By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The Gubernatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the 2019 general election in Cross River, Eyo Ekpo has expressed fears that the recent call to action by Boki council boss, John Ewa to checkmate the activities of loggers may not achieve meaningful success due to the nature of the business,
Mr. Ekpo, a former Attorney General and Justice Commissioner in Cross River disclosed this in an exclusive statement to CrossRiverWatch midweek, wherein he shared his experience as the State’s Chief Law Officer during the Donald Duke’s Administration.
He said they were institutional and political hurdles faced by the State despite the exit of the “Chinese-controlled WEMPCO (Western Metal Products Company Limited)” in the fight which manifested during prosecution of loggers as the roots of the “racket” went deep just as it is with cultism.
He blamed continuous mudslides over the years on logging and said for the campaign to work, the Ben Ayade’s administration will have to take the campaign seriously and have the political will too.
Read the full statement below…
“The reaction by the Chairman of Boki to your story about the ongoing indiscriminate logging going on in his LGA is good. I fear, however, that it may not achieve anything meaningful.
“While I was AG, the Duke Administration banned Chinese-controlled WEMPCO, which was then the State’s biggest illegal logger. However, despite the failure of WEMPCO’s spirited effort to return, the Forestry Commission, then under Chris Agbor, was unable to overcome various institutional and political hurdles that then manifested following the exit of WEMPCO to block the Commission’s effort to establish a programme to preserve and protect our forest resources.
“We tried to prosecute a few loggers but, as with cultism, it became clear that the racket had deep roots that extended deep into CRSG itself…as some of the State’s most senior and influential politicians and members of Government started approaching me to be merciful. Also, as with cultism witnesses to testify against those caught, even government officials, became scarce. It is still the case today.
“This logging racket is extensive. It has eaten away our traditional respect for nature and its myriad blessings and spawned a destructive economy that starts from small-time loggers through their local bosses who buy them chainsaws and on to politicians and members of the elite at LG level, right up to and inside the State Executive Council.
“For years, mudslides have been burying villages in Boki because the forest cover that holds the soil together in the foothills there has been denuded by merciless illegal logging. Similarly, cocoa farms in Etung and Ikom have been washed away by the Cross River after trees along its banks were taken down and the river started to massively overflow each rainy season.
“If you fly low along the coastline and you will see fleets of logs on their way to Lagos. Most of them come from Boki, Ikom and Etung along the Cross River into the Atlantic and on to the Southwest of Nigeria. These are the outward manifestations of this terrible activity. The reality is that too many of us have closed our eyes to the rampant destruction that logging causes and instead used our dire economic straits as an excuse to join the bandwagon.
“The Chairman of Boki may find his hands properly tied. He may find that many of his political masters and supporters are neck-deep in illicit logging. If he is indeed well-meaning I do wish him well but let us recall that one of the first acts of the Ayade Administration was to declare most of the State’s territory compulsorily acquired for the ill-fated and grossly misconceived digital superhighway project. Even before the projects was properly defined and engineering designs were done, contracts were awarded for land to be cleared. Tropical soft and hardwoods that had stood perhaps for millennia were cut down from Akpabuyo to Obudu. Farms that had been tilled productively for decades were destroyed and families and communities displaced. Where did all those tropical natural resources and treasures go? Who disposed of them? Who were the persons given these clearing contracts? Who supervised them? To whom did they deliver the produce from thousands of square kilometers of forest that their bulldozers and excavators chewed up?
“Governor Ayade surely has all the answers because he is our Governor. The environmental tragedy that has befallen Cross River, away from the gaze of almost everyone but actively fostered by the CRSG, will haunt us forever. The uncompromising reality that confronts the elite of the State (and the people who follow them) is that by 2023, for eight years, we would have had in place a system of governance in Cross River State that thrives on racketeering and gangsterism. Let us call a spade what it truly is and acknowledge the plain evidence around us.
“It is not just the rainforests of Boki. What about the mangroves along the Calabar and Cross Rivers? In 2004, the Donald Duke Administration issued a protection Order for them but Governor Ayade, a globally acclaimed environmentalist, came with Calas Vegas and did away with a whole mangrove ecosystem opposite Calabar.
“I am convinced that unless a full accounting is rendered for what has passed as environmental governance in the State, todays status quo will demand continuity and whoever succeeds Ben Ayade will be forced to compromise with our home-grown environmental terrorists and gangsters. Or perhaps even, if we continue to slumber, Ayade’s successor could even be one of them. Will we awaken before it is too late?”
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