Minister not under investigation, says environment ministry

Usman Jibril, minister of state for environment, says Amina Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general of the UN, is not being probed for an alleged illegal export of rosewood logs to China.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a non-governmental organisation, claims that the former minister may have obtained personal benefits from signing thousands of allegedly backdated permits in January 2017.

According to the EIA, the said permits were used to clear the illegal exports.

EIA’s report said over 1.4 million illegal rosewood logs from Nigeria, worth $300 million, were detained at the ports in China in 2016. The report said the logs were released following the presentation of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certificates signed by Mohammed.

Reacting in a statement on Saturday, Jibril said while in office, Mohammed acted within the country’s law and protocols of international environmental conventions.

He said the allegations — which Mohammed denied in an interview with TheCable — were baseless.

Jibril explained that all the CITES permits signed by the ex-minister were done in line with stringent guidance and procedures.

“The ministry of environment wishes to state unequivocally that the Ex-Minister is not under any probe whatsoever over any purported wrongdoing whether locally or internationally,” the statement read.

“The attention of the federal ministry of environment has been drawn to reports being widely circulated in the Media alleging variously that the ex-minister of environment and now deputy secretary general of the United Nations, Mrs Amina Mohammed was allegedly involved in wood export racketeering to China.

“The report which contained, spurious and unsubstantiated allegations against the former minister, is a pure misrepresentation of facts, baseless and intended to smear not just Mrs Mohammed, but the Nigerian government.

“The ex-Minister acted within the ambit of the law of both the federal republic of Nigeria and the protocols of International environmental conventions while in office between November 2015 to February 2017.

“For clarity, the processes involved in issuing approvals for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are as follows; Potential exporters are required to apply to the ministry, inspection of factories and premises for compliance by wood experts, qualified exporters are issued letters of support invitation of the Ministry by the exporter for the stuffing of the containers, exporter applies for CITES permit and granting of approval.

“The ministry states clearly that all the CITES permits signed by the ex-minister was done in line with stringent guidance and procedures. Specifically, Rosewood (Kosso) is under CITES Appendix II which allows sustainable Trade to improve the livelihood of people in line with International best practices.

“For the records, the CITES permits signed by the ex-minister were in batches from August, 2016 to January, 2017.

“It is important to state that Mrs Amina J. Mohammed during her tenure as minister of environment carried out far reaching reforms in the environmental sector particularly in bringing rosewood from unguided trade of CITES appendix III to appendix II which sanitised the wood industry in Nigeria.

“In addition, she led the review of endangered species act, convention on international trade in wild fauna and flora and duly signed by the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, on 30th December, 2016.”

Amid the allegations, Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, has expressed “full support” for Mohammed, saying he has confidence in her.

“She, the deputy secretary‑general, Amina Mohammed, of course, categorically rejects any allegations of fraud,” Guterres was quoted as saying.