JONAS EZIEKE, Abuja
Chairman House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee probing massive deforestation and alleged corruption in the management of the environment and its effect on climate change Hon. Bede Eke has described as highly unacceptable, the estimated $500 million lost to the illegal exportation of wood from Nigeria to China.
Speaking during a public hearing by the Committee, Eke explained that there was a difference of $500 million between the figures presented by the Nigerian government and its Chinese counterpart as the amount made from the trade of wood between both countries. He has therefore called on relevant government agencies, especially the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to improve on its computation of proceeds from exports and immediately stop the export of wood that is not approved for exportation by the Nigerian government. The lawmaker, who said that years of poor regulation of the country’s forest resources has led to a devastating level of deforestation in many parts of the country, stressed the need for prompt and sustainable interventions to save the country from further exploitation by Chinese businessmen.
The Committee helmsman also called on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to ensure that only companies with verifiable credentials are allowed to conduct export business in the country.The call came after his disclosure that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) made a submission to the Committee, which shows that over 95 percent of Chinese wood exporters operating within Nigeria have never paid tax. “The House is not happy with these companies; these people operate as if exportation of wood is free of charge in Nigeria. “We wrote these companies, 25 of them and many letters came back undelivered because the addresses they were sent-to are not correct. “The companies haven’t taken us seriously because they believe that after we speak English here, the will just go and deal with Customs.
“We can also blame the situation on the fact that we don’t have proper documentation of the firms that operate in our country”, Eke said.In response Acting Deputy Controller General of Customs for Tariff and Trade,
Mr Ali Robert said that it shouldn’t carry the blame for monies lost as the NCS deals with licensed customs agents.
This as he reiterated that the NCS has seized tones of woods not meant for export from unscrupulous business men, with the seized consignments promptly handed over to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).
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