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Among the Charred Remains

21 Dec 2021

Investigation unveils how a Chinese-run company aided by government officials exports charcoal and timber despite a ban, threatening Nigeria’s forests.

An investigation by Chikezie Omeje reveals that a Chinese-run company, Kwo-Chief Investment Limited, aided by government officials in Nigeria, continues to export charcoal and timber despite a government ban. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) ordered the company to cease operations in 2019 due to illegal charcoal production and export. However, the company resumed operations with the alleged help of government officials and bribery. This illicit activity poses a significant threat to Nigeria's forests and carbon-absorbing capabilities.

Despite Nigeria officially banning charcoal export in 2017, Kwo-Chief Investment Limited managed to circumvent the regulations with the assistance of government officials responsible for enforcing these rules. The company also exports timber, which is prohibited.

The investigation highlights the collaboration and contradictions among regulatory agencies, with NESREA and the Federal Ministry of Environment blaming each other for reopening the charcoal factory. Additionally, the Federal Department of Forestry, responsible for issuing permits, denies granting any permits for charcoal export.

This illicit charcoal and timber trade contributes to deforestation in Nigeria despite the country's efforts to curb it. The investigation underscores the challenges in controlling and monitoring the charcoal industry, often characterised by regulatory gaps and corruption.

While claiming Nigerian ownership on paper, the company is effectively controlled by a Chinese investor. Locals supply the wood from forests across the state, further contributing to environmental degradation.

Overall, this investigation sheds light on the illegal charcoal and timber trade in Nigeria, highlighting the need for stricter enforcement of regulations and international cooperation to address the global implications.

About the author
Chikezie Omeje is an award-winning freelance journalist who has previously reported for Aso Radio and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting in Abuja, Nigeria. He holds an MS in data journalism from Columbia University and an MA in journalism with a concentration in science journalism from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Twitter: @KezieOmeje

Status: Completed

Type: Investigative Journalism Grants

Author: Chikezie Omeje

Year of publication: 2021

Publisher: Saharareporters

Tags: Investigative Environmental Journalism

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