The federal government has warned against illegal activities in forests across the country, insisting anyone caught involved in any form of illegalities in forest reserves would be severe sanctioned.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris issued the warning on Friday during a workshop on the operationalisation of the Forestry Inter-Ministerial Joint Task Force (FIM-JTF), on the exploitation of Forest Resources.
The Permanent Secretary, who was represented by the Director, Forestry Department, Mrs Hajara Sani, urged members of the JTF to work assiduously for a smooth take-off.
He tasked them on effective operations that would forestall all forms of illegalities in the country’s forests, in order to achieve Sustainable Forest Management.
Idris warned that anyone identified as a refractory logger, must be apprehended and documented, and handed over to the appropriate authority for sanctions, which include being blacklisted from export, depending on the gravity of the offence.
He said: “As you are aware, Nigeria is facing replete environmental challenges such as deforestation and land degradation, among others, due to unsustainable logging activities, especially as witnessed during the recent ban on wood and related product export from 2018 without corresponding forest replenishment.
“This, therefore, prompted the former Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammed Abdullahi, to conditionally lift the ban/suspension, and put in place effective measures to regulate the sector so as to achieve Sustainable Forest Management,” he said.
Idris however noted that the JTF’s mandate was to bring sanity to the sector, by ensuring investors and other players in the sector complied with Forest Laws, Standards and Regulations, to checkmate forest/wildlife crimes, illegal logging, environmental degradation and consequently, help to reverse the deplorable state of the forest.
He said: “It is very important we manage the forests sustainably for the continuous provision of an array of products and services for both the present and future generations.
“To advance progress already made on lifting the ban effective and productive, it is expedient that members of the reconstituted Inter-Ministerial Joint Task Force, meet to deliberate on strategies for surveillance and operations.
“This leap is aimed at curbing illegal forest exploitation, which has affected and destroyed the country’s rich biodiversity, thereby denying our nation the full realisation of its potential.”
He equally said that the states had very important roles to play in the forestry sector, being custodians of the forests. He added that: “With the vast experience the states have in the wood industry, coupled with diverse efforts of the ministry and the private sector, illegal activities in the states can be tackled effectively if we are all committed to the task.”
He promised stakeholders that guidelines and standards would be put in place to regulate the sector, and ensure sustainable forest management, while they generated increased revenue for the country.
He said: “Let me intimate you here that National Forestry Trust Fund is also planning, as part of these measures, to curb deforestation by establishing whistle-blowers.
“I believe the contribution of whistle-blowing will make the work of JTF easier and more effective.
“On this note, I urge all members of the JTF to discharge their duties without fear or favour. Compromise should not be ‘heard of’ or ‘seen’ in the execution of this national duty.”
On his part, the representative of the National Park Service (NPS), Mr Danjuma Magaji,, said the service played a very important role in forests conservation.
While also speaking at the event, the representative from the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Oluwadamilola Olaofe,, said that as a revenue generating agency, the service knows the importance of forestry, and assured the ministry of its full support for the FIM/JTF.
The representative of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Mr Afu Peter, said that Prof. Aliyu Jauro, the agency’s Director General, had promised to assist the JTF work effectively.