Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
As the country continues to battle with the effects of climate change, particularly deforestation, a committee of the House of Representatives, has said it would push for legislation to stipulate stiffer penalties, against persons and organisations involved in illegal logging.
The ad hoc committee, saddled with the responsibility of investigating Massive Deforestation and Corruption in the Environment Sector and its effects on Climate Change, is headed by Hon. Bede Eke.
Speaking when he inaugurated a liaison committee on the export of wood, animal skin and endangered animal species in Abuja recently, Eke harped on the need to regularly update forest protection laws, to address contemporary challenges.
This, he said, is essential, considering that illegal logging has contributed to rapid deforestation in recent times, with attendant negative consequences on rural dwellers who farm and hunt in the deep forests now threatened by such illegal activities.
“We have been to the sea ports to ascertain the number of containers of wood exported and we have set up a committee that comprises of all the stakeholders, and our committee gave them 10 weeks to come up with a law that will guide this industry,” he said.
Eke disclosed further that the committee is pursuing the implementation of relevant international conventions, which would make it mandatory for countries receiving certain kinds of imported wood to check for the signature of approval from the country of export.
“As it is now, what we have is an all-comers affair. Right now, we don’t even know the amount of wood exported out of Nigeria, monthly or in a year. There is so much irregularity and corruption in the sector. Those who should know cannot even account for approvals for duty free export of wood or the foreign exchange that should have been returned to the country, since the wood was exported without duty charged on it”, Eke said.
Eke noted that Nigeria cannot afford to continue with the manner of deforestation, and unbridled export of wood, animal skin and other endangered species, at the current level, which he noted was beyond imagination.
He urged the committee members to set out modalities that would restore sanity in the administration of Nigeria’s forests, and ensure that the exports are done in a sustainable manner.
The 20-member committee is drawn from the Federal Ministries of Environment, Finance, Trade and Investment, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria (TWEAN), Processed Wood Management Association of Nigeria (PROWMAN), members of the National Assembly, and Civil Society Representatives.
It is chaired by Deputy Director, Ministry of Environment, Dr. Elizabeth Adewale, while Dr. Chidi Magnus, a consultant to the House committee, would serve as the Secretary. The committee is expected to submit its report in 10 weeks.