The President, Forestry Association of Nigeria (FAN), Prof. Labode Popoola, has commended the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for proposing to set up a Forestry Trust Fund.
The FEC, at its meeting on May 24, proposed that a forestry trust fund should be set in the country.
Speaking in Lagos, Popoola said the Forestry Trust Fund was long overdue.
According to him, the proposal to set up a Forestry Trust Fund for the country is, however, a welcome development.
“We had a Forestry Trust Fund at a time in some states but it had not been active. However, the lifting of the ban on all categories of wood exports is the problem. Wood is a commodity of trade and it is needed for industrialisation and development. To that extent, the lifting of the ban on its exportation is expected to enhance trade and commerce, generate employment and earn foreign exchange for the country. However, the question remains as to whether we have enough forests to sustain the likely onslaught that may follow the lifting of the ban. My informed answer to this is no,’’ he said.
Popoola said that for over 40 years now, Nigeria had not managed its forests sustainably, adding that the ecosystem integrity of the nation’s forests had been badly damaged.
“The capacity of our forest estates as of now cannot support massive wood exports. Our environment will be in peril and the costs of endangering our environment will far outweigh the immediate benefits that we hope to derive from massive wood exports,’’ he said.
The Professor said that allowing wood exporters to finance the trust fund was an innovative forest financing mechanism.
According to him, all over the world, such projects are financed through taxes and through the principle that the polluter must pay.
He said that wood exporters and users were polluters, adding that the important thing should be the mechanism for collecting such taxes.
“Will it be transparent? Will accountability be ensured? Will the fund generated be utilised for the intended purpose? Once these are guaranteed, it should be sustainable,’’ he said.
Popoola said that although the trust fund was coming quite late, the country also needed to plan.
He stressed the need to put in place Sustainable Forest Management Plans that would lead to the recovery of lost forests.
“We have enough land to plant trees for local use and for export. Sweden has managed its forests so well, such that after export and local use, it still has up to 25 per cent wood in reserve at any given time. Nigeria can achieve that and more, if we choose to do it right,’’ he added.
The Federal Government banned wood and charcoal exportation in 2016, following exporters’ refusal to adhere to the directive of cut-one plant-two policy, according to an official of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC).