The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC) has called on President Mohammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and the 36 State Governors to immediately sanction foreign interests illegally exporting Nigerian wood.
At a press conference on Wednesday in Lagos, the NHRC, a coalition of 135 civil society and community based organizations across Nigeria said the destruction of Nigeria forests faces an emergency situation.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Taiwo Adeleye the Director of Publicity of the group said the activities of the Chinese, Indians and Lebanese will destroy the ecology and biodiversity in the country. The human rights groups said that in the past three months, the NHRC has been receiving reports from across the country from indigenous peoples whose livelihood is threatened and their forest resources are at the verge of extinction. These communities are helpless.
“They face a hopeless situation. The most affected communities are in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Lagos, Osun, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo and Delta States. In the Northern States most hit are Plateau, Nassarawa and Benue States”, the NHRC said.
According to the coalition, the main actors are Chinese, Koreans and Lebanese who have no other jobs than to invade the forests cut down the trees for export in the most ignoble, vicious and callous manners adding that there is no Environmental Impact Assessment, (EIA), not free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities while the desperate hunt for these precious forest reserves continues.
“It may interest Nigerians to know that these precious trees that cost fortunes are never replace by these foreigners who feast on them. Their main targets are Rosewood, Araria, Mahogami, Iroko, Annually, some 3.5%, approximately 350,000-400,000 hectares are destroyed per year in Nigeria with these activities linked to the Chinese, Korean and Lebanese cartels. The destruction of these forest reserves by these Foreign Interests has serious implication for sustainable livelihood in the Country” the NHRC said
The group listed the challenges thus: Illegal exportation damages local economy and natural habitat, increase in local timber prices which can cause factories short down, thereby force many out of jobs, local manufacturers could not get logs to run their factories, destruction of local industry.
Other consequences listed were increase in timber prices will increase cost of construction ( house, road, drainage, flood works etc), violation of indigenous rights as communities resist the destruction of their land leading to conflict, increase in timber prices will increase cost of manufacturing ( pallet prices, packing and transportation cost)
The group also cited the problems to include excessive and illegal deforestation will also affect the natural habitat and threat to food security across the country.
The NHRC called for the immediate ban of Chinese, Lebanese, Indians and Koreans and all foreigners involved in illegal exportation of Nigerians precious wood resources.
The group called in President Buhari to set up of a Presidential Probe Panel and Judicial Commissions of Enquiry in all the affected States to identify, punish and sanction all the foreign interests and their collaborators involved in this illegal business.
“In line with the dictates of Nigerian law, the Nigerian Prohibition List which states that Timber cannot be exported in ROUGH AND SAWN form which is the form these illegal Exporters move the woods, and in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the perpetrators must be brought o book” the NHRC said.
The group said “We are from this week embarking on a local and global campaign against all the individuals and foreign interests involved in these illegal deals. We shall embark on petitions to government institutions, the Chinese, Lebanese and Korean Governments and the United Nations, (UN) to stop these criminal acts and bring the perpetrators to book without delay”