Newly-appointed Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has put on notice forestry officials found colluding with illegal tree loggers, saying they risked interdiction and prosecution.
Tobiko accused Kenya Forestry Service officers complacency and warned them that stern action would be taken against them if they do not eliminate illegal logging.
“Although illegal logging has gone down, there are still some few bad officers and they must be weeded out,” he said.
The CS, who was speaking during the handing over ceremony at his new office, further asked saw millers who are normally allocated quotas within government forests to ensure they cut trees within the allocated space and also replant once they have harvested.
“I am also putting them on notice together with the officers that they are colluding with that their licenses will be revoked if they are found to encroach beyond the given quota or if they do not comply with the law as this is economic sabotage,” Tobiko said.
The CS added that within the next one week, he would establish a multi- sectoral inter-agency team comprising of both State and Non-State stakeholders to audit, verify and authenticate cases of illegal logging.
“Those found responsible will face the full force of the law regardless of their status or political affiliation,” he reiterated
Currently, the country’s forest cover stands at 7.3% against the United Nations recommended 10%, the CS said.
He noted that the country needs to protect its water towers as a catalyst towards meeting the targets of the big four pillars that the Jubilee government and President Uhuru Kenyatta has set out to address in the next five years.
The CS explained that the environment and forest docket is key and is indeed the foundation in achieving the four pillars namely health, food security, manufacturing and affordable housing.
“We cannot achieve food security without water, forest and a clean environment. Apart from congenital and hereditary diseases all others are environmental based. Manufacturing is a critical resource for this sector as well as affordable housing,” he emphasized.
The CS acknowledged the challenges that the country is still facing such as drought, water shortage, drying up of rivers and also illegal logging.
He thanked the outgoing CS Judi Wakhungu who has been deployed as the new Ambassador to France for the policies she has implemented in the Ministry.
“Normally, when a new CS comes in, they usually have a ‘re-invent the wheel” tendency but personally, mine will be to take off from where the former CS has left, implement and tweak it to align it to the big four pillars,” he explained.
Tobiko however said that in order for him to succeed, he would need ministry staff and leaders who were willing to work and called on them to carry on their duties with diligence.
“I will demand of you what the President has demanded of me and am going to challenge you with his same words that if you cannot be able to work and if it is too much for you, resign as there are other equally competent people who can do your job,’’ he said.
At the same time, the new CS called upon the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to act with speed to ensure that plastic bags do not re-emerge and environment laws were in place.
“As of this morning, I have instructed NEMA to undertake a relentless crackdown and ensure that the ban on plastic bags at our borders, open air markets, supermarkets and also manufacturing industries are sustained,” he said.
Tobiko said that the Chairman and Director General of NEMA were under clear instructions to work with Customs Department and other stakeholders, adding that those who want the ban lifted should forget about it.
During the ceremony, Wakhungu handed over policy documents to the incoming CS saying that major strides had been made in the sector.