By Philip Buda Ladu
The Central Equatoria State Transitional Legislative Assembly has resolved to commit the reports of the two ministers and Commissioner of Kajo-Keji County about the persistent logging business in the county to a scrutiny committee for further study to produce resolutions on the matter.
The Commissioner of Kajo-Keji County Kenyi Erasto Michael on Wednesday appeared at the floor of the State Assembly to answer questions directed to him by lawmakers about the security situation and the state of logging in Kajo-Keji County.
Commissioner Erasto was summoned about three weeks ago to appear before legislators in the State Assembly alongside two ministers for Agriculture, Environment and Forestry and the Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agencies.
However, the two ministers appeared in the floor of parliament on Wednesday 12th April 2022 and answered the queries directed to them by the August House except the Commissioner of Kajo-Keji who was absent at the sitting.
The lawmakers resolved for the appearance of the 2 ministers and Commissioner of Kajo-Keji County to provide answers to the house on the serious concerns raised by lawmakers about the persistent logging in Kajo-Keji County despite issuance of executive order banning the activity.
Commissioner Kenyi Ersato Michael finally surfaced at the floor of the State Assembly on Wednesday 20th April 2022 to present his answers to the questions directed to him by lawmakers about the state of logging in Kajo-Keji County. His response came after MPs had threatened to impeach him for failure to appear before the August House.
The Kajo-Keji County Commissioner was asked to answer how much money the county has collected from the loggers and what steps has the Commissioner as head of security taken in implementing the orders given by the Governor banning logging.
In his replies, Commissioner Erasto acknowledged that during the war both the SPLM/A-IO and the local government of Kajo-Keji were fully and 100% involved in the business of logging.
He said upon his arrival on the ground as the Commissioner of Kajo-Keji County under the R-TGoNU umbrella he found out that the loggers were invited by the then authorities of defunct Kangapo I and former Kajo-Keji Central counties respectively as evidenced by documents signed between those administrations and the loggers.
The Commissioner affirmed that the county authorities received the revenues through the department of Forest under condition of willingness from the loggers, simply because they are moving at night, protected including shootings and they are proud of the powers they have or given.
“Therefore, they pay at their own will, according to the records as from 4/11/2021 to 2/3/2022 only 6,000 USD to 7.500 USD that is about 4 months, an average of 3 to 5 trucks per month, but the rest of the months trucks that enter in and exited and earmarked by all the August House were all referred to as recovery of said money taken by agreements,” Erasto stated.
“Efforts had been made to stop the logging activities based on orders issued by the Governor about three times but all went in vain due to the arrogance of the loggers and the support given to them by several hands which leads to their resistance and undermine the County authorities and the orders given” Commissioner Erasto responded to the question on his efforts to stop the logging.
“Since the County do not have unified Police and the army that can execute and implement the orders and I am only relying on the army which are also the one guarding/protecting and escorting the loggers and the ones opening the gates in and out at Jale Check point to Uganda and into South Sudan,” Erasto hinted.
The commissioner conceded that the business of logging in Kajo-Keji is very complicated and difficult to stop as it involves many actors including institutions such as the State Revenue Authority, the border Customs besides the army, community and individuals’ involvement saying the collections of customs and State revenue authority are normal.
He cried for help and intervention from the parliament and the State leadership to rescue his situation arguing that the issues of logging in Kajo-Keji County are beyond his capacity alone as a Commissioner to handle but needed collective action.
Meanwhile after thorough debate on the motion by the Members of the State assembly the August House resolved to commit the three reports on the responses of the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Forestry, Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement and the Kajo-Keji County Commissioner to a scrutiny committee to come up with resolutions within 7 days.
“Indeed, the Commissioner has presented his statements and the Assembly has referred the reports to the Committee of Peace and Security and the Committee of Physical Infrastructure, Agriculture and Animal Resources for them to scrutinize the three reports and questionnaires that had been presented by the Commissioner and the two ministers,” James Modi Lomindi the Assembly spokesperson told reporters.
Lomindi said there after the house will have to come out with a resolution which is going to be within the course of one week for the stoppage of the forest cutting in Kajo-Keji and the insecurity which is also ongoing.