By Dirisu Yakubu
Constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Femi Falana has accused state governments in the country of playing a part in the continuous destruction of forests in their various domains.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria stated this on Thursday in Abuja at a one day workshop on “Preventing Illicit Trade in Nigeria’s Endangered Plant Species,” organized by the HEDA Resource Centre in partnership with the Environmental Investigation Agency, EIA, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Lamenting the danger of environmental destruction, Falana maintained that some state governments trade in forest resources as a way of generating income for their use.
He pledged his readiness to deploy the instrument of law to combat the illicit trade even as he harped on the need to intensify campaign to protect the environment at all times.
“State governments have become part of the environmental degradation we are witnessing in this country because it is a major source of revenue for them to trade in timbers and other forest resources. But this is wrong and must be addressed with the use of the law.
“Section 20 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) empowers state to protect and safeguard the forest and environmental resources and this is also true of Article 24 of the African Charter. States should be involved in managing environmental resources rather than trading illicitly in them,” he said.
Presenting the lead paper titled, “Preventing Illicit Trade in Nigeria’s Endangered Plant Species,” Professor of Forest Economics and Sustainable Development, Labo Popoola lamented what he called the corruption in the forestry sector, noting that Nigeria was yet to make afforestation, a key policy instrument for job creation opportunities.
Bemoaning the illegal movement of forest products in the country, Popoola who doubles as Vice-Chancellor of the Osun State University said, “a possible negative implication is that illegal movement of forest products may be encouraged and may not be easily monitored and may thus prove difficult to combat.
“This will engender more pressure on the forest estate and will, in turn, lead to deforestation of the country’s reserve as well as environmental degradation.”
Professor Popoola called on the federal government to prioritize tree planting saying, “there is a subsisting Presidential approval for a Presidential Initiative on Afforestation, PIA, which if implemented sincerely, would fast track the recovery of the forest sector from its current parlous state.
Representatives from the Nigerian Customs Service, Ministry of Environment, the Taraba state government and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, attended the event.