Timber Traders berate Gen. Faransa Task Force Committee, says it has no human face

Worldview Newspaper 23-30th August, 2023

Timber Traders berate Gen. Faransa Task
Force Committee, says it has no human face

By Yerima Akila Yeri/Williams Ayooso

It has been over a month since the Executive Governor of Taraba State Dr. Agbu Kefas signed an Executive Order No. 3 suspending all mining activities and felling of rosewood trees popularly known as Madrid and timbers in the state.

Based on this order, a Task Force Committee, headed by Brig. General Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd) was constituted for the purpose of enforcing the order and ensuring a strict adherence to the directives.

When signing the order, the Executive Governor, Dr Agbu Kefas said the order became imperative, looking at the devastating impact of the illegal mining activities and the indiscriminate felling of trees and the inherent danger posed to the environment and economy of the state.

The sharp practices, according to the Governor, have resulted in severe environmental damage, caused deforestation, soil erosion, contamination of water bodies, and the destruction of aquatic creatures.
Some Timber Traders who spoke with our reporter said the order has a devastating impact on their businesses, hence the worrisome economic situation that they have found themselves. They frowned at the military approach that the Task Force Committee is deploying in enforcing the order, stating that, they were not given any notice to that regard before the punitive measures were being melted on them.

In a chat with our reporter in Jalingo, the Chairman of Timbers Association Taraba State Chapter, Alhaji Murtala Umar, said they had no problem with the government issuing an order or putting in place any law that will attract development. Their concern, he said, is the harsh methods that the Task Force Committee is deploying, which include lack of awareness creation and not giving the Timber Traders enough time to mop up their goods.

Chairman of the Timber Traders Association, Alh Murtala Umar in an interview with our reporters

“We are not against what the government has done, but we are blaming the Task Force committee for not doing the needful. There is need for the Task Force Committee to meet with the stakeholders in the business of Timber in Taraba State. We waited to see, whether the committee would call us for a dialogue so that we could come up with workable modalities on how to go about the smooth implementation of the order, and to make us to fully understand government perspective, but this was not done.

“Since we are a group that is directly affected, we believe that interfacing with us was the right thing to do. Some of our members were in the bush, trying to transport their timbers to the towns, unknown to them that an order was made against them. Mind you, they cut those trees before the order was made.

“In fact, as I talk to you, there are some of our members who did not know that government has suspended, mining activities and felling of trees. If the government had involved us, we would have device a way of reaching out to our members. Again, we were supposed to be given some time to evacuate our timbers and keep to the Government’s directives. but no such opportunity was given.” He said.

Other concerns which the Association has expressed include the multiple taxation, as well as the cut throat revenue and fines that they are made to pay at the Mallum Check Point, before releasing their trucks and their members.

“As I talk to you now, we don’t know how long the order will linger. The life-wire of people is being cut away. Our members are suffering seriously. If earlier notice were given, they would have devised an alternative way of survival. Everybody is affected, people are building, but it is difficult to roof their houses because of the scarcity of timber and sudden increase of its cost in the market.

“But all we need now is for government to relieve us from multiple taxation and the cut throat revenue and fines that the committee has placed on our activities. Another concern is the time frame. We wish to be given time so that we can evacuate our products that were already on ground before the order and look for another business to continue with our livelihood.

The Chairman further frowned at the approach of the committee, accusing it of giving priority to punitive measures, without considering the consequence, or having the welfare of the people at heart.

“As leaders of the Timbers Association, we made several efforts to meet with the Chairman of the Tasks Force Committee Brig. General Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd), but he was not always accessible. We went to his residence but were prevented by Army not to see him, that unless we have appointment with him. In the same vein, we made several efforts to meet with the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change Mrs. Aishat Abdul Azzez to channel our complaint so that the Governor will know our plight and respond to our call. But all efforts proved abortive. That is why we are tempted to feel that, the Executive Order, as is being implemented by General Faransa, has no human face.

Alhaji Murtala Umar called on the Governor, Dr Agbu Kefas to inject into the committee the spirit of humanity that he is known with and save their members from the frustration that they are going through in the state.

“Dr Kefas is a nice person. He is a very good leader. All his policies are people friendly and we, as Tarabans, are very happy with him. We have no doubt that the order is for the common good of the people. Our concern is only on the implementation process and regimental approach that the committee is deploying to enforce the order.” He said.

“In an effort to review the legitimacy of the concerns expressed by the Timber traders and the legality of the executive order, as is being implemented by the General Faransa Task Force Committee, our reporter sought and obtained the view of a lawyer to that effect.

Gen. Faransa, Chairman of the Task Force Committee

In a chat with our reporter, a renowned legal practitioner in the state, Barrister Tukura Gambo said that, although the intention of government to curtail illegal mining activities and curtail the rampant felling of trees is a perfect idea, but it did not pass the test of law.

“The executive order by Governor is perfect, but you have to look at it from two perspectives, the issue of mining and that of deforestation. On mining, legally speaking is under the exclusive legislative list of the Federal Government. It is not within the purview of the state government to legislate on its legality or otherwise without recourse to the Federal Government’s input. This made the order illegal.” He said.

“On the issue of deforestation, you have to look at it from the environmental law, which is on the concurrent legislative list, which means that, both the State and Federal Government can make laws in this regard. That is to say that the Taraba State Government has the right to make the order, and the order is good.” He stated.

Barrister Gambo, however faulted the order on the basis of its retrospective nature. He further buttressed that at the time of making the order, prohibiting the felling of trees, the affected timber dealers had already cut the trees. The renowned lawyer further explained that making an order or law to punish people on the offenses that they have committed in the past before the effective day for the commencement of the law is an illegal activity.

Barrister Tukara further said, there was nothing wrong with the decision of the government, but there was the need that when enforcing the Executive Order, the Task Force ought to have given Timber sellers a time frame to evacuate whatever they have on ground, so that as soon as the date elapsed, anyone caught cutting wood or transporting them should have faced the full wrath of the law.

He advised the State Government to consider the welfare and interest of those directly affected, when making an order or taking any major decision.

All efforts to get the side of the committee proved abortive. Our reporter made several calls and sent text messages to the Chairman of the Committee, Brig General Jeremiah Faransa. But he neither picks the calls nor reply any of the messages sent to him.


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