Monday, 20 November 2017

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Headliners

Headliners (1798)

Second Republic vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, is dead.
 
The elder statesman’s death was disclosed in a statement issued by the Ekwueme family of Oko, in Anambra State.
 
The statement was reportedly released in the early hours of Monday.
 
The statement, signed by the former vice president’s brother, and the traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra State, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, explained that he passed on around 10:00 pm on Sunday, in a London hospital.
 
The statement read, “Ekwueme family regrets to announce the peaceful passing away of their patriarch, the former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, GCON.
 
“The sad event occurred at the London Clinic at 10:00 pm on Sunday, 19th November, 2017.”
 
It would be recalled that Ekwueme was hospitalised in Memfys Neurosurgery Hospital, Enugu, for about two weeks before he was flown abroad for medical treatment on November 12.
 
The elder statesman was rushed to the hospital after collapsing at his residence in the Independence Layout area of Enugu on October 28.
 
It was learnt that the elder statesman was in a coma at the time he was admitted to the hospital.
 
Ekwueme, who celebrated his 85th birthday on October 10, reportedly suffered from a chest infection, according to his family members.
Posted On Monday, 20 November 2017 17:01 Written by

The police are probing the stabbing to death of Bilyamin Muhammed Bello by his wife, Maryam, in Abuja.

Bilyamin is a son of a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one-time minister, Dr. Haliru Bello.

His wife, who is the suspect, is a daughter of former Aso Savings boss Hajia Maimuna Aliyu.

Hajia Aliyu was recently nominated into the board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

The couple before the weekend tragic incident had a one-year old daughter.

“The FCT Police Command has commenced investigation into the matter.

“The case has been transferred to the Homicide Section for discreet investigation,” spokesman Anjuguri Manzah stated in a text message last night.

The suspect is being detained by the police while the deceased was buried yesterday after the Janazar prayer at the Central Mosque in Abuja.

Maryam was taken to her residence by homicide detectives for a search, fingerprints and forensic investigation.

She was saved from being mobbed by angry siblings and relatives of the deceased husband. 

Clinging to her seven-month old baby girl, Maryam, who looked remorseful, burst into tears after being led into the flat where she allegedly killed her husband.

According to sources, the jealous wife was uncomfortable with the text messages her late husband had been receiving from some women.

It was gathered that a particular message from a banker made the wife to attack her husband.

The source added: “They were at home when the wife became berserk over some text messages, including one allegedly suspected to be from a female banker.

“After engaging in a shouting match, the wife was embroiled in fighting with her husband before heading to the kitchen where she picked a knife to stab Bilyamin three times, including on his private parts.

“Drenched with blood, Bilyamin fought hard by crawling out of the couple’s flat to ask for help from neighbours.

“Upon hearing his distress call, neighbours, who had heard the exchange of words and banging of doors at the flat, ferried Bilyamin to a hospital.

“Unfortunately, the husband died in the hospital. The incident was reported to the police and Maryam was arrested by homicide detectives.”

Maryam is a graduate with two degrees from British university.

In a Whatsapp message yesterday afternoon, her mother Hajia Aliyu expressed shock and feeling of loss over the sad development.

“It is with a heavy heart but with total submission to the will of Allah that I announce the death of my son in-law, Bilyamin Bello Haliru, which sad event took place in the early hours of today.

“Prayers will be held at the Central Mosque…

“May Allah grant his soul Aljannah Firdaus as his permanent place of abode,” the grieving mother in-law stated.

There had been whispers of a rocky relationship in a marriage meant to bring two prominent families together but allegations of infidelity and plans to marry another wife might have caused the insecurity in Bilyamin’s Maitama home.

The patriarch of the family, Bello, is said to be away in the United States for medical attention.

“We were all sad, it was just too heavy for us to break the news to our father,” a family source added.

Posted On Monday, 20 November 2017 04:19 Written by

The Independent National Electoral Commission has declared Governor Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance the winner of the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State.

