Federal government has blamed the ongoing deforestation in the country on some powerful interests at the sub-national level who protect loggers that produce charcoal for sale.
Minister of environment, Mohammed Abdulahi, disclosed this yesterday during the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential communications team at the presidential Villa, Abuja .
According to him, each time the federal government tried to go after those behind the menace to save the environment, there was a push back at the subnational level on the ground that the trees belong to the states.
He said, “To have some level of control, apart from timber legal standards, we have what we call National Trust Fund (NATF), which is essentially to track in areas where there is so much pressure on our forests.
“After tracking it, raise red flags and then engage those communities and the state governments so that the solution can be brought and have a level of arrest of the continuous challenge to our forest.
“What we did not tell you, is that the activities of the people in the charcoal business with all due respect are being supported by a number of powerful people in the sub-national level. And if we try to do some level of enforcement, they will tell you, we own this territory, you are the federal government and you cannot enforce your rule and policy on us.
“So, that is part of the challenge in terms of controlling these activities. But in spite of this, the task force is still there, going after some of them on an ad-hoc basis, trying to find out who and who is involved, who licensed who. We are doing our best to curb the situation.”
Earlier, the director-general of Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Professor Adepoju Olusola, speaking on the Timber and Energy Standard said, “No other administration has tackled this issue like the Buhari administration. The challenge we are facing under deforestation and charcoal is engaging the Nigerian Governors Forum because of the Land Use Act.”
The minister also said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has so far planted 5 million trees as part of its target to plant 25 million trees by the year 2030 under its afforestation policy.
On claims by Anambra State governor , Charles Soludo, describing Anambra as the capital of erosion in the country and what the government was doing to arrest the situation, Abdulahi said: “On Anambra being the erosion capital of Nigeria, again some of these things boils down to the nature of our federal structure.
“Part of the problem is that, initially, the federal government used to intervene in state erosion matters under the Ecological Fund. But the states insisted that they be given their share of the ecological funds.
“So, since then, Mr. President, being a democrat, gave directives that every FAAC meeting, deductions are made and paid to states from the Ecological Fund. But in spite of that, the federal government through the Ecological Fund office still intervenes in states to support erosion challenges in several states.
“So as much as we want to intervene and correct some of these anomalies, we are also inhibited by funding issues. Again, that was the basis for which the federal government created NEMA so that the issues of erosion are handled in every state. There is a huge gap in the management of erosion particularly in the south East states of Anambra , Imo and Enugu.
“So, we are doing our best to support them but we are also calling on the states to live up to their responsibilities and utilize those funds they get from Ecological Fund effectively, this way we can support ourselves,” he said.