By Odeon Odalo

Illegal loggers in the oil rich Edo State of Nigeria forests are in for hard times as the Government last week directed the forest patrol team to firm up surveillance across the forest belt so as to mitigate their activities.

In a statement, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq. condemned the activities of illegal loggers at the Okomu National Park and across the Okomu Forest Reserve.

Forest patrol teams are supposed to be skilled, equipped and earn adequate compensation for their work. Do we have a corp of Forest guards in Edo? Are they trained for the job? Do they have the equipments – drones, binoculars, vehicles, arms etc? Are they receiving compensation commensurate with the risks and inconveniences involved in manning the vast forests?

The forests in Edo is what oil is to Nigeria. It is like the gold in Zamfara state. Just for a few ounces last month, the state earned Billions. Does the state of Edo have a forestry policy? Does that policy cover forest regeneration? Is that policy relevant today as it was when it was initiated?

My take is that loggers are very organized people. They know the plight of forest guards. They know where the logs are. They know where to get the best- in the deep of the forests, where patrols and guards don’t venture. They will kill to get logs, illegally felled out of the forests.

This is why during the last election, I was happy when a candidate promised to Plant 10Million Trees per annum. The plan was to get Every resident of Edo State to plant at least five trees so that as a State, Edo will be planting 10 million trees annually, as part of efforts to regenerate its depleting forests.

Sources say that today Edo state presently has less than 10% forest cover which is way off the United Nations recommendation of at least 25%.

Yet the state can leverage on the opportunity made available by the United Nations and the World Bank to gain enough carbon credit through carbon sequestration by planting more trees. Is this possible? Can it be done? Yes.

Nigeria is in recession. Youths are jobless. There is so much for security vote. From a government nursery, these youths can be engaged abd paid to plant a given number of trees and nurture them every month, just to get them off crimes.

I cannot recall his name but an American leader with the country in recession is said to have asked people to dig holes and fill them up while paying them. Families were kept alive as a result. Banditry is rife in Zamfara. Now government is employing yoiths to mine gold and getting paid. The trees we plant in Edo will remain here as our gold, tommorow

The government has said, “Anyone found conducting illegal activities in the forest plane would be brought to justice and the state will explore extant laws to ensure that they are duly prosecuted.

“The forest patrol teams, which were recently empowered with equipment to improve the surveillance of the forest, are charged to ramp up their activities, with a view to halting the activities of these illegal loggers.”

Yes the state government has over the years pursued an aggressive afforestation programme in conjunction with international partners and local experts to protect its pristine forest assets, in the wake of debilitating encroachment on forest reserves that had compromised the safety of endangered species, among other harsh effects on the state’s ecosystem. This must be sustained.

The stern warning by the state government is coming in the wake of a reported spike in illegal logging in the Okomu Forest Reserve, which is further depleting the state’s forest asset and leading to a situation where elephants are reportedly running rampage on farmlands, destroying crops and other valuables in local communities.

Odalo is a journalist

By Admin

Teacher, Reporter, and Blogger

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