NAMATI urges Gov’t to go beyond financial mechanisms
July 2, 2018
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Director of Namati, a legal empowerment organization, has urged the current government to go beyond trying to put in place financial mechanisms in the export and management of timber in the country.
On June 27, government announced lifting of the ban on export of timber which it had imposed on April 9.
A committee was set up shortly after the initial temporary ban was announced to review the existing practices and proffer recommendations.
According to the release from State House, Babadi Kamara of Leadway Trading Company was appointed as the new government agent to spearhead the export of existing stock of timber at the port and various depots as recommended by the committee.
However, in an interview with Concord Times on the issue, Namati’s Director, Sonkita Conteh said: “The crux of the matter is we are losing our forest at a very fast pace. If we don’t take steps to protect what remains, the future is bleak for this country.”
He said the release from government showed an imbalance approach to the whole process of environmental protection, which they had claimed was a priority of the new administration.
Conteh noted that when the government put out a press release to ban timber export until modalities were put in place, they felt it was a step in the right direction but stressed that nothing was said in the current release as to how they would secure what remains of Sierra Leone’s vast depleting forest.
While emphasising the importance of financial prudence on issues relating to export and import of timber, Mr. Conteh averred forest resources have been exploited to the point of decimation and that a lot more needed to be done.
“We want to know for who these companies are undertaking the timber export and whether they obtain environmental licenses or permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and National Protected Area Authority. The release should have gone further to say that there should be no cutting down of trees which would have sent a clear message,” he maintained.
The lawyer-cum-environmental activist opined that the part of the press release that worries him is where the government indicated there were about 13,000 containers of timber, adding that he had been wondering how the committee went about doing the assessment or verification within a very short period of time.
He called on the committee to show steps they had taken to ensure that additional timber would not be added to the number already sanctioned to be exported because according to him, people who are in the business would want to take advantage to do more logging.
“The release failed to address what is important to me, which is who to protect what is left on our land and forests. It is useful to take steps to ensure proper recovery of taxes. We want the committee to tell us how they have gone about advising the government to protect the remaining land that we have now,” Mr. Conteh urged.
Also, he urged the government to put in place mechanisms to verify the worth of the timber, with nothing else added to the previous stock.