The Returnee Officer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Zana Akpagu, made this declaration at the INEC office in Awka at the end of the collation of results from the 21 local government areas of the state. 

Obiano, who was running for a second term in office, polled 234,071 votes to beat Tony Nwoye of the All Progressives Congress, who came second with 98,752 votes.

The PDP governorship candidate Oseloka Obaze, came third in the November 18 contest with 70,293 votes.

Posted On Sunday, 19 November 2017 19:02 Written by

Zimbabwe's ruling party has sacked Robert Mugabe as its leader, as pressure intensifies for him to step down as president.

Zanu-PF appointed ex-Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was fired by Mr Mugabe two weeks ago, in his place.

The party has given Mr Mugabe, 93, until 10:00 GMT on Monday to resign as president, or face impeachment.

The military intervened last week, in an apparent attempt to block him from installing his wife as his successor.

The first lady, Grace Mugabe, and several other senior officials have been expelled from the party altogether.

Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans attended street protests on Saturday, demonstrating against the Mugabes.

Mr Mugabe has also reportedly been meeting military leaders, according to Zimbabwe's The Herald.

While no details of the talks have been released, photos posted by the newspaper show the two sides - which also met several days ago - shaking hands.

Cheering erupted when the decision to dismiss Mr Mugabe as party leader was announced.

One senior official later told the BBC's Andrew Harding: "It's the dawn of a new era. Mugabe can go farming."

Zanu-PF's Central Committee also warned that impeachment proceedings would begin on Tuesday if Mr Mugabe did not step down as president by noon local time on Monday.

One party official said Mr Mnangagwa, who has since reportedly returned to Zimbabwe, had been nominated as the party's presidential candidate for the 2018 general elections.

President Mugabe and Grace Mugabe on 24 May 2014Image copyrightAFP
President Mugabe's wife, Grace, had emerged as a leading candidate to succeed her husband
Zimbabwe Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa listens as President Robert Mugabe (not pictured) delivers his state of the nation address to the countryImage copyrightREUTERS
But Mr Mnangagwa has re-emerged as front runner after his dismissal two weeks ago

His sacking prompted an extraordinary chain of events over the past week:

  • Mr Mnangagwa fled the country after his dismissal as Mr Mugabe's deputy two weeks ago
  • The army's chief of staff, Gen Constantino Chiwenga, warned last Monday that the military might intervene to stop purges in the party - and was roundly criticised by allies of the Mugabes
  • On Wednesday, soldiers seized the headquarters of the national broadcaster
  • Mr Mugabe has been mostly under house arrest for several days
  • On Saturday, unprecedented mass protests further weakened Mr Mugabe's position

Speaking ahead of the party meeting, the head of the influential War Veterans Association, Chris Mutsvangwa, threatened to "bring back the crowds and they will do their business" if Mr Mugabe did not step down.

Mr Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe for 37 years, having led the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

He has made just one public appearance since events unfolded, speaking at a university graduation ceremony on Friday.

Posted On Sunday, 19 November 2017 15:18 Written by

“These are tears of joy,” Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, told Reuters, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag.

“I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”

NAN reports that on Friday, President Ian Khama of Botswana urged Mugabe to end his attempts to remain in office after the military seized power, as he has no regional diplomatic support to stay in power.

The military intervention, which political sources say could pave the way to a national unity government after 37 years of Mugabe rule, also presented “an opportunity to put Zimbabwe on a path to peace and prosperity”, Khama told Reuters.

“I don’t think anyone should be President for that amount of time. We are Presidents, we are not monarchs. It’s just common sense,” Khama said.

Earlier, Mugabe arrived at a university graduation ceremony in the capital on Friday, his first public appearance since a military seizure of power that political sources say is aimed at ending his 37 years in office.

Mugabe, who is 93, opened a graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University in Harare.

He wore blue and yellow academic robes and a mortar board hat and appeared to fall asleep in his chair as his eyes closed and his head lolled.

Mugabe led the country’s liberation struggle and has dominated its politics since independence in 1980.

