Delta State chapter of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has accused the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. John Nani, of fraud and extortion of saw-millers as well as handsaw dealers in the state to the tune of millions of naira.
The rights group regretted that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa appointed Nani to the state Executive Council, describing the commissioner as a man full of lies and specialist in using tickets to extort people.
The accusation was made during a press conference in Warri by CDHR state chairman, Comrade Kehinde Prince Taiga, while reacting to what the group termed fraudulent and corrupt activities of the commissioner.
According to the group, saw-millers and handsaw dealers in Delta have permits from the Ministry of Environment on which they pay annually to the government’s coffers, as required by a 1976 law of forestry in the state, contrary to claims by Nani that they have no permits to carry out their operations.
The group said: "John Nani is a big disgrace to the government of Delta State. Our investigation shows that he has indulged in extorting the saw-millers and handsaw dealers of over thirty million naira (N30,000,000.00) since the inception of sales of daily ticket for five thousand naira (N5,000) for a lorry load. John Nani should come out with proof that the money is being paid to the Delta State Government’s account.
"Our investigation so far revealed that the money is being shared between John Nani and a certain cabal that have decided to extort money from innocent Deltans. A pointer to this fact is what goes on in Sapele chapter, where the five thousand naira is shared between the task force and another group of persons in the area. It is a shame that John Nani is pointing fingers at others to cover his extortionate act.
"The claim by the commissioner that the operations of saw-millers and handsaw dealers is causing an environmental hazard and deforestation is baseless, unfounded and a deliberate attempt to deceive the state governor and cover up his illegal duty. To put the record straight, the union members in question do not carry out their trade by sawing and felling wood in Delta State.
"The operation of the handsaw dealers and saw-millers is being done in Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo and Rivers states, and they have all their revenue receipts and permit papers paid to the above-mentioned states and their local governments of operations. John Nani is a great liar. The handsaw dealers and saw-millers only transport the wood from the states of operation to their dumping site in Delta State where they distribute the wood to various customers.
"They also pay one thousand five hundred naira (N1,500) for hammering sheet paper, which is supposed to be free, and three thousand naira (N3,000) for permits to Delta State Government as the forestry law provides for. Handsaw dealers register with the Ministry of Environment with the sum of fifteen thousand naira annually (N15,000) as contractors."
The rights group faulted a claim by the commissioner that he had an agreement with the handsaw dealers and saw-millers to pay N5,000 per lorry load. It threatened to drag him before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or any other relevant agency if he fails to desist from extortion.
The CDHR also called on Governor Okowa to investigate the activities of the Ministry of Environment, with a view to unraveling alleged corruption and extortion going on in the ministry.
"We the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Delta State branch, demand an explanation of the illegal activities of John Nani and his unscrupulous acts. It is a disgrace to the government of Ifeanyi Okowa to have given appointment to a liar who can not tell the public the truth because of his corrupt attitude towards the innocent people." the group alleged.
Efforts to get the commissioner’s reaction proved abortive as he did not pick calls to his mobile line.