A new report published by the renowned media outlet on governance and diplomacy, Foreign Policy, has exposed some last minute misdemeanors that have tainted the record of Nigeria’s former minister of environment and current Deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, Amina Mohamed.
The reports says she approved the exportation of endangered rosewoods in her last days as minister. This is coming a day after the same Foreign Policy magazine had named her the diplomat of the year.
See the report below:
mina J. Mohammed, the U.N. deputy secretary-general, has ascended to the lofty pinnacle of global diplomacy on the back of her record as a champion of the environment and the poor. But in January, just weeks before assuming her current job, she spent her final days as Nigeria’s environment minister doing something that has outraged activists. Despite a ban then in force on the export of rosewood, an endangered resource, she signed thousands of certificates authorizing the shipment of vast quantities of the wood.
The certificates “came in bags, and I just signed them because that is what I had to do,” she recalled in an interview last month in her sprawling 38th-floor U.N. headquarters office in Manhattan overlooking the East River. “I don’t remember how many.”
A senior Nigerian forestry official, who asked not to be named, confirmed that Mohammed had signed 2,992 export certificates on Jan. 16.
Mohammed said her action was part of a complicated, though legal, balancing act aimed at ensuring Nigeria’s threatened forests were being harvested sustainably while also honoring contracts with Chinese rosewood importers and protecting the livelihoods of a growing number of Nigerians who depend on the timber trade.
Wood from rosewood trees — also known as kosso — is prized in China for its pinkish hue and purplish-brown streaks. Since 2012, however, the export of rosewood has decimated forests throughout West Africa. Environmentalists fear that uncontrolled deforestation of the region’s woodlands will encourage soil erosion and accelerate the spread of Saharan desert into once productive areas.
Mohammed’s 11th-hour decision to approve the kosso shipments was first documented by a Washington-based environmental group and is now part of an inquiry by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Nigeria is a signatory.
In a letter to Nigerian authorities in August 2017, John Scanlon, CITES’s secretary-general, raised concern about information his agency had received indicating that as many as 10,000 containers of Nigerian rosewood had been stopped by Chinese authorities between May and December 2016, because they were not accompanied by the proper CITES documentation, according to Michael Osakuade, the acting director of Nigeria’s Department of Forestry. On Dec. 31, 2016, Mohammed herself imposed a three-month ban on the trade in rosewood. Yet following Mohammed’s mass signings, more than two weeks after the ban went into force, the trade quickly resumed: Chinese trade data show that between then and April, as many as 12,000 containers of kosso logs were cleared to enter the country.
Yuan Liu, a spokesman for CITES, declined to comment on the letter on the grounds that a committee of signatories to the treaty needed to approve public statements on the matter. But Liu previously confirmed to Foreign Policy by email that CITES “has been in communication with China and Nigeria” about the kosso trade. He referred FP to an Oct. 6 compliance report underscoring the treaty body’s concerns about the prospect of wrongdoing. It urges that signatories to the endangered species treaty “should not accept any CITES permit or certificate for [kosso wood] issued by Nigeria unless its authenticity has been confirmed by the Secretariat.”
The permit dispute has attracted international scrutiny of the record of one of Africa’s leading diplomatic figures while highlighting the challenges of maintaining the highest environmental standings in the face of powerful political pressure to generate new sources of revenue as low oil prices have handicapped Nigeria’s economy.