Wood ex­port fraud claims aimed at black­mail­ing Buhari’s govt — Min­is­ter

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Chidimma C. Okeke

The al­le­ga­tions of wood ex­port rack­e­teer­ing to China lev­elled against United Na­tions Deputy Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ms Amina Mohammed was aimed at smear­ing the im­age of Nige­ria, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has said.

The Min­is­ter of State for En­vi­ron­ment, Ibrahim Jibril, in a state­ment de­nied the al­le­ga­tions be­ing widely cir­cu­lated in the me­dia against the ex-Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment.

“The re­port which con­tained spu­ri­ous and un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions against the for­mer min­is­ter, is a pure mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of facts, base­less and in­tended to smear not just Mrs Mohammed, but the Nige­rian Gov­ern­ment,” the state­ment said.

“The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment wishes to state un­equiv­o­cally that the ex-min­is­ter is not un­der any probe what­so­ever over any pur­ported wrong­do­ing whether lo­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“The ex-min­is­ter acted within the am­bit of the law of both the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria and the pro­to­cols of In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal con­ven­tions while in of­fice be­tween Novem­ber 2015 to Fe­bru­ary 2017,” it said.

The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment noted for clar­ity the pro­cesses in­volved in is­su­ing ap­provals for Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species in wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

It said, “po­ten­tial ex­porters are re­quired to ap­ply to the Min­istry” and for “in­spec­tion of fac­to­ries and premises for com­pli­ance by wood ex­perts”.

The state­ment said qual­i­fied ex­porters were is­sued ‘Let­ters of Sup­ports’, with ‘In­vi­ta­tion of the min­istry by the ex­porter for the stuff­ing of the con­tain­ers.”

The min­istry said that all the CITES per­mits signed by the ex-min­is­ter were done in line with strin­gent guid­ance and pro­ce­dures.

“Specif­i­cally, Rose­wood (Kosso) is un­der CITES Ap­pendix II, which al­lows Sus­tain­able Trade to im­prove the liveli­hood of peo­ple in line with In­ter­na­tional best prac­tices.

“For the records, the CITES per­mits signed by the exmin­is­ter were in batches from Au­gust 2016 to Jan­uary 2017.

“In line with es­tab­lished Pub­lic Ser­vice norms, the exmin­is­ter con­tin­ued to per­form her du­ties dili­gently up to the last minute of her last day in of­fice in Feb. 24, 2017,” it said.

The min­istry fur­ther stated that Mohammed, dur­ing her ten­ure as Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment, car­ried out far-reach­ing re­forms in the en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tor.

It cited that of bring­ing Rose­wood from un­guided trade of CITES Ap­pendix III to Ap­pendix II, which sani­tised the wood in­dus­try in Nige­ria.

It added that Mohammed “led the Re­view of En­dan­gered Species Act, Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora and duly signed by the Pres­i­dent of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria, on Dec. 30, 2016.”

The En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (EIA) had ear­lier claimed that the for­mer Nige­rian min­is­ter might have ben­e­fited per­son­ally from sign­ing thou­sands of al­legedly back­dated per­mits in Jan­uary 2017 which were al­legedly used to clear il­le­gal rose­wood ex­ports to China.

EIA fur­ther claimed this hap­pened at the time Mohammed was pre­par­ing to leave as Nige­ria’s min­is­ter of en­vi­ron­ment fol­low­ing her UN ap­point­ment.

EIA’s re­port said over 1.4 mil­lion il­le­gal rose­wood logs from Nige­ria worth $300 mil­lion were de­tained at the ports in China in 2016 but were re­leased af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion of CITES cer­tifi­cates signed by the exmin­is­ter.

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