By Ogar Monday
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Some members of the Okwango community, in Boki Local Government Area, a host community of the Cross River State National Park, and the World Conservation Society, WCS, program have bemoaned the organization and the Government for abandoning them and letting them suffer despite an existing ban on illegal logging in the State.
Some community members said, neither the Cross River National Park nor the World Conservation Society has been of any benefit to them since its inception; rather, it has restricted their ability to derive economic benefits from the forest they consider as nature’s gift to them.
CrossRiverWatch investigator who is in the community was told by an anonymous source that the community is in no way benefiting from the forest that is on their land, but instead “the National Park Service restricts our access to the forest which happens to be the only means to livelihood as there is little or no impact of Government.”
The source added, “As of January this year, there was no access road and we had to walk three to four hours out of the community to the nearest civilized community” and that members of the community had to contribute “funds to hire a bulldozer to grade the road from the nearest access point in the park to their community.”
Another source further revealed that the community is now ever ready to explore and exploit the forest since, according to them, the Cross River State Government and the National Park Service have not done anything to discourage them from “exploiting the reserve.”
Another source in the community said the only primary school in the community was built by Attah Ochinke, the Calabar Branch NBA Chairman and that members of the community, especially the women have suffered from intimidation and harassment from officers of the National Park Service.
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