By Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE House of Representatives has promised to investigate allegations by Nigerian wood exporters that the Chinese have invaded the nation’s forest, engaging in illegal logging.
This is as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has lamented that the failure of policies and interventions by the Federal Government had negatively affected tackling deforestation, such as the Great Green Wall Project.
Dogara noted that uncontrolled logging that had led to deforestation in different states in the country, had impoverished millions of Nigerians in the rural areas.
Speaking at a-two day investigative hearing at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, Chairman, Ad-hoc Committee investigating massive deforestation and alleged corruption that had crippled the environment and its effect on climate change, Bede Uchenna Eke said the committee would liaise with all the relevant stakeholders to investigate the allegation over the invasion of Nigerian forest by Chinese nationals.
Eke, who represents Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency of Imo State, said with the allegation that the alleged invasion had been reported to the Police, the committee will invite the Police authorities to ascertain the veracity of the report.
He said the change agenda of the present administration, anchored on transparency in public service and zero tolerance for corruption, would amount to nothing if institutions and individuals continued to engage in businesses with impunity.
He said: “We asked them (Wood exporters) to give us more information because they came up and said that they wrote to the IG (Inspector-General of Police) and that it is under investigation as the matter was reported somewhere.
“So, we need to know which state, which command, which division. If you have written to the IG and some arrest were made, IG ordered for investigation, we need to have details so that we can also invite the Police to come and tell us how far they have gone and that will also help our committee.
“It is important to mention that the Change Agenda of the present administration anchored on transparency in public service and zero tolerance for corruption would amount to nothing if institutions and individuals continue to engage in businesses with impunity.
“Adherence to the rules and regulations for doing business in Nigeria whether for domestic use or export purposes must be complied with by all.”
Declaring the investigative hearing open, the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, said desert encroachment and soil erosion, which were some of the adverse effects of indiscriminate logging, had left many families in the rural areas without a source of livelihood.
He said for the country to fully benefit from its forest resources, government must ensure a balance between business and environment preservation.
“We were alarmed when the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that Nigeria’s present forest status is less than 5 percent, well below the International recommended 25 percent forested standard (afforestation).
“With these statistics, as a parliament of the people, we cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our nation destroyed, we must all join hands to preserve our environment. It is our collective heritage and responsibility,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, disclosed that the Federal Government suspended issuing licences for wood export export, following “alarming” rise in requests from Chinese companies to harvest and export rosewood back home.’’
Jibril said the ministry traced the spike in request for logging rosewood, a high in demand wood from Chinese businessmen this year, to a ban on the exportation of the commodity in China.
The Secretary of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Dr. Elvis Oglafa, told the committee that in 2014, about N924 million illegally transferred to private accounts by a staff of the Great Green Wall Project Agency, was recovered and returned to the agency.
He said the ICPC swung into action after an alert from the former Permanent-Secretary of the ministry, Fati Mede, of the transfers.