Hundreds of trucks laden with charcoal trapped
Customs, expert clarifies situation
By Godwin Oritse
Several hundreds of trucks loaded with charcoal for export are now trapped in the various holding facilities for export as the Nigerian Customs Service begins implementation of the ban on export of the product.
In a bid to arrest deforestation currently ravaging the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria had placed a ban on the export of charcoal, but both exporters and Customs operatives appeared to have exploited the ambiguity in the description of the affected product to allow the exporting to continue until now.
Although the recent directives for implementation of the ban could not be obtained by our Correspondent, the Deputy National Public Relations of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Mr. Timi Bomodi, a Deputy Comptroller confirmed the development.
He, however, explained that the natural coal is not banned from export adding that only coal made from wood burning that is currently on the prohibition list.
Speaking on the development, the Customs Public Relations Officer of the Tin-can Island Port, Mr. Uche Ejieseme, said that the Command recently received a circular that directed them to implement the charcoal export ban.
A driver of one the trucks loaded with charcoal told Vanguard that there is a big problem as many trucks of charcoal that were on their way to the ports were asked to turned back.
But speaking on the development, Secretary General of Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria, TWEAN, Mr. Joseph Odiase, said that the ban on charcoal has been on for some time, adding, ‘‘it is just that Nigerians claimed to be ignorant of the ban’’.
Odiase also said the ban was not effective because the business, probably, has not been sanitized enough hence the continued exportation despite the embargo.
He also said that what was banned was wood and related products which include coal, but was not categorically spelt as charcoal.
He explained that the issue about forest and forest product exportation is all about the environment because there is a large clamour about climate change.
He stated: “Charcoal has been banned since, even this year people still exported but it has been banned long before now. I think it was more of ignorance on the part of exporter and improper awareness and sensitization on the part of government.
“Initially, what was communicated was partial, what the circular said was wood and related products which includes charcoal but because it was not categorically spelt out as charcoal but it has been banned long ago.
“Sustainable harvesting of wood and wood products, that is what government should be talking about. You cannot say people should not trade, you cannot say people should not do business.
“If we do not cut these woods, we do not turn them to charcoal, we do not turn them into furniture, we do not use them to build houses, these woods will grow and die.
“What are we suppose to do, we are suppose to put a sustainable mechanism of planting, forestation and all that, that is why we have the National Forest Trust Fund.’’