He said he is still in charge but a senior member of the ZANU-PF ruling party said it wanted him gone.

“If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday,” the source said. “When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday.”

In contrast, the military said in a statement on national television it was “engaging” with Mugabe. It referred to him as Commander in Chief and said it would announce an outcome as soon as possible.

Mugabe is revered as an elder statesman and member of the generation of Africa’s independence leaders but he is also viewed by many in Africa as a president who held his country back by remaining in power too long.

He calls himself the grand old man of African politics.

Zimbabwe’s official newspaper, the Herald, ran photographs late on Thursday showing him grinning and shaking hands with military chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, who seized power this week.

The images stunned Zimbabweans who thought it meant Mugabe was managing to hold out against Chiwenga’s coup, with some political sources saying he was trying to delay his departure until elections scheduled for next year.

The ZANU-PF source said that was not the case. Anxious to avoid a protracted stalemate, party leaders were drawing up plans to dismiss Mugabe at the weekend if he refused to quit, the source said.

“There is no going back,” the source told Reuters. “It’s like a match delayed by heavy rain, with the home side leading 90-0 in the 89th minute.”

The army is camped on his doorstep.

His wife, Grace, is under house arrest, and her key political allies are in military custody.

The police, once a bastion of support, have showed no signs of resistance.

Furthermore, he has little popular backing in the capital, a stronghold of support for opposition parties that have tapped into the anger and frustration at his handling of the economy, which collapsed after the seizure of white-owned farms in 2000.

Unemployment is now running at nearly 90 percent and chronic shortages of hard currency have triggered hyperinflation, with the prices of imports rising as much as 50 per cent a month.

The only words Mugabe spoke at the graduation ceremony were met with ululations from the crowd.

In a telling irony, one of the graduates was the wife of Chiwenga.

The U.S., a longtime Mugabe critic, is seeking “a new era”, the State Department’s top official for Africa said, an implicit call for Mugabe to quit.

n an interview with Reuters, acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto appeared to dismiss the idea of keeping Mugabe in an interim or ceremonial role.

“It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe, that’s really what we’re hoping for,” Yamamoto said.

The army appears to want Mugabe to go quietly and allow a smooth and bloodless transition to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president, whose sacking last week triggered the military takeover.

The main goal of the generals is to prevent Mugabe from handing power to his wife, Grace, who appeared on the cusp of power after Mnangagwa was pushed out.

(Reuters/NAN)

Posted On Saturday, 18 November 2017 13:46 Written by

Barely 24 hours after his arrest, detectives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday grilled a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, on how he allegedly laundered over N13billion out of N58, 146,983,677.85 in the Ecological Fund account.

He was also asked to explain how the ecological cash ended up in the accounts of about 15 companies linked with him.

A third peg of the interrogation bordered on why Anyim collected N520million from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) on the eve of the 2015 general elections.

The reasons for the payment of the N520million were described by investigators as “unclear” as at the time of filing this report. 

According to findings, Anyim, who was described as sober in custody, was said to have used two of the 15 companies to make several transfers to 37 entities.

It was learnt that the EFCC opted to arrest the ex-SGF after he failed to respond to a letter of invitation from the agency.

It was gathered that Anyim, who was aware of the EFCC trail on him in the last one year, had banked on a political solution to his travails.

His sudden attendance of a dinner in honour of President Muhammadu Buhari in Abakaliki on Tuesday was said to be one of the rapprochements he was banking on to stave off the EFCC’s arrest.

But top sources close to investigation, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, claimed that Anyim had a lot of garbage to clear based on his conduct in office.

One of the sources said Anyim, who was SGF from May 2011 to May 29, 2015, was under probe for alleged “false declaration of assets, abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds and money laundering”.

The source said: “We have been conducting a covert investigation of Anyim in the last two years based on the alleged diversion and laundering of ecological funds.

“After reaching an appreciable stage, we invited Anyim, but he refused to honour the 10am appointment given to him. We had no choice than to effect his arrest at about noon on Thursday.

