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Sierra Leone News: National Timber Governance Agency is not timely -Director of Forestry, Alpha Umaru Leigh

The Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Alpha Umaru Leigh has described the current efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone to establish a National Timber Governance Agency (NTGA) as untimely, and not helpful to efforts by his Division to preserve the country’s eco- system. Leigh said the Forestry Division was not consulted in the formulation of the framework to establish the National Timber Governance Agency by the Central Government and that the Forestry Vision has been deliberately left behind in the said process. “We are not a party to it and we are not subscribing to it,” the Director of Forestry maintained. He cited issues of environmental concerns and extreme climate change effects as direct negative consequences of the proposed establishment of the National Timber Governance Agency, which he said, “does not befit the eco-friendly environment Sierra Leone is craving to have as other countries in the world”. These concerns follow a recent press release issued on the 15th May 2019 from the Office of the Chief Minister, which states the desire by Government to establish what it says is a “framework for the sustainable management of our timber resources”.  The press release highlights the following measures, among others, that have been put in place by the current government to support the said move:

  • Cabinet has endorsed the establishment of the new National Timber Governance Agency, expected to be operational in the coming months.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is leading on the development of a comprehensive policy framework to regulate our timber resources with particular focus on reforestation and afforestation.
  • The new National Timber Governance Agency and the policy framework will form the basis for a parliamentary legislation to enact the Timber Governance Agency”.

The press release further made it clear that during the transition period, May – October 2019, the government will implement the reforestation and afforestation program led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Director of Forestry at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Alpha Umaru Leigh however dismissed the above statements in the press release, saying they were misleading. Leigh said the Forestry Division was not party to any consultation of such. “Even though we were not consulted, we tried to make known our position concerning the setting up of the said National Timber Governance Agency but it was never regarded”, Leigh lamented.  A recent position paper by the Forestry Division on the creation of a National Timber Governance Agency makes it clear that Sierra Leone is party to various regional and international treaties and agreements that create international obligation related to forestry and forest management. These are:  United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species, United Nation Convention to Combat Deforestation, among others. According to the position paper, the Forestry Division would only support strategies or policies on the forestry of the country if they support the above conventions and the act that established the Forestry Vision itself, which is the Forestry Act of 1988. The Director of Forestry also complained of neglect, which he said the Forestry Division was suffering in the hands of the central Government in terms of financial support to properly execute its functions as stated by law. Leigh furthered that the functions of the Forestry Division would be taken, if the proposed National Timber Governance Agency happened to see the light of day.  Leigh noted that the Forestry Division was against the moves by the central Government to create a National Timber Governance Agency because it would serve as a parallel institution to the Forestry Division, adding, “It would even undermine our function of preserving the forest reserves within the country”. He however called on authorities concerned to do a rethink on the issues that have to do with setting up of the proposed National Timber Governance Agency.

AG/16/5/19

By Abdulai Gbla

Friday May 17, 2019.

 

 

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