Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, says his deputy, Amina Mohammed, has his “full support and confidence” amid claims that she retrospectively authorised the exportation of a protected wood while she was minister of environment in Nigeria.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a non-governmental organisation, claimed Mohammed might have derived personal benefits from signing thousands of allegedly backdated permits in January 2017 which it said were used to clear illegal rosewood exports to China.
EIA’s report said over 1.4 million illegal rosewood logs from Nigeria, worth $300 million, were detained at the ports in China in 2016 but were released after the presentation of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certificates signed by her.
But Mohammed, in an interview with TheCable, has denied the allegations, saying: “I categorically deny receiving any bribe. It has never been in my character. I never demanded neither did I collect any bribe, either cash or material.”
Stéphane Dujarric, the UN secretary-general’s spokesman, quoted Guterres as having expressed his confidence in Mohammed.
“I will say the following. First of all, just to be clear that the secretary‑general was informed by the deputy secretary‑general about the reports, and he reiterates his full support and confidence in her. She, the deputy secretary‑general, Amina Mohammed, of course, categorically rejects any allegations of fraud,” he said.
“The deputy secretary‑general welcomes the effort to shine more light onto the issue of illegal rosewood logging and exportation that she fought hard to address during her tenure in the Nigerian government. She says that her actions as Nigerian environment minister were intended to deal with the serious issue of illegal wood exportation.
“As a result, she instituted a ban and set up a high‑level panel to find policy solutions to the crisis of deforestation in Nigeria. Ms. Mohammed says the legal signing of export permits for rosewood was delayed due to her insistence that stringent due process was followed. She said she signed the export certificates requested before the ban only after due process was followed and better security watermarked certificates became available.”
The report was first published by the influential magazine, Foreign Policy, which gave Mohammed its prestigious “Diplomat of the Year” award in October.
Dujarric said Mohammed was aware the story was going to be published even when she was receiving the award.