“We executed a search warrant in his house and we were able to recover some documents relevant to the investigation.”

Asked to be specific on the allegations against Anyim, another source added: There was the wild disbursement of cash from the SGF Ecological Fund account when Anyim was in charge. Most of the beneficiaries of the cash had nothing to do with ecological contracts.

“For instance, from May 2012 to May 2015, the SGF Ecological Fund Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria received an inflow of N58,146,983,677.85. From this fund, three of the companies linked to Anyim (Foundation Years, Obis Associate and Eldyke Engineering) received contracts worth over N13billion. Foundation Years alone received a net payment of N10,308,017,838.85 between 2014 and 2015.

“Curiously, on receiving the fund, Foundation Years and another Anyim’s company, Br-Kthru, made several transfers to 37 entities. Some of the organizations and individuals have no nexus at all with ecological issues. Investigators are probing the reasons behind the wild disbursement.

The source listed companies which Anyim allegedly used as fronts to “obtain contracts or laundered proceeds of the ecological funds contracts as Foundation Years Limited, Precious Integrated, Precious Petroleum, Mak & Mak, Chap Construction, Eldyke Engineering, Pryke Limited, Chipa Nigeria Limited, Prima A11 Limited, Pima International, Chanto Engineering, Ishiagu Microfinance Bank, Mulak Ventures, Vitro Engineering and Tip Top Nigeria.”

A third source said  Anyim has cases to answer in connection with alleged “false assets declaration, receiving N520m from the Office of the National Security Adviser on the eve of the 2015 general elections for unclear reasons and using proxies and companies in which he had interest to corner contracts from the Ecological Fund.

“So far, he is looking sober in our facility, but we have asked him to give account of the N13billion curious payments/ withdrawals/ transfers from the Ecological Fund account. We have conducted searches on the 15 firms, identified their accounts.

“More amazing was the transfer of the N520million to Anyim by ONSA on the eve of the 2015 general elections. He needs to account for this cash too.

“We have other strands of investigation, including the Centenary Project, alleged cornering of NDDC projects by cronies and alleged building of a 297-bed hotel within two years of becoming SGF. But we have not gone into these other allegations.

“Anyim knew all along that the EFCC had been on his trail. At a point, he wanted a political solution to his travails, but this has not worked for him. What is at stake has to do with public funds.”

All the efforts to contact Anyim or any of his aides for comment did not succeed as the mobile telephone numbers of virtually all the contacts were switched off.

Posted On Saturday, 18 November 2017 01:40 Written by

Zimbabwe's long-time President Robert Mugabe is reportedly refusing to step down immediately, despite growing calls for his resignation.

The 93-year-old was put under house arrest during a military takeover on Wednesday, amid a power struggle over who would succeed him.

There has been no official word on the outcome of talks he had with regional envoys and the army chief earlier.

But sources say he has so far refused to agree to move aside.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said earlier it was "in the interests of the people" that Mr Mugabe "resign... immediately".

The army moved in after Mr Mugabe last week sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace Mugabe to take over his Zanu-PF party and thus the presidency.

The BBC's Andrew Harding, in Zimbabwe, says that if President Mugabe can be persuaded to step down officially it could help legitimise the military's dramatic intervention.

On the streets, it is hard to find anyone who wants Mr Mugabe to stay on, our correspondent adds, but negotiating the manner of his departure and some sort of transitional agreement to follow could take some time.

So what's going on in Harare now?

It's very unclear.

Photos in the Zimbabwe Herald earlier showed Mr Mugabe meeting army chief Gen Constantino Chiwenga and the two envoys from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) at State House in Harare.

Alongside them was Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Roman Catholic priest known to Mr Mugabe for years, who has been brought in to mediate.

Sources close to the talks say Mr Mugabe - who has been in control of Zimbabwe since it threw off white minority rule in 1980 - is refusing to stand down voluntarily before next year's planned elections.

"I think he is trying to buy time," one source close to the army leadership told the AFP news agency.

