Nigeria loses N257bn wood charcoal to Chinese smugglers

A total of N257 billion ($524.5 million) worth of wood charcoal have been smuggled out of Nigeria in the last five years. Findings revealed that China received N119.76 billion ($244.4 million) or 46.6 per cent of the smuggled product between 2016 and 2020.


Records by International Trade Statistics revealed that illegal export of wood charcoal had been on the increase since 2016 when a total of $55.1 million worth of the product left Nigeria, while in 2017, $57 million product was smuggled out; 2018, $61.7 million product; 2019, $107.69 million and in 2020, $242,92 million worth of wood charcoal was smuggled out of Nigeria. Also in 2016, China took delivery of $38.89 million of the wood charcoal; 2017, $43.3 million; 2018, $48.7 million; 2019, $92.3 million and 2020, $212.5 million.


Worried by the trend, the Federal Government of Nigeria has started enforcing a ban placed on the export of charcoal, leading to many trucks loaded with wood charcoal stuck at the ports.


Following the ban, New Telegraph gathered from a liner, CMA CGM, that it would no longer accept orders to load the product from exporters.


The liner said: “Following the recent circular in distribution by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on the suspension of export of wood and allied products and as well as the ban on export of charcoal, new booking requests with these commodities will not be accepted or confirmed till further notice.”


Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)’s Deputy National Public Relations, Mr Timi Bomodi, a Deputy Comptroller, said that charcoal from wood had been banned. Also, the Service’s Public Relations Officer at the Tin-can Island Port, Mr Uche Ejieseme, said that the command recently received a circular that export of charcoal had been banned.


The Secretary-General of Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria (TWEAN), Mr Joseph Odiase, said there were over 50 fully loaded trucks of charcoal stack at the truck park waiting to get into the ports, but were denied entry due to the circular on the ban. He said that the ban on charcoal had been on for some time, saying that Nigerians were only ignorant of the ban.


According to him, the ban was not effective in the past because the exporting public was probably not sensitised enough, leading to the exportation despite the embargo. Odiase stressed that what was banned was wood and related products, which include coal, but was not categorically spelt as charcoal.


The secretary general noted that the issue about forest and forest product exportation was not about the environment, because there was a large clamour about climate change.


He said: “The fact of the matter is that can human beings be independent of their environment? “Charcoal has been banned since, even this year, people still exported, but it has been banned long before now. I think it was more of ignorant on the part of the exporters and impropers awareness and sensitisation on the part of government.


“What government should be talking about is the preservation of the environment, doing business alongside sustainable preservation of the environment. You cannot say people should not trade, you cannot say people should not do business.


We are supposed to put a sustainable mechanism of planting, afforestation and all that, that is why we have the National Forest Trust Fund (NFTF).”


However, he noted that there was no way NFTF could be funded except government decides to make budgetary allocation for the Fund, stressing that the duty of the Fund was to ensure that there should be continuous aforestation.


The secretary general noted that the Fund was currently under threat following the ban of wood and wood products’ export. It would be recalled that before the ban, the Federal Government had imposed a levy of N200,000 on every container of rosewood export in 2018, with a view to ensuring proper regulation of the export.


The levy is for semi-processed rosewood, while fully processed wood and charcoal attract a levy of N100,000 and N75,000 respectively.




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