On May 26, 2021, the Nigerian Human Rights Community, NHRC, in a press conference titled, “Illegal Wood Export in Nigeria and the Far-reaching Consequences on Economy, Human Rights and Sustainable Development in Nigeria”, raised the alarm on the activities of Chinese, Lebanese and Korean illegal loggers in Nigeria’s forests.
According to the NHRC, these foreigners devastate our environment by stripping our forests bare of trees in the most unsustainable manner and carting them away overseas as timber through illegal exports. “What we are seeing across Nigeria is a blatant rape of our environment by a combined dubious synergy of local and international conspirators,” the group said.
These illegal activities take place mostly in communities around Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Osun, Cross River, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo and Delta, Plateau, Nassarawa and Benue states. Their main targets are the precious Rosewoods, Araria, Mahogany and Iroko.
Apart from trees serving as carbon sinks and protection against soil erosion, forest resources also support the livelihood of millions of Nigerians. Our trees and forests are our sources of foods, medicines and shelters for important wildlife. But unfortunately, Nigeria has become a hub for the largest illegal exportation of woods in Africa, viciously destroying our future.
According to the NHRC, 96,518 square kilometres of land, which amounts to 27 percent of the total forest area and 10 percent of the total land area, was designated as “reserved”. Most of these are located in the Savannah area.
In the year 2005 alone, about 11, 089, 000 hectares (27, 400, 000 acres) were destroyed in Nigeria. Between 1990 and 2000, the country lost about 409, 700 hectares of forest. The years between 1990 and 2005 saw Nigeria lose 35.7 percent of her forest strength which translates to 6, 145, 000 hectares.
Also Nigeria, according to NHRC, is home to 285 mammals, 203 reptiles, 117 amphibians, 775 different fishes and about 4, 715 species of higher plants. The desperate search and destruction of these precious trees lead to the total annihilation of these special species created by God.
The implications of all these on agriculture, sustainable livelihood, spiritual well-being, climate change and political economy are staggering. Besides, these violate the Nigerian Constitution and the various United Nations Conventions on the environment, including the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We, therefore, join the NHRC to call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and the governors to swing into action and decisively bring these violators to book.
The Nigerian Prohibition List which states that timber cannot be exported in rough and sawn form should be enforced. Also, the Convention on International Trade, Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, should be enforced.