By Jonathan Ugbal
Following weeks of outcry by the concerned public over the activities of loggers in forests across the State, Cross River Governor, Benedict Ayade on Thursday vowed to deal decisively with them.
Ayade, 54, told Government House correspondents that forest bearing communities have been massively dislocated, and their land mass completely eroded, which has led to huge environmental challenges with a cumulative long term consequence.
“Cross River State has 58% of the entire forest cover of Nigeria. We have growing concerns about the rate and the speed of depletion of our forests,” Ayade said.
His aides, family members, public officials, community leaders and security personnel are allegedly in the business of logging.
Since then, the activities of the loggers have expanded to more remote communities across the State.
And, Mr. Ayade threatened to use any political appointee and security agents who aid and abet illegal loggers as scapegoats.
“It is against this background that I am sending a note of final warning that I cannot watch the complete degeneration of our forest as we see illegal logging becoming the order of the day.
“From today, anybody caught with illegal wood, your vehicle, the driver, the occupants of that vehicle, the destination of the stolen wood, the government official who is colluding, or the security operatives who are colluding or the forest guards who are colluding, will be picked up and dealt decisively with. We will ensure that we involve the entire global community to sit and watch and monitor your prosecution to ensure that justice is done.”
Ayade rued that the illegal loggers have now developed into full-blown armed cartels who are prepared to harm anyone standing in their way.
He, however, assured that “we are ready to use as scapegoats, one or two people who are holding top government offices or people who feel they are connected to the Governor or those who feel they are politicians and then create an impression that by the appointments they have they can now collude with illegal wood loggers.”
Continuing, he averred that: “My administration has no interest in any person who thinks that by their status, they can deplete the forest and put the futures of generations unborn into such catastrophic and cataclysmic danger. This is unacceptable.”
He said his administration was tired of setting up conventional task forces and committees to tackle the menace and will henceforth explore other options, including special espionage.
According to the governor, “we are tired of the complete cycle of conspiracy and so to bulk the trend, an unknown task force which is a complete espionage on the criminality that is going on in our forests will be set up.”
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