Following the exit of Odigha Odigha – erstwhile chairman of the Cross River State Forestry Commission (CFSFC) – as the State Coordinator for the REDD+ Programme in the state, the authorities have begun shopping for a replacement. But civil society operatives are frowning at the seeming monopolisation of the position by the CRSFC, stressing that UN-REDD+ is indeed a national project and not a state initiative. In a correspondent to Salisu Dahiru, the National Coordinator, the activists are demanding public participation, transparency and social accountability in the process of recruiting a new state coordinator in order to, according to them, engender stakeholder commitment and support.
Following the outcome of the meeting of the Technical Committee of the United Nations REDD+ Programme in Cross River State (CRS) held on 7 and 8 of October, 2015 in Calabar, where the Cross River State Civil Society Network and NGO Coalition for Environment were represented as members, a meeting of relevant Civil Society Organisations in Cross River State with interest in the REDD+ Programme was convened shortly after to provide feedback on the outcome of the meeting. As a key point and outcome of the meeting, we hereby cordially intimate you of our position on the selection of a new State Coordinator for the REDD+ Programme in Cross River State on behalf of the Civil Society Organisations.
The Civil Society Forum thereby observed that:
- Whereas the Nigeria REDD+ Programme document recognises the National REDD+ Coordinator from the Federal Ministry of Environment and CRS Forestry Commission’s Chairman as the programme managers.
- Whereas the position of the Chairman of the Board of CRS Forestry Commission is created by law – CRS Forestry Commission Law 2010, and as such has the statutory mandate to exercise such functions as State Coordinator of an internationally funded and nationally driven programme like REDD+.
- Whereas, the constitutional requirement for the composition of the Forestry Commission Board headed by a Chairman is representative of REDD+ stakeholders and remains the most acceptable, appropriate, and efficient platform for the Coordination of REDD+ in CRS. Specifically, PART1, Section 3(1) of the CRS Forestry Commission Law states as follows:
The Commission shall consist of:
- A Chairman;
- Two persons appointed from Non-Governmental Organisations, (NGOs) whose activities are relevant to the functions of the Commission provided that such NGOSs have been active and in consistent existence for at least the last five years;
- Two persons from the private sector;
- The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice as ex-officio member;
- The Commissioners or officers charged with the responsibility of Forestry; Bio-diversity and Conservation; Environment; Finance; and International Donor Support as ex-officio member;
- Conservator General who shall be a Director of Forestry;
- The Permanent Secretary of the Commission who shall be the Secretary of the Commission;
- A representative of the Civil Society Organisations; and
- A representative of the Cross River State National Park.
In consideration of the above, the Forum thereby resolved to take the following positions and seek your immediate intervention:
- While it is not the interest of the Civil Society to investigate the operations of the past Board, The Civil Society Forum however demands openness, honesty and transparency in conduct of officials of the Forestry Commission and state that we do not accept the public statement made by the Permanent Secretary of the Commission at the just concluded CRS REDD+ Technical Committee to justify her position for Forestry Commission’s dominant control of REDD+ stating that “I did not have the privilege of anything handed over to me and so I don’t have records to work with”. This statement is difficult to comprehend when the Permanent Secretary is by law the Secretary of the Forestry Commission, and as such of the Board.
- Whereas the Forestry Commission in a closed door meeting in September, 2015 with other agencies of government in the State decided and circulated internal memos to government offices for the recruitment of a new State Coordinator without consultation with and input from other stakeholders of the REDD programme in State, a move that the Civil Society considers as a misguided step even before the composition of operational structures in addition to existing civil service structures by the new State Government. The Civil Society Forum would therefore like to know: What are the set criteria for selecting the New State Coordinator; how have the stakeholders been involved in the choice and implementation of this process so far; and what happens to the selection of the State Coordinator if and when the Board of the commission is reconstituted with a Chairman?
- Whereas at the Technical Committee meeting the members conceded to the exclusive stance of the Forestry Commission to control the REDD+ programme from a position of dominance and not influence to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders, the Civil Society Forum strongly expresses concern that the position of the Forestry Commission and desire for power, has created and will continue to create sustained doubt and suspicion in the minds of stakeholders, especially communities whose basic asset for survival and wellbeing is the forest. This is detrimental to the implementation of REDD+.
- Whereas the Civil Society has the man power and is able to provide coordination of REDD+ in the State, and whereas the Forestry Commission has assumed the leadership of the Safeguards Working Group and the Technical Committee, notwithstanding, the Civil Society does not seek the position of REDD+ Coordinator and therefore strongly advises that in the absence of a Forestry Board and a Chairman, and the necessary replacement of a State Coordinator for REDD+, the recruitment process should be overseen by the CRS REDD+ Technical Committee, the REDD+ National Coordinator and the CRS REDD+ Secretariat as a demonstration of transparency, accountability and stakeholders participation in governance that REDD+ suggests.
- Whereas the Permanent Secretary at the Technical Committee meeting said ‘we are soon concluding the process of recruitment for the State Coordinator and will announce to you’, The Civil Society Forum is of the opinion that the on-going recruitment process should be reviewed and extended to allow for broad consultation, set criteria for the selection, in the event that stakeholders agree and can justify the decision to overlook the roles the Chairman of Forestry Commission Board.
- Whereas the Civil Society Forum fully accepts and supports the Chairman of the Technical Committee selected by the Permanent Secretary of the Forestry Commission, however a similar unilateral decision and imposition of a State Coordinator will be counterproductive. Considering the participation of several other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, the Academia, and Forest Dependent Communities, pilot site communities, if there must be a replacement other than the Forestry Commission Board Chairman, without any sentiments, the civil society forum recommends that the person must be from these other stakeholder groups and satisfy basic capacity requirements for the office, and be acceptable to the various stakeholders in the overall interest of the Programme.
In the spirit of participation and commitment to the wellbeing and development of our dear State, Cross River and Country, Nigeria, we thank you for paying attention to and acting on our suggestions to get CRS and Nigeria REDD-ready. God Bless.