Some observers suggest that Mr Mugabe may be trying to seek guarantees of safety for himself and his family before stepping aside.

Zanu-PF officials had earlier suggested Mr Mugabe could remain nominally in power until the party congress in December, when Mr Mnangagwa would be formally installed as party and national leader.

Mr Mugabe in the meeting at State House in HarareImage copyrightZIMBABWE HERALD
Mr Mugabe met officials at State House in Harare
Posted On Friday, 17 November 2017 01:14 Written by

Zimbabwe's military appeared to be in control of the country Wednesday as generals denied staging a coup but used state television to vow to target "criminals" close to President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe's decades-long grip on power was dramatically weakened as military vehicles blocked roads outside the parliament in Harare and senior soldiers delivered a late-night television address to the nation.

"We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president... and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed," Major General Sibusiso Moyo said, slowly reading out a statement.

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes... As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy."

Moyo said "this is not a military takeover of government".

But the generals' actions posed as a major challenge to the ageing Mugabe, 93, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Tensions between the veteran leader and the military, which has long helped prop up his authoritarian rule, have erupted in public in recent days.

The ruling ZANU-PF party on Tuesday accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of "treasonable conduct" after he criticised Mugabe for sacking vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Government silence
Mnangagwa's dismissal left Mugabe's wife Grace, 52, in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president -- a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.

As the situation deteriorated overnight, prolonged gunfire was heard near Mugabe's private residence.

The US embassy warned its citizens in the country to "shelter in place" due to "ongoing political uncertainty".

Armoured vehicles in the capital alarmed residents as Chiwenga had warned of possible military intervention. The army's spokesman was not available to comment.

"The government's silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation," Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said.

"Any coup would be likely to involve the imposition of a curfew. 

"The main indicator of a broader outbreak of violence would be the reaction of the Presidential Guard, which remains loyal to President Mugabe."

Mugabe is the world's oldest head of state, but his poor health has fuelled a bitter succession battle as potential replacements jockey for position.

In speeches this year, Mugabe has often slurred his words, mumbled and paused for long periods.

His lengthy rule has been marked by brutal repression of dissent, mass emigration, vote-rigging and economic collapse since land reforms in 2000.

The main opposition MDC party called for civilian rule to be protected.

"No one wants to see a coup... If the army takes over that will be undesirable. It will bring democracy to a halt," shadow defence minister Gift Chimanikire, told AFP on Tuesday.

Grace's ambitions
Speculation has been rife in Harare that Mugabe could seek to remove Chiwenga, who is seen as an ally of ousted Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, 75, was widely viewed as Mugabe's most loyal lieutenant, having worked alongside him for decades.

Earlier this year the country was gripped by a bizarre spat between Grace and Mnangagwa that included an alleged ice-cream poisoning incident that laid bare the pair's rivalry.

Grace Mugabe -- 41 years younger than her husband -- has become increasingly active in public life in what many say was a process to help her eventually take the top job.

She was granted diplomatic immunity in South Africa in August after she allegedly assaulted a model at an expensive Johannesburg hotel where the couple's two sons were staying.

As the economy collapsed, Zimbabwe was engulfed by hyperinflation and was forced to abandon its own currency in 2009 in favour of the US dollar.

The country, which has an unemployment rate of over 90 percent, is due to hold elections next year with Mugabe pledging to stand for office again.

Posted On Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:26 Written by

Inner London Crown Court has sentenced five Nigerians to various jail terms over the theft of £610,000 from business bank accounts.

According to Newham Recorder, Victor Oke, 39, of Galleons Drive, Barking, used stolen data provided by Desmond Uyiosa Abifade, 25, of Henniker Road, Stratford, to falsely impersonate company directors via telephone banking.

Once Oke gained access, he diverted funds to ‘mule’ beneficiary accounts monitored by Moses Kuye, 28, of Connaught Road, Silvertown.

Melinda Mensah-Oke, 37, also of Galleons Drive, impersonated company directors when a female voice was necessary, while Arinola Kuye, 27, also of Connaught Road, acted as the group’s money launderer.

