De-aforestation in Nigeria

The persistent illegal sale and trading in forestry products which is encouraging the deforestation of reserve forests in the Cross River state of Nigeria have come under scrutiny as exposed by an environmental group based in the state.

The group is known as Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has implored Governor Ben Ayade and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the Cross River State Forestry Commission and others for alleged illegal trading in forest resources.

Just last week, the Anti-Deforestation Taskforce (ATF) chairman, Odey Oyama, resigned his appointment alleging: “Consistent interferences in the operations of the ATF by other agencies of government without any attempt at joint consultation or synergy. In particular also, the total lack of security cover for all the field staff and operatives that had been deployed by ATF into strategic positions all over the state.”

But HEDA Resource Centre said the act should be investigated “particularly the ongoing corrupt practices in Cross Rivers State forestry sector, especially the illegal logging activities aided by some government agencies.”

Cross River National Park

In a statement yesterday, HEDA’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, said: “We had expected that the appointment of Mr. Odey Oyama, chairman of the ATF in November 2019, would help to protect Cross River communities from the dangerous inhuman activities of illegal loggers. However, the resignation of Mr. Oyama shortly after his appointment was as shocking as the serious allegations contained in his resignation letter.”

In the resignation letter, addressed to the governor, the ATF ex-chairman alleged various corrupt practices, including: “Whenever consignments of timber are impounded, the chairman of the Forestry Commission and the Special Adviser (SA) of Afforestation appear at the scene for the purposes of issuing counter instructions for the release of the consignments.

Curiously, their action is being carried out without any documentary evidence or authorisation from the governor, who initiated the operations of the ATF.”

However, Ndiadiye who confirmed the release of the timber produce insisted that due process was followed in the entire exercise and the necessary fees paid to the government by the owners.