Managing campaigner for EcoCare Ghana and natural resources activist Obed Owusu-Addai, has initiated a court action against government to restore clarity in the regime for the grant of commercial timber rights.
His lawyers have served the Attorney General the mandatory 30 days’ notice of his intentions to bring a civil action on this matter.
According to his notice of civil action, he is asking the court to make a declaration that the issuance of commercial timber rights known as “special permits” or “administrative permits” or “ministerial permits” constitute a transaction involving the grant of a right for the exploitation of a natural resource of Ghana and is subject to ratification by Parliament per the constitution.
Mr Owusu-Addai also wants the court to make a declaration that the interpretation given to section 20(2) of ACT 547 by the Ministers of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission that purports to allow the issuance of commercial timber rights known as “special permits” or “administrative permits” or “ministerial permits” without recourse to Parliamentary ratification is erroneous and unconstitutional.
He is also demanding a declaration that all such “special permits” or “administrative permits” or “ministerial permits” involving the grant of a right to exploit the timber resources of Ghana granted by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources or the Forestry Commission without Parliamentary ratification are null and void, illegal and ineffective.
Finally, he is praying the court to make an order restraining the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission from entering into any transaction, contract or undertaking involving the grant of a right or concession for the exploitation of commercial timber rights without Parliamentary ratification.
The Natural Resources Campaigner said though he supports government’s quest to develop Ghana through the utilization of natural resources to raise capital for development, “I contend that this utilisation must be done in accordance with established laws and procedures.”
He added that the combined effect of the provisions in these laws demands that the allocation of rights to engage in commercial timber logging be granted through the issuance of Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUCs), either Large Scale or Small Scale signed on behalf of the President by the Minister responsible for Lands and Natural Resources.
He pointed out that the TUCs when duly signed should further be subject to parliamentary ratification.
“Ultimately, these provisions ensure that while the State derives the necessary revenues from the exploitation of timber resources, the environment is also protected.”
“I contend that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission over the years have and continue to allocate rights for the commercial logging of timber in a form and manner alien, unknown and in breach of the laws on the grant of commercial timber rights,” he stressed.