The Minister of Environment, Malam Ibrahim Jibril, on Friday called on wood and allied dealers to protect the wild flora and fauna in the country, for a sustainable environment.
Jibril made the call during the Two-Day Interactive Workshop for Sensitisation and Awareness Creation On Wood Export Procedure and CITES Implementation In Nigeria in Lagos.
He said that wild flora and fauna were renewable natural resources endowment of every society and they provide sustenance of livelihoods at various levels of economic development.
The Minister said that forests and forest resources contributed significantly to the economic development of advanced countries like the US, Canada and Finland.
According to him, in developing countries like Nigeria, they underpin people’s livelihoods and economic development in areas such as furniture, construction, housing, food security, medicare and environmental services.
“Illegal trade on wild flora and fauna resources must, therefore, be stopped.
“It threatens the environment, deprives communities of their livelihoods, decreases revenues for governments, for businesses and increases the probability of conflicts and insecurity, in addition to jeopardising the survival of species.
“Government is aware of these socio-economic aspects of forest operations, particularly in creating rural employment, generating income, support livelihoods and enhance poverty reduction.
“These socio-economic aspects of forest operations are all in line with the Economic Growth Recovery Plan (EGPR), seeking for benefits from various ways of economic diversification from non-oil exports.
“Government is also aware of the results of large trade volumes between nations and the effects on the economy,’’ he said.
Jibril said that the consumption of flora and fauna products and services were expected to be compatible with economic development, social benefits and environmental sustainability.
He said that one of the most pressing issues, therefore, was ensuring a balance between both ends.
According to him, sustainable utilisation of these resources calls for monitoring of market and trade patterns.
“It also calls for ensuring compliance with regulations, standards, procedures and process for access and ensuring the rights of generations yet unborn to the enjoyment of same, as secured,’’ he said.
The Minister said that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was an international treaty to control, and regulate the use of species of plants and animals that were threatened, endangered or are at the verge of being extinct.
He said that the convention was domesticated in Nigeria through the National Wildlife Protection Act 2016, which sought to protect specific flora and fauna species that were indigenous to the country from going extinct.
According to him, under these two regulations, the plants and animals and their derivatives, listed under Schedule/Appendix l, are not to be traded at international markets.
“Government has identified low level of sensitisation and awareness creation as one of the factors responsible for non-compliance with standards in trade in timber and species of wildlife.
“The sad incidence where a colony of chimpanzees was killed by local hunters in delta state recently is evidence of ignorance and insufficient information on the need to protect our endangered species.
“This particular animal is an endangered specie that is protected both by international and national regulations.
“Chimpanzees as we all know have some common features with man and lots of research results from them are useful in the treatment of many ailments in man. We surely need these animals to support our survival.
“The same goes for trees such as timber species that are becoming extinct like Iroko, Apa, Mahogany, Obeche, Ebony, Mansonia Rhizophora. These are not permitted to be traded at the international market.
“Government, in conjunction with stakeholders and various NGOs, will continue to intensify campaign and sensitisation on the status of these plants and animals and the regulations guiding their conservation and protection from ignorant hunters and predators,’’ he said.
Jibril also said that actionable strategies to address issues of deforestation and forest degradation in the country had received the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
He said that efforts were ongoing toward the establishment of a National Forestry Trust Fund, among others, to advance forest development for both production and protective purposes.
The Director of Forestry, in the ministry, Mr Michael Osakuade, said that in the last two years, the ministry had continuously engaged, collaborated and dialogued with major players in the wood export business.
Osakuade said that the players were represented by the Processed Wood Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (PROWPMAN), Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria (TWEAN) and the enforcement agencies in the various aspects of the wood export and have evolved actionable strategies to address deforestation.
He said that the basic reason for the effort was to ensure sustainable use and legal trade in wood and other forest products.
According to him, the workshop was strategically designed to create awareness and increase understanding of the need for compliance with established standards, regulations and procedures for sustainable and labour trade.
“It focuses on the need to ensure that stakeholders in the wood and allied product trade are kept abreast of the regulations guiding the trade.
“We have the responsibility of balancing the environment. From tomorrow, if you are exporting Mahogany, Obeche and Rhizophora, you are a criminal and we will treat you as one.
“However, this species of wood can be traded locally, but not outside the country,’’ he added.