SUSPENDED-The 50 million Mahogany project
By Elia Joseph Loful
The fifty million Mahogany trees project announced on Wednesdayby the Governor of Western Equatoria State Alfred Futuyo Karabahas been suspended indefinitely, the Minister of Environment and Forestry Josephine Napwon told Juba Monitor yesterday.
In an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor, Minister Napwon stated that the decision taken by Governor Futuyo to execute the giant project is illogical saying the leader had acted on his own will without the approval of the national government in Juba.
“I think the decision taken by the Governor of Western Equatoria was not right. Granting a company to cut the trees all over Western Equatoria is like you are destroying the whole forest in Western Equatoria. We are suspending the work if we find out that the company signed the agreement, we will stop it,” said Minister Napwon.
She said it was not upon the mandate of the Governor to undertake such a project without directives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry adding the company contracted by the state leadership was illegal because they never reached the main head office in Juba.
“What the Ministry has done, we have written a letter to the Governor and soon we will have a meeting with the Governor because it is not his mandate to do so,”she said.
Napwon argued that it is the role of the government to protect the natural environment.
According to media reports, Western Equatoria State government on Wednesday signed an agreement with TODAF engineering Company for a period of five years aimed at cutting 50 million mahogany trees. The report went further explaining that the signed document is meant for construction of state key infrastructures at a cost of $ 2.5 billion.
The company Director Mr. James Odaga said the work on the project will start within 21 days.
“Today we have entered aMoU for mobilizing the funds for starting the project as we have signed, we promised within 21 days we shall have some funds to start our work,”Mr. Odaga said.
However, Napwon said, “we do not know about the company up-to now we have to find out which company is that, and I don’t think whether the company will start the work within twenty one days; that is their agreement there, but to us we will intervene immediately if they want to start on their own,”she warned.
Governor Alfred FutuyoKaraba said he is in power to offer services to the communities not for his family arguing the resources of the state must be used for service delivery to the citizens.
“I brought the chiefs, elders’ women and youth so that we sit down and to see how we can agree with TODAF Company on cutting of the trees in the state as part of the MoUthat we signed last year with them to construct key infrastructures in the state,”Futuyo said.
Napwon warned that the company contracted could face legal procedure if found guilty of cutting the trees.
Minister Napwon called on the public to safeguard the natural forest instead of allowing companies to exploit it.
Illegal logging and cutting down of natural reserves by foreign companies in the country has been a persistent issue with some companies being impounded by the government along borders of South Sudan with neighbouring countries in 2019.
Following the path of ivory in 2003, mahogany was listed on the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species in need of strict regulation to prevent its extinction; it stated that it is illegal to trade on mahogany under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.