One hundred and ten trucks of lumber from illegal timber operators have been impounded by the National Timber Monitoring Team (NTMT) in Accra between January and April this year.
The team, which comprises military and forestry personnel, has the objective of clamping down on illegal chainsaw operators whose activities pose a serious threat to the country's forest resources.
Speaking to a section of the media in Accra yesterday, the National Co-ordinator of the NTMT, Mr G.N.A. Agana, said 27 of the vehicles were impounded in January this year, 34 in February, 29 in March, while 20 had so far been impounded in April.
He said the latest arrest, which involved five articulated trucks of sawn timber, took place at Nsawam around 12.30 a.m. on Saturday.
Some of the vehicles which have been impounded and parked on the premises of the Forest Services Division (FSD) near the Achimota Forest have the registration numbers AS 799 C, ER 468 U, AW 1248 Z and GE 5198 Z.
Mr Agana explained that the team, which had been divided into two groups, usually operated along the routes leading to Accra from the Central and the Eastern regions where many of those vehicles came from.
He said when the vehicles were impounded, the drivers usually ran away and when the vehicle owners came to inquire about their vehicles, they were either sent to the police for prosecution or asked to pay the penalty before they could get back their vehicles, while the lumber in the vehicles was always confiscated and sold to state institutions and public servants who applied to buy it.
Mr Agana said the penalty for impounded trucks ranged from GH¢600 to GH¢2,000, depending on the size of the truck.
For his part, the Director of Operations of the FSD, Mr Alex A. Boadu, said the NTMT, which was inaugurated in July 2009, was in addition to other teams operating in the regions and districts, mostly in areas where there were forest reserves.
He said it was the aim of the team to do all it could to clamp down on illegal chainsaw operations and appealed to the public to provide it with information.
He added that since there was not enough personnel to check the activities of those criminals in the forest reserves, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources had empowered the monitoring team to monitor the situation on the highways and arrest offenders.
To help check those criminal activities, Mr Boadu said there was the need to mete out stiffer punishment on offenders and called for another look to be taken at Act 457 of 1998 which dealt with such matters.