The Federal Government has concluded plans to fulfil the conditions it was given by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for it to lift the ban it placed on Nigeria from exporting rosewood to other countries.
The Director, Department of Forestry in the Federal Ministry of Environment, Andrew Adejo, disclosed this in an interview with EnviroNews during a meeting with the visiting Chinese CITES Management Authority in Abuja on Tuesday, September 10, 2019.
Prior to the meeting, the Chinese CITES Management Authority delegation paid a courtesy visit to Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar and Minister of State for Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, in their office.
CITES on October 2018 suspended trade with Nigeria until she, among other conditions, conducts a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) on rosewood.
The trade suspension was reportedly informed by the country exporting, between January and August 2018, 181,191.67m3 of rosewood through issuance of 4,757 permits to Vietnam and China (8,559.78m3 to Vietnam and 172,631.89m3 to China), a volume considered unsustainable by the CITES Secretariat.
Nigeria was given up to December 31, 2019 to address some issues raised before the suspension can be lifted.
Adejo explained: “What we are doing here is that we are trying to strengthen the collaboration between Nigeria and China in terms of biodiversity management with special focus on CITES.
“CITES is the convention in international trade on endangered species and for now there has been what is called an illegal wildlife trade which has become a booming business.
“What we are doing here is how to find a means of collaborating so that we can marshal out plans and ideas that will benefit all Nigerians.
“One of the things we are coming up with is developing electronic-led digital bud displays that will be on our four, five main entry and exit points in the airports.”
Explaining why Nigeria was banned from exporting wood and the efforts made by government to get the ban lifted by CITES, Adejo, said: “The exporters started having the problems because of the shady practices they involved in and the fact that we need to control the level of logging in our country.
“What we have started doing is that we have completed Non-Detriment Findings (NDF), after that when the secretariat of CITES reviews it and gives us their outcome, we will be able to know the level of extraction of wood that will be done and the exporters too will work together as a team to cut off the shady practices.
“They will also be helping us to track issues of fake CITES permit because that is the problem. Once they get the fake CITES permit, it gets oversea and the other countries refuse it.
“So, working collaboratively and discussing with them on a regular basis will make us reduce the problems they are having.
“Their major problem now is as a result of the suspension in trade in terecapus serenacious which we are working in conjunction with China and Vietnam.”
Recalling how trouble started between Nigeria and CITES, the Director, stated: “From the records, what went wrong was that Nigeria started exporting wood since 2016, and by 2017 Nigeria exports in the Asian countries were becoming noticeable and CITES picked it up and they were looking at the volume of wood coming out from Nigeria and felt it was unsustainable. The Nigerian government then placed a temporary ban on export of wood.
“CITES then told the Nigerian government in 2017 that, before you export wood, you have to do a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF). The Nigerian government then promised to do it and the Nigerian government then lifted the ban.
“The export then started but it became worrisome and the CITES Mission came to Nigeria in May 2018 and told the government to go and do an NDF. The government then promised to initiate the NDF in two or three months after the Mission left. But the government did not send the NDF to the Mission as promised.
“Because we failed to abide by the advice of the Mission, CITES then placed a ban to suspend Nigeria from trading with other parties. There were many issues with the suspension, but we were able to water down some of the hard decisions.
“They gave us till December 2019 to submit report on most of the concerns they raised. We have done an NDF and submitted it to CITES secretariat. We are reviewing it.”
Speaking with EnviroNews, the National President of Process Wood Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Oyaleke Christopher, commended the government for bringing out new export guidelines, describing it as commendable.
He, therefore, expressed optimism that with the new guidelines, wood business will be done in a more sustainable manner in Nigeria.
“It is a good development. If you take a critical look at the new guidelines, it gives us room for doing business in a sustainable manner. All the guidelines are good for the business, the country and our members,” he reiterated.
He, however, called on the government to act fast to ensure that the ban by CITES is lifted as, according to him, “our members have lost huge amount of money regarding the export that are already at destination.
“We are looking at a way in which the federal government and CITES secretariat will assist us to clear our containers that we have at the various destinations – in China and Vietnam.”
A cross section of Chinese delegation at the meeting applauded the federal government for the initiative, stressing that it would improve business relationship between Nigeria and China.
China, according to them, is ready to work closely with Nigeria for the benefit of both citizens.
They, however, called more of such forums so that “we will continue to discuss and understand ourselves for better trade between Nigeria and China.”