STATEMENT OF THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, BARRISTER MOHAMMED H. ABDULLAHI AT THE STAKEHOLDERS’ CONSULTATIVE MEETING ON THE REVIEW OF BAN ONCHARCOAL AND SUSPENSION OF EXPORT OF PROCESSED WOOD AND OTHER ALLIED PRODUCTS HELD AT THE GREEN BUILDING, FEDERAL MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, MAITAMA, ABUJA ON THURSSDAY 19TH JANUARY, 2023.
1. I have the pleasure and honour to heartily welcome you all to this Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on the review of ban on export of charcoal and suspension of processed wood and other allied products. I am highly delighted by your prompt and impressive response to this call to National duty. As you all know, the activities in the forestry sector had in the past destroyed the Nation’s rich biodiversity at an annual rate of 3.5 percent of forest loss thereby denying our Nation the full realization of its economic development potentials which has serious economic and social consequences that were contributing to denting the image of our country. The situation is compounded by the absence of corresponding regeneration, afforestation/reforestation of our fast-degrading forest. Therefore, the rate at which the forest is exploited outstripped its renewal rate.
2. The suspension from CITES primarily informed the decision of the former Minister of Environment, Dr. Mahammad Mahmood Abubakar to place a ban on the export of charcoal and suspension of the export of processed and semi-processed wood in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
3. Government has been monitoring the effectiveness of this ban and found that desperate businessmen including foreigners have continued to engage in this illicit act with the connivance of different parties both at local, state and federal levels thereby worsening the situation that led to its initial ban. According to field reports, Nigeria has witnessed more deforestation than when the ban was not placed, resulting in loss of forests without commensurate regeneration and its attendant effects which includes, loss of Wild life, loss of legitimate jobs and income in the forestry sector and loss of government revenue. The illicit act is made possible because of our porous land borders, inadequate plantation establishment by the wood and charcoal exporters, perception of forest resources as free gift of nature and shortage of forest guards to protect the forest. The resultant effect of the above is loss of revenue in billions of Naira annually that hitherto would have accrued to government. Similarly, statistics of export is not known as businesses are done in the dark (2- 4am).
4. The outcome of previous Stakeholders review workshop with Commissioners of Environment represented by the State Directors of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Raw Material, Research and Development Council, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Forest Research Institute of Nigeria, Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Exporters, leaves the Ministry with no choice than to review the policy in view of the willingness of key Stakeholders to abide by agreed terms to attain sustainable management practices in the forestry sector while carrying out controlled and legitimate businesses.
5. Consequently, the Ministry has put in place a number of stringent measures to stem the current tides and ensure Sustainable Forest Management practices. Some of these measures are; the establishment of the Joint Task Force, National Forestry Trust Fund, Nigeria Timber Legality Standards (NTLS), Inter-Ministerial and Inter-agency National Stakeholders’ Forum on the Fight against Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria (including National Elephant and Ivory Action Plans), Revised Guidelines on Export of Wood and Charcoal, increased afforestation programme across the States and effective Communication strategy.
6. Considering the mandate of Forestry Department and need to undertake CITES operation within a slim government budget, I wish to review the current ratio of 25% to 30% revenue generated by the department allocation to NFTF, 20% should be dedicated to the Department for the enhancement of revenue generation and also to make the measures put in place very effective.
7. The Ministry acknowledges the ongoing suspension placed on Rose Wood by CITES and the ongoing discussion to lift the ban as soon as the requirements are met. I wish to reiterate the need to stay clear of the trade of other endangered species to avoid complicating our situation. To this end, I call on FRIN, Customs and NESREA to work with the management authority (Federal Department of Forestry) to avoid varied reporting that can result to further suspension. I wish to also call on the Nigerian Customs to allow FDF inspectors at the port to assist in the identification of species so as to abate the risk of exporting prohibited species that will end up being arrested in foreign countries thereby causing more embarrassments for the country.
8. The Ministry has observed that many businesses have been unintentionally affected especially those converting waste to wealth for export by the ban. As a responsible government, we would not be rigid in our policies, and will always listen to citizens on how these policies affect them. Thus, we will be flexible in our decisions. Consequent upon the above, the government has listened to the submissions of Stakeholders in this meeting and previous ones on the need to revisit the decisions taken in 2018 and 2020 respectively in the interest of our dear country as this is not the first-time ban was placed on wood and charcoal export and reconsidered. At this juncture, after careful deliberations,
I, hereby pronounce the conditional lifting of ban/suspension on export of charcoal and processed wood respectively.
9. On this note, I urged you all to join hands with the government in the task of re-generating the degraded land across the country and combine efforts with government to avoid harvesting endangered species, logging from Protected Areas and to apprehend illegalities in our forest for necessary action.
10. The disposition decision taken by the government today is an opportunity for private sectors and individuals to massively invest in plantations establishment for their own use in future. I implore all associations and individuals in this business to adhere to the Nigeria Timber Legality Standards and Guideline for Wood and Charcoal Export launched here today to avoid prosecution as the decision to lift the ban can be revisited at any time if there is no compliance with the laid down rules and regulations.
I thank you very much for your attention.
Mohammed H. Abdullahi
Minister of Environment