They were caught after being spotted by fraud investigators at HSBC, who passed the case to the dedicated card and payment crime unit (DCPCU) to investigate.

The DCPCU is sponsored by the banking industry and made up of officers from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police Service, bank investigators and support staff from UK Finance.

Police were able to analyse when and where the calls were made to identify the phones used and from there, the perpetrators.

All five were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, which they pleaded not guilty to.

On Wednesday, Oke was sentenced to four years in prison, while Moses Kuye was jailed for three years and three months.

Mensah-Oke received a fourteen month suspended sentence and Abifade a two year suspended sentence.

Arinola Kuye was given a 12-month community order and instructed to complete 50 hours of unpaid work.

DC Dave Cass, who investigated the case for the DCPCU said: “This was a concerted effort to commit fraud against two companies and profit from crime.

“The police take fraud very seriously and these sentences should send a message to fraudsters that you will be caught and punished.”

All losses were refunded to the genuine business account holders.

Posted On Friday, 10 November 2017 19:24 Written by
• Amina Mohammed linked to 1.4m illegal Nigerian woods in China
• New allegations challenge environment record of top UN official
• I signed permits legally, Buhari’s former aide insists

 

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) yesterday released a report showing how over 1.4 million illegal rosewood logs from Nigeria, worth $300 million, were laundered into China.

The report which was first made exclusively available to The Guardian by Global Media Max, a strategic communications services agent to the EIA, claimed that multiple independent sources told undercover investigators that over $1 million was paid to top Nigerian officials to release the woods stopped by Chinese authorities. The EIA is a US-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in 1984 by Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton — three environmental activists in the United Kingdom — to investigate and expose crimes against wildlife and the environment. It also campaigns to prevent environmental crime.

Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Forest Campaigns at the EIA, Lisa Handy, said the report indicted the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and President Muhammadu Buhari’s former Environment Minister Amina Mohammed who now faces questions regarding her role in the entire process.

“Thousands of permits,” she said, “were ultimately signed by the then Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina J. Mohammed, who currently serves as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN)”, according to the report emanating from a two-year investigation by EIA on the “Rosewood Racket” detailing the journey of illegal African rosewood, also known as “kosso,” from the remote forests of Nigeria.

Mrs. Mohammed was reportedly supposed to start her new position as Deputy Secretary-General of the UN on January 1, 2017, but extended her time as Minister of Environment at the request of President Buhari to round off critical responsibilities. EIA investigators said they found that she signed thousands of retroactive CITES permits in January 2017 as one of her last acts as Minister of Environment, and just before she was sworn in as the Deputy Secretary-General to the UN.

The permits were reportedly used by Chinese importers to release over 1.4 million illegal logs that had been detained at the Chinese border for months, after having left Nigeria in violation of both Nigerian law and international CITES obligations.Alexander von Bismarck, EIA Executive Director, who was quoted in a sumarised reported and later spoke with The Guardian on telephone from his U.S. base, said: “As a legally binding treaty ratified by nearly all members of the United Nations, CITES can play a critical role in protecting endangered trees and fragile forests. The international community needs to urgently bring transparency to the CITES permitting process in order to fight the organised criminals that profit from the extinction of endangered species.”

Von Bismarck added: “The power and reach of organised timber criminals in forest rich countries is overwhelming if illegal wood is allowed to be sold overseas without consequences.“This is why we urgently need regulatory changes in consuming countries to stop timber shipments based on evidence of being illegally logged, transported or traded. Such laws have already been passed in the U.S. and the EU. This case shows that China has the ability to take action when it stopped thousands of containers of illegal rosewood. But the fact that the wood was ultimately released shows that China urgently needs domestic legislation to ban the import of illegally sourced wood.”

EIA says the products of the illegal logging found their way to luxury furniture boutiques in China, “despite protections placed on this threatened tree species by the CITES.”It further stated that the exploding Chinese demand for kosso over the past five years had triggered a series of “boom-and-bust” cycles that led to the depletion of forests across West African nations.

