Lamin Dibba, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources has dismissed allegations of bribery offered to certain officials of the Department of Forestry in a bid to de-reserve certain parts of the Salagi forest park. Minister Dibba insisted that neither him nor any member of his ministry received any bribe from any Chinese Company in the country to de-reserve any national forest.
Minister Dibba was responding to officials of the All Farmers Forestry Platform who visited his office to express their total disapproval of the idea of de-reserving 80m X 1km wide part of the Salagi Forest park. The officials also expressed concerns on the wanton destruction of parts of Nyambai Forest along the Banjul-Brikama highway by certain individuals bent on claiming parts of the national forest as theirs.
Recently, the country’s national forest parks have come under serious threats prompting environmental activists to raise alarm bells regarding the desecration of Nyambai Forest and the de-reserving of the Salagi Forest. Allegations of bribery continue to haunt staff of the ministry who are accused of colluding with land grabbers to destroy reserved lands.
“I am very disappointed with the allegations levelled against my ministry that officials were bribed seven million Dalasis (D7 million) by a Chinese Company that wants to use part of the Salagi Forest park. This is not true and I am urging journalists to always verify their source before publishing any article. I will never receive a bribe from any businessman and this is why unscrupulous businessmen can go to all the people except me,” Dibba maintained.
Minister Dibba revealed that it was the Ministry of Local Government and Lands that requested an approval from his ministry to use parts of Salagi Forrest to keep heavy machinery for a certain Chinese Company responsible for the construction of the OIC conference center. He said his ministry was equally concerned with the request as many NAWEC boreholes are located in that area and their water treatment plant is also located there.
“We haven’t granted any approval yet because consultations are still ongoing as far as this issue is concerned. We could not proceed with the consultations because of the national mourning of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and I can assure you that your concerns will be raised at the cabinet level just like we did when the issue of Monkey Park came up,” forestry minister explained.
On the issue of the Nyambai Forest, the forestry minister also raised concerns about the continuous encroachment of the forest revealing that recently his ministry has instituted legal actions against one Modou Jammeh, a native of Kanilai who claimed to be the owner of a part of the Nyambai Forest. He revealed that part of the Bamboo plantation of the Nyambai forest has already been bulldozed by Modou Jammeh for his personal gain.
Minister Dibba disclosed that former President, Yahya Jammeh, also encroached on about thirteen hectares of Nyambai Forest that he added to his garden, revealing that this has been raised by his ministry and the matter was looked into by the Janneh Commission and will soon be addressed.
He maintained that his ministry will never relent in their quest to protect the country’s forest and its natural resources for the benefit of all and sundry, arguing that protecting and managing the country’s forest and natural resources is a daunting task that cannot be done by his ministry alone and it is a responsibility of every good citizen.
“We have engaged the security forces on many occasions on the issue of logs claimed to be coming from outside the country but to this day not much has been achieved. I must state that after spending lots of funds from the National Forestry Fund, the security forces are not really helping in this matter,” Dibba blames the security forces for not living up to expectations.
He revealed that currently, thirty eight (38) containers of logs have been impounded at the Banjul seaport destined for exportation by certain unscrupulous elements bent on destroying the nation’s meager forest resources, revealing that these impounded containers are under investigation and anyone involved will be prosecuted.
“As we are talking, my ministry impounded thirty eight containers of logs destined for exportation. My ministry constituted a panel of investigators and anyone found wanting in this deal will be prosecuted be it Ministry of Forestry officials, Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) or The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA),” Minister Dibba noted.
According to him, the importation of timber logs has been banned since 2017 but yet some people are bent on continuing to import them and that will not be condoned anymore. He added that his ministry will prosecute anyone liable in the case in a bid to set an example for would be perpetrators.
He also disclosed that a container of charcoal is also impounded at the port loaded for exportation. He said this is a criminal act and anyone involved will be prosecuted as charcoal production and processing has been banned in the country since 1977.
Minister Dibba promised that his ministry will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that The Gambia’s forest and natural resources are well protected and managed, while calling on all nationals to help in this noble cause.