Deforestation: NGO Accuse Government Of Negligence, Dangote Of Massive Logging, Charge Communities To Protect Their Forest

In Breaking News, Civic Space, Reports

By Patrick Obia

The Government of Cross River State and some individuals have been accused of turning a blind eye to deforestation and massive illegal wood logging across the State.

This was the takeaway from “Combating Drivers of Deforestation in Cross River State; Workshop and Validation of Research Findings,” organized by Center for Social Studies – We The People in collaboration with Friedrich Eberto Stiftung, in Calabar, the State capital.

Speakers who were drawn from the academia and research world in their various presentations highlighted several activities being carried out by the Government in rhetorics of mounting developmental projects. This, they posit if not checked will lead to environmental degradation, negative climate change which is the root cause of global warming.

In his presentation, the Executive Director of Center for Social Studies – We The People, Mr. Ken Henshew, accuse the State Government of complicity in protecting the forest.

Mr. Henshaw disclosed that, trees such as Bubinga Lumber and Apa trees which are few of the most expensive trees in the world are been cut and shipped into China illegally, asserting that, the Cross River Government is aware of this illegality.

He revealed that companies such as Dangote Dansa Allied Plantation Limited, Obasanjo Farm amongst others have ventured into logging activities in the State.

His words: “We are deeply concerned about the state of deforestation in Cross River State. We noticed with alarm that the forest of Cross River State is almost gone and the Government is taking no action to stop the ongoing deforestation. We also noticed that, foreign nationals are in the forest of Cross River State cutting the forest with chain saws, cutting these particular type of woods (Bubinga Lumber and Apa trees and others) and export them out of the country and no value is left in Nigeria. We see these things on a consistent basis and we see situations were law enforcement officers; the Joint Task Force, the Police, the Army, the Forestry Commission have been heavily compromised on what’s ongoing.

“We held this workshop to validate the findings of the research we carried out that showed, the Cross River State Government maybe complicit on what is going on because they have taken no action; absolutely no action to stop the ongoing deforestation in Cross River State. Places we went to, have got branches of the Forestry Commission and in our presence in the middle of the night, we saw trucks of woods leaving communities and there are Forestry Commission’s officers stationed in those places and consistently, what we have heard from the field from different people is that, the Forestry Commission is very complicit in what is going on in the forest.

“We are also deeply worried that companies like Dangote who took part in the national forest to plant pineapples are not doing so, instead they are deeply, deeply involved in logging. There will be nothing like Cross River State forest in the next five years. I stand to be corrected that sometimes up to 200 trucks of woods leaves the shores of Cross River State on daily basis and this happens with the full complicit of law enforcement officers and the Forestry Commission and perhaps, the State Government.

“Since the moratorium was imposed in 2008, the state of forest separation has increased rather than abated; instead of reducing it is going up. What happened with the moratorium is that the State Government took over the protection of the forest from the communities, so we are asking them to return the protection of the forest to those communities again because with State Government protection of the forest, we have seen more increased logging.

“We need to promote a forest system that empowers community people to protect their forest, not like this system that they are not allowed to enter into their forest in the first place.”

Participants listening to former Governor Ben Ayade’s aide, Mr. Odey Oyama presenting his position on the massive logging going on in the forests of Cross River State.

Presenting his paper on the topic; The Vanishing Cross River State Tropical Rainforest, Mr. Odey Oyama, who resigned his position as the Chairman of Cross River State Anti-Deforestation Agency, echoed Ken’s affirmations adding that, he had to resign his position because he was fighting a one-man battle with those he believes are Agent of Government who are benefiting from the illegal wood logging.

Mr. Oyama however advised that to stop illegal logging, kingpins in the business such as chain saw operators, the crossers/transporters, timber merchants amongst others should be investigated.

“You see, Government gives the impression as though the land and the resources belongs to them, no. Land is a heritage given by God to man, communities own the land and the resources on it; it’s an inheritance which must pass on to next generation; that’s why you don’t sell lands, you give it on lease. When the superhighway started, the impression was Government own land and about 5,000 hectares of lands were acquired for superhighway alone and all of these lands are criss-crossing the natural resources of Cross River.

“The superhighway was even criss-crossing the Cross River National park which is a Federal Government project established under a law, Cap. N (65) laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

“If we can stop the chainsaw operators in the forest, we will win the war of illegal logging. To stop the Crossers, it is possible but it will take some time because a lot of personnel in Government have been compromised and are part of the deals. The way Government is running it is difficult to know who is honest and who is genuine.

“These loggers go into people’s farms, cut down their timbers without proper permission, destroy their crops and take away the timbers; owners of these farms are not part of what we are saying here; it’s a very serious problem and it has become like this smuggling thing. You know when you ban smuggling, people must smuggle and they use all means to do it, that’s what is happening in logging here. The moratorium have been there for too long – 2008 or there about; it’s too long,” he said, calling for revisit.

Speaking on the “Impacts of Plantation on Forest Degradation and Erosion”, a lecturer in the Department of Geography And Environmental Sciences, University of Calabar, Dr. Raphael Offiong noted that due to continuous encroachment into the forests and the mangroves areas, a lot of plant species and animals have been wiped out and this is perilous to man’s life.

Offiong, however opined that sustainable development is the main source of deforestation and illegal logging problem as most of these people do not know the adverse effects of their activities on the forest adding that, “let’s solve the problem from the root.”

In his contributions and suggestions, a Royal Father, Chief John Bisong of Bansan-Osokon community in Boki Local Government Area said the workshop is an eye opener to him and his community because a lot had transpired under their nose without knowing they should stand and protect their forest.

Chief Bisong however pointed poverty as one of the reasons why the community people are enticed with as low as five thousand Naira by those who come to prey on their timbers and forest. Stressing that, for community dwellers to resist these illegal loggers, the issue of poverty should be looked into.

Highpoints of the workshop was discussion sessions and group photographs.

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