Somanya (E/R), June 22, GNA — The Police at Oterpkorlu have arrested two individuals in connection with the destruction of green Ghana tree seedlings at the Bukunor Forest Reserve in the Yilo Krobo Municipality of Eastern Region.

The Police raided Abokwame village, where the destruction of tree seedlings, including danya, papao, cedar, prekese, and other species, were discovered to have been done using weedicides.

In the process, two middle-aged men, Kwaku Kwame Nartey and Tetley Kwesi, were arrested, while Tetteh Abraham escaped into the bushes.

Nartey and Kwesi have since denied any wrongdoing, claiming that they were innocent of the destruction that had taken place in the reserve.

However, Mr. Gyekye Isaac, Forest Range Manager in charge of the Anyamoni Range, which covers the Bukunor Shelter Belt, Anyamoni Forest Reserve, and Afram Dawa Forest Reserve, maintained that the two suspects were caught engaging in activities that violated Section 1 Clause A and B of the 1974 Forest Protection Act.

He stated that Nartey was caught red handed engaging in an unlawful chainsaw operation in the forest reserve some time ago.

According to him, he had fell a minister tree species and sawed 100 pieces of wood into 2-inch planks, but they confiscated all.

He stressed that the two suspects were felling trees without Forestry Commission authorization, while Kwesi was spotted cutting down trees to clear the way for his maize farm.

Mr. Isaac noted that when he saw Nartey cutting down a Minister tree species, he asked him to stop, but he ignored him and continued to destroy the tree.

Adding, when he was caught, community members appealed on his behalf, and he was asked to be provided with seedlings to plant, but he refused.

He also said that Tetteh Abraham, the suspect who fled had violent disputes with forest protection officials when during planting of seedlings.

He said Abraham had claimed that the forest authority was infringing on his private property, and he refused to collaborate because he believed the forest land belonged to him.

Mr. Isaac warned that any gazetted forest land belongs to the Forestry Commission, and anyone who wants to farm on a depleted portion of the forest must register with the Forestry Commission.

“We are monitoring all illegal farmers operating in forest reserves,” he said. “If detected, you will face the full force of the law and the Forestry Protection Act.”

He added that because cultivating in forest reserves was prohibited and farmers have damaged their seedlings, they have designated all those who cultivate in the reserve as illegal farmers and would prosecute them for their operations.

Meanwhile the Police have declared Tetteh Abraham wanted. He was suspected to have used gramoxone weedicide to kill tree seedlings at the forest reserve, where he is cultivating maize.

Mr. Ebenezer Agyakwa, the Somanya Forest District Manager, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that the four people suspected of causing the destruction would face the full rigours of the law once the investigation was complete.

“We know the Police won’t disappoint us because we are always ready to follow this matter to its conclusion, and after prosecuting them, it will serve as a deterrence to others who unlawfully enter the forest to cause destruction,” he said.

He explained that the fertile soil made it possible to reforest the area, as some tree species, such as danya, were rare in the Krobo forest.

“The Danya tree, which doesn’t decay even in water, is one of the more costly trees that has been utilised to make railway slippers due to its exceptional quality and resilience,” he said.

He stated that the national headquarters and the Eastern Regional office of the Forestry Commission have been notified, and that preparations were in place to dispatch a rapid response team to demolish the farms within the forest reserve.