"> Environmentalists Raise Alarm over Illicit Trading in Rosewood,Other Plants - Sahel Standard
March 31, 2020
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Environmentalists Raise Alarm over Illicit Trading in Rosewood,Other Plants

Stakeholders on environmental
protection have called on the Federal Government of Nigeria and other
States to aggressively deploy information, satellite, molecular, drone
and other relevant technologies to promote transparency in the forestry
sector and prevent the alarming illicit trading in Nigeria’s endangered
plant species, particularly Rosewood.

In a statement signed by the Executive Secretary of HEDA Resource
Centre, Mr Sulaimon Arigbabu, following a communique issued on Thursday,
February 20, 2020 in Abuja at the end of a one-day workshop on
preventing illicit trade in Nigeria’s endangered plant species,
organised by the HEDA Resource Centre and the Environmental
Investigation Agency (EIA) in partnership with the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the participants observed that the
external demand for endangered plant species has only resulted in
unwarranted pressure on the Nigerian forests and illicit trades
significantly shortchanging Nigeria in the forest economy and polluting
the environment.

According to the statement, the environmentalists also commended the
Federal Government for banning the exportation of charcoal since 2016.
They however, “urged the government to do more than banning it on paper,
and rather effectively implement the ban and ensure the application of
necessary sanctions against defaulters, including law enforcement
officers who compromise the banning order.” They also commended the
federal Government for its raising of 2 million seedlings, urging it to
collaborate more with State governments with constitutional
responsibilities and direct custody of the forests as well as local
governments and traditional rulers.

The stakeholders further urged that: “The idea of communal ownership of
forests should be encouraged as it is already being practised in
communities like Ekuri and Iko-Esai in Akamkpa local government area of
Cross-River State. However, emphasis should be placed on both individual
and communal ownerships.” They added that: “There should be incentives
in form of polluter pay principle to encourage communities concerned and
ensure sustainable forest economy through Corporate Social
Responsibility.”

Professor Olabode Popoola, Vice Chancellor of Osun State University, who
was the lead presenter at the workshop, noted while making his
presentation on: “The dynamics of forest resources trade/market and
implications for sustainable development”, that “The Chinese demand for
rosewood has spurred a largely illicit trade in West Africa, heightening
tension in the sub-region.” Therefore, he recommended that: “The
government should urgently undertake forest and biodiversity resources
assessment of the country to establish the status of the resources. The
Presidential Initiative on Afforestation (PIA) should be implemented to
fast track the recovery of the forest sector from its current parlous
state.”

Acknowledging the discrepancy in records between the extremely low
Nigerian record of Rosewood export to China and the comparably high
Chinese record of Rosewood import from Nigeria into China, Dr Muhtari
Aminu Kano, Director General of the Nigeria Conservation Foundation who
presented a paper on “Criminal exploitation of Nigeria’s endangered
species and the rosewood trade question: focusing on the bigger
picture”, urged the Nigerian Government to “engage the secretariat of
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to
hold to account China in particular and other countries involved illicit
trading of the Rosewood and other plant species.”

Ms Kidan Araya of the US-based non-governmental organisation,
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), who led discussion on the
“Criminal decimation of Nigeria’s forest resources: blocking the
leakages from within and without,” emphasised the role of digital
information and satellite technologies in ensuring transparency in the
administration of the forests.

Renowned legal practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi
Falana (SAN), who during the workshop pledged his support to HEDA’s
campaign against illicit trading in Nigeria’s endangered species also
noted that there is an enabling legal framework that can help to ensure
the realisation of the campaign objectives. According to him: “Section
20 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as Amended) as well as Article
24 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights obligates the
government to protect the environment.”

However, participants expressed concern that although there are strong
rules, regulations and legal frameworks to address and govern a
sustainable exploitation of forest resources in Nigeria, implementations
remain weak. According to them, trees in Nigeria are continually cut
down with impunity and obviously devastating effects. Therefore, they
recommended that: “laws on forestry should be reviewed to strengthen
penalisation of offenders; there should be an effective collaboration
among law enforcement agencies in order to tackle illegal logging; and
institutions at federal and state levels including traditional
institutions should be strengthened to improve the forestry governance.”

According to the statement, the workshop also featured a panel
discussions by Dr Andrew Ilo, publisher of Enviro News; Mr Mike Simire,
Director General of the Biodiversity and Environmental Research Center
(BERC); Mr Bode Olufemi of Environmental Rights Action (ERA); Director
of the forestry department of the Taraba State Ministry of Environment;
representatives of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Federal Ministry
of Environment. “There were seminal contributions from other critical
stakeholders at the workshop notably the Nigerian Maritime
Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), academics and forestry
experts, research institutions; traditional rulers including Chief Obi
Owai of Iko Esai, Mr Joshua Kogaya (District head, Kagoro), and Oba
Olatunde Olusola of Ikun Ekiti; as well as non-state actors,” the
statement read.

Participants noted that the over-exploitation of forest resources is
often a function of State Governments treating it as a form of
Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), therefore, they suggested that:
“There should be increased sensitisation of and by both state and
non-state actors on the issues of forest preservation and prevention of
illicit logging and trading,” adding that: “a National Forest and
Biodiversity dialogue to evolve inter-sectorial and inter-governmental
strategies for a more holistic approach to sustainable forest management
should be urgently convened.”

It added: “The anticorruption agencies present at the event, led by the
EFCC and ICPC expressed commitments to take more interest in the illicit
financial flows and proceeds of crime from the illegal activities in the
forestry sector. Participants urged governments at all levels to tackle
corruption frontally in order for all the measures suggested to work.”

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