“In most of the countries, kosso has been illegally logged in violation of harvest and log export bans, including in protected areas. Precious trees have been laundered into the international market through regional smuggling routes, using mis-declaration and falsification of official documents.”The boom, according to the EIA, began in Gambia and Benin, but Chinese traders had to rapidly move on through other countries in the region — before settling on the largest untapped forest resources of Nigeria — as supply was exhausted in just a few short years.

Since 2013, Nigeria has been transformed from a net importer into the world’s largest exporter of rosewood logs, and is to date one of the top wood exporters on the continent. The unprecedented and uncontrolled level of logging across the country is causing desertification, imperiling the livelihoods of millions of people, and threatening national parks and endangered emblematic species such as the most vulnerable chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) in the world.

Kosso was added to Appendix II of CITES in 2016, meaning that logging and trade must be strictly controlled and kept at sustainable levels. The results of the new EIA investigation show that the enforcement of the convention faces serious challenges when dealing with transnational criminal networks. The report shows how Sino-Nigerian criminal networks took advantage of an obsolete and opaque permitting system to launder illegal wood using CITES paperwork.

Efforts to get a response from the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations did not yield immediate results as several telephone calls to her mobile phone which a presidency official said was roaming, did not go through. There was also no response to a text message at press time.

But Mrs. Mohammed was quoted last month as having referred to the permits in an interview last month in her sprawling 38th-floor U.N. headquarters office in Manhattan overlooking the East River. The certificates, she said “came in bags, and I just signed them because that is what I had to do…I don’t remember how many.”

She reportedly described her own action as part of “a complicated, though legal, balancing act aimed at ensuring Nigeria’s threatened forests were being harvested sustainably while also honouring contracts with Chinese rosewood importers and protecting the livelihoods of a growing number of Nigerians who depend on the timber trade.”

What looked like an official reaction — though unsigned — came much later through a third party.“The Secretary-General has been informed by the Deputy Secretary-General about the reports and reiterates his full support and confidence in her. She, of course, categorically rejects any allegations of fraud,” Ms Mohammed reportedly said in response to The Guardian enquiries.
 
“The Deputy Secretary-General welcomes the effort to shine more light onto the issue of illegal rosewood logging and exportation that she fought hard to address during her tenure in the Nigerian Government.  She says that her actions as Nigerian Environment Minister were intended to deal with the serious issue of illegal wood exportation.  As a result, she instituted a ban and set up a high-level panel to find policy solutions to the crisis of deforestation in Nigeria.
 
“Ms. Mohammed says that the legal signing of export permits for rosewood was delayed due to her insistence that stringent due process was followed.  She says that she signed the export certificates requested before the ban only after due process was followed and better security watermarked certificates became available.”

Asked whether the investigators actually consulted Mrs. Mohammed, Von Bismarck told The Guardian on telephone last night that she was reached by Foreign Policy reporter for comments and she denied that the woods were illegally exported, although there were local laws banning logging in Taraba and other parts of Nigeria.

The illegal business, according to him, has further increased poverty and enriched the traders by some $1billion between 2014 and 2017. He also insisted that on-the-spot checks on containers in Nigeria and China as well as Chinese trade data confirmed that logs were imported from Nigeria.“The logs provide luxury furniture for many thousands of dollars in China,” Von Bismarck said.

But Nigeria’s leading environmentalist and director at the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOME), Nnimo Bassey expressed “serious doubts” that “Amina Mohammed as Minister of Environment would preside over illegalities in the management of environmental resources.”He, however, said he was aware that “there have been a lot of pressures and subterfuges on Nigerian forests including during her short tenure.

“My impression is that she fought particularly hard to ensure that the Nigerian environment was protected and raised the importance of the ministry to new levels. This includes the hard fight to protect Nigeria’s last remaining pristine rain forest in cross River State that has been under intense threat from the proposed superhighway project.”

Posted On Friday, 10 November 2017 04:24 Written by
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