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UN Deputy Chief Mired in Wood Export Scandal

The UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed faces fraud accusations stemming from her actions as a Nigerian government official from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent environmental advocacy and investigative organization based in Washington with a focus on exposing environmental crimes.

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Photo by Foreign Policy

The UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed faces fraud accusations stemming from her actions as a Nigerian government official from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent environmental advocacy and investigative organization based in Washington with a focus on exposing environmental crimes.

The organization said Mohammed retroactively signed off on a batch of Nigerian rosewood exports while she was Nigeria’s Minister of Environment under President Muhammadu Buhari, despite a previous ban imposed on the export of rosewood.

Nigerian rosewood was added to a list of endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Nigeria is a signatory.

The batch of 1.4 million logs of Nigerian rosewood worth $300 million was held up after arriving in China due to its confiscation by Chinese port authority because the shipment did not have the proper CITES documentation with it.

As one of her last acts in office as the environment minister, Mohammed signed off on thousands of CITES documents which legalized the export of rosewood and thus released the confiscated shipment in China.

The EIA accused Mohammed of receiving $1 million in bribes from Chinese rosewood importers in return for releasing the shipment, a charge that Mohammed has vehemently denied.

A UN spokesman said that Mohammed “categorically rejects any allegations of fraud” and has the full support of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Mohammed said that her signing-off on the CITES documents was part of a legal process that aims to protect the rosewood forests through sustainable harvesting. It also expresses her economic concerns in the need to honor existing contracts with Chinese rosewood importers as well as helping Nigerians who are dependent on the rosewood trade.

Photo by Mongabay