By Our Correspondent
Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has called on the Federal Government and the international community to support the anti-deforestation efforts of the state government to preserve and manage its rich forest resource rather than work against the construction of the superhighway by his administration.
Ayade who made the call while inspecting over 22 trucks load of timber impounded by the anti-deforestation task force of the state, also called on both the local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders to show their true love for the state by focusing on how the anti-deforestation task force can be adequately funded to checkmate the obnoxious activities of illegal loggers.
According to the governor, “The anti-deforestation Task Force needs money for advocacy, they need money for intelligence, they need money to be at the forests, they need to arrest these illegal loggers, they need to drive all the night and through the forest, they need fuel, and all forms of logistics to sustain the task force. Cross River is doing this at a huge burden.”
Governor Ayade explained that “it was based on this reality that the state made a choice to construct the superhighway to help expand opportunities, harness all the sold mineral deposits throughout the state, using the superhighway to the deep seaport at Bakassi,” stating that “the superhighway will help us expand our opportunities of harvesting all our solid mineral deposits through to the deep seaport.”
Reacting to what he described as cheap blackmail and bad politics being orchestrated by some Cross Riverians and fuelled by some international NGOs as well as some persons who hitherto benefited from illegal exploitation of the forests, Ayade stated: “You cannot claim to love Cross River more than us, you cannot afford to care much more for our forests more than we do, hence the need to stop playing this cheap politics.”
Continuing he said: “In fact, all those who have been arrested so far for destroying our forests and taking away timbers are all non-Cross Riverians. This is to tell you the level of advocacy. And this is coming from people outside the state, doing what they are doing. So, as a Federal Government that really thinks that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the key issue, it must realize that besides the superhighway, the amount of forests depletion and loss is massive and on a criminal scale.”
Governor Ayade further noted that “even if Cross River did not have the anti-deforestation task force, the state’s forests will be wiped out, whether there is a superhighway or not. So let us stop playing politics, there is no way in the world that development would be suppressed purely because of environmental consideration. You only institute remedial programs to mitigate the impact of your development which is the essence of the EIA which is a tool to addressing environmental degradation that comes with development.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Task Force, Air Vice Marshall M. Osim (Rtd), said the task force was working in accordance with the mandate given by Governor Ayade to sanitize the abuse of the rich forests heritage of the state.
AVM Osim stated that the “intent and purpose of the task force was different from the old ways where the task force became a victim by involving in impounding woods from illegal loggers and selling them. Now, we have a credible and focused team that is determined and committed to bringing sanity to the system.”
Osim disclosed that 38 illegal loggers, mostly non-Cross Riverians, were recently arrested, with 235 chain saws and 28 pumping machines seized from the criminals.