Daryl Bosu, Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, addressing the media on behalf of the five civil society organisations
Daryl Bosu, Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, addressing the media on behalf of the five civil society organisations

5 CSOs to drag govt to court over breach of biodiversity laws

Five civil society organisations (CSOs) have served notice to proceed to court next week if the government does not annul its contracts with some companies to log and mine in Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) in the country.

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Of particular concern, they said, was the recent declassification of GSBAs within some forest reserves, including the Subri River Forest Reserve and Krokosua Hills Forest Reserve, and the subsequent award of timber utilisation contract to some logging companies.

"We find this as a breach of due process and legal stipulations, therefore, prompting the issuance of this notice of intent to commence legal proceedings should the government fail to annul the aforementioned contracts," the Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, Daryl Bosu, said on behalf of the CSOs.

Aside from A Rocha Ghana, the other CSOs are Tropenbos Ghana, Civic Response, Nature and Development Foundation and EcoCare Ghana. The action of the organisations, Mr Bosu said, was to safeguard the natural environment.

GSBAs refer to gazetted forest reserves or parts thereof that have been identified for protection and exclusion of logging to conserve rare, threatened or endangered flora and fauna, or exceptional examples of rare or unique ecosystems.

Mr Bosu said the five organisations served notice on government on April 19, this year to sue.

Issues

The key issues of possible legal redress, he said, included the issuance of the Timber Utilisation Contract without adherence to the competitive bidding process mandated by Regulation 12 of LI 2254 and the absence of parliamentary ratification as required by Sections 5 and 9 of Act 547, rendering the contract legally void.

There is also a plea to restrain the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission from engaging in similar transactions without proper parliamentary ratification.

“In light of the foregoing, we urge the government to reconsider its actions and engage constructively in resolving this matter in accordance with the rule of law and best practices in natural resource management”.

“We also hereby affirm our unwavering commitment to the sustainable management of Ghana's forest reserves and call upon all stakeholders to uphold the principles of transparency, accountability and environmental stewardship,” Mr Bosu said.

Requirement

Mr Bosu said it was left with about a week from the expiration of that 30-day notice it had given and that if the government did not take steps to engage and annul the contracts it would sue by filing the CSOs statement in court.

He stated that the laws were very clear and that the court proceeding was to challenge an irregularity that was going on administratively and that if the rule of law should be upheld the court should decide the case in favour of protecting forest reserves in the country and subsequently cancel all the contracts that had been signed.

He said recent developments resulting from the active actions of the government, which had led to unprecedented risk to convert the country’s protected forests such as GSBAs into logging and mining areas, had compelled the CSOs to issue a formal notice of intent to pursue civil action against it (government).

Steps

“We have taken this critical step in accordance with Section 19(1) of the State Proceedings Act, 1998 (Act 555), to fulfil our constitutional duty in safeguarding the natural environment, as enshrined in Article 41(k) of the 1992 Constitution.

“While acknowledging the government's developmental objectives and the imperative need to utilise natural resources for national progress, we are of the conviction that such utilisation must strictly adhere to legal frameworks outlined in the 1992 Constitution, the Timber Resources Management Act, 1998 (ACT 547) as amended, and the Timber Resources Management and Licensing Regulation, 2017 (LI 2254),” Mr Bosu said. 

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