Monday, March 1, 2021

Environment Minister to Take Legal Action Against Illegal Dealers in Timber

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Gambia’s Environment Minister Lamin Dibba, has disclosed to members of the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment that his Ministry will take legal action against illegal dealers of timber and logs in the country.

Minister Dibba said this on Wednesday, when he appeared before the said Committee, to give an account on the MSC containers packed at the buffer zone with loaded logs.

According to Minister Dibba, they assigned the Director of Forestry to conduct preliminary investigations to establish facts on the issue, upon receiving the news of the packed containers.

“Upon investigation by Forestry Officers, it was found that 22 containers were packed at the buffer zone. Out of these 22 containers, 5 were empty and 17 were stocked with processed wood. One of the containers was loaded with round logs,” Minister Dibba said; that from the recommendations of their report sent to the Permanent Secretary, he further directed that the matter be taken to a competent Court for immediate action; that since then, the matter was taken to Court awaiting the first hearing scheduled for the 7th of February 2021.

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“This is where we are at the moment. This is not the only experience we had in terms of unscrupulous businesspersons who want to beat the system and do their businesses the way they want to do it. In this particular situation, the person alleged to own the said logs is one Mr. Saikou Conteh. According to our books, Saikou has not obtained any permit or license to carry on with this and as such, all the logs have been taken over by the Forestry Officers as dictated by the Constitution and the matter is before the Court,” Minister Dibba further said; that they have discussed with members of the Gambia Police Force (IGP) and the Crime Management Unit Coordinator who are their partners in this issue, on their stance.

“The Ministry of the Environment together with partners, including Regional Governors and the GPF, are intensifying efforts to ensure that this kind of illegal movement of logs from one region to the other, or from one country to the other is greatly reduced,” Minister Dibba said.

He informed the Committee that since the inception of the present Government, the amount of logs seen at the landing sites along the country’s borders, has been huge; that over the years, this number has reduced to a little over 100 logs at the said landing sites across the country. This he said is a significant reduction compared to years before and their policy of reducing the business in illegal timber and logs is gradually gaining momentum.

Sainey Touray, the Chairperson of the Committee and member of the National Assembly, said the aim of the engagement is for the Ministry and stakeholders to give an update on the said timber / logs, adding that the Committee does not believe in speculation and hearsay. Chairperson Touray said national development is premised on facts and that this is what necessitated his Committee to invite the Ministry and stakeholders, to tell them what they know about the said timber / logs.

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