An environmental advocacy group says in a report released Thursday that over 1.4 million rosewood logs from Nigeria worth $300 million were illegally sent to China after the then-Environment Minister Amina Mohamed signed thousands of retroactive permits.
The Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency, known as EIA, said in the report that multiple sources told its undercover investigators that over $1 million was paid to top government officials in Nigeria to release wood stopped by Chinese authorities because there were no CITES certificates.
CITES Thursday released a 40-page report alleging that Mohammed’s approval of the kosso exports violated the CITES agreement.
According to report in the United State Thursday Amina Mohammed who is now the U.N. deputy secretary-general, 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, she admitted.
EIA said rosewood is coveted in China for furniture and over the past five years “exploding Chinese demand” has depleted forests across West Africa. As supplies in Gambia and Benin dwindled, it said Chinese traders moved to Nigeria, which had the largest untapped resource.
Since 2013, the advocacy group said, Nigeria has been transformed from a net importer to the world’s largest exporter of rosewood logs, which is causing desertification, threatening national parks and imperiling the livelihoods of millions of people.
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.