Security officers arrested a woman on Monday evening over illegal logging activities following a crackdown on timber yards within Kitale Municipality and Kiminini Township as the government steps up measures to protect gazetted forests in Trans Nzoia County.
The crackdown and arrest followed reported cases of illegal logging activities in Sikhendu block forest station in Saboti Sub County.
The operation which was led by County Conservator Mr. George Abuto saw a timber yard dealer with other two people arrested.
During the operation, six logs of pinus patula trees and ten tonnes of timber and a saw mill machine were confiscated by the Kenya Forest Service and forest officers who worked jointly with their Kenya Police counterparts.
The suspect, Mrs Faith Wanjiru Karanja, who was arrested alongside other two individuals believed to be employees in her timber yard at Veterinary area along Kitale-Endebess road, claimed she had bought the logs from individuals known to her.
“I was sold 17 logs at Sh5,000 each by people I know though I did not know if the logs were illegal,” she defended herself.
According to the Abuto, the suspect led security officers Monday night to the Sikhendu forest where the officers conducted random raids in surrounding homesteads at adjacent Lukhome village before they confiscated several exhibit items, including logs and pangas.
“However, the targeted culprits escaped the dragnet after getting wind of the operation,” revealed the conservator.
“The ongoing operation will be sustained until the identified culprits are brought to book,” he insisted.
Abuto issued has a stern warning to all dealers in illegal forest activities, saying their days are numbered. “We are very alert and we will pursue all the leads related to illegal logging and related activities,” remarked the official.
Ms Karanja was arraigned in Kitale court Tuesday afternoon where she was charged with removing and felling forest produce without authority from the chief conservator of forests.
She was released on Sh.100,000 bond to help the police with the investigation to nab the culprits. The two other suspects were still in custody by the time of going to press.
Abuto said a special security team was spearheading the crackdown that seeks to ensure all timber sold in the county was certified and from recognised sources permitted to carry out such business.
He warned any Kenya Forest Service officer who is colluding with the rogue traders to destroy the trees of dire consequences once they are found.
“We will endeavour to protect our forests since we have to safeguard our tree cover in the county and nobody will be spared irrespective of social status,” Abuto assured the public.
Speaking to Kenya News Agency, area County Commissioner Mr Samson Ojwang said illegal human actions have been blamed for destruction of public forests in the region.