing the Forest, officials identified a mining operation outside the Forest Reserve, which has affected a portion of the Forest Reserve, measuring approximately zero point six hectares (0.6ha). No person was found at this portion of the Forest Reserve. The Commission, however, found some equipment, including an excavator, in this part of the Forest Reserve.
The Commission said it had already reported the incident at the Kyebi District Police Station and will work with the Police and other law enforcement agencies to find the perpetrators and take the necessary action against them.
Reacting to the development on Accra-based radio station, Citi FM on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Mr Ashigbey said the leadership of the commission was hiding evidence by destroying the excavator.
“They are hiding evidence in destroying that [excavator]. They know who took the equipment in there, and so we need to hold the Chief Executive of the Forestry, up to the Regional officer and then the district officer responsible. We cannot accept this level of incompetence and complicity in this particular fight.”
Dr Ashigbey further questioned the effectiveness of the supposed tracking of excavators and the geo-blocking initiative launched by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources last year.
“We have been told by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources that they are going to be tracking these excavators; we have been told that they are going to geo-block them, so how come we did not see them?”