C’River communities cry out over illegal logging, deforestation
By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
The forest communities of Edondo, Okokori and Ekuri, in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State, have cried out over what they see as a systematic destruction of their reserved forest through illegal logging, saying with the development, their survival was at stake.
In an interview with journalists during a peaceful protest which rocked the concerned communities, the Village Head of Ubiofor, in New Ekuri, Chief Edwin Ogar, said at least 10,000 out of 32,000 hectares of the Ekuri forest alone, had been destroyed.
He pointed accusing fingers at the state government for aiding the logging, saying, “Take for instance, in both new and old Ekuri community, we are at the forefront of forest conservation in Nigeria, but few people who are backed by government, decided to log illegally. And, we have laid series of complaints even to Governor Ben Ayade, as well as the forestry commission and no help has come from that direction.
“This forest is as old as when the destruction of the world by the flood happened, during the Bible days. I met the forest here and my great grandparents told me that they met the forest here.
The size of Ekuri forest, as we have taken the ground survey, is 33,600 hectares, but by virtue of this logging, from our estimation, we found out that 10,000 hectares has gone down the drain.”
Narrating effects of the logging on the natives, Chief Ogar said, “The Ekuri forest helps to stabilize the climate but unfortunately, this logging has aggravated climate change and that is why, last year, my people could not farm on our lands because of the weather change. When it’s supposed to be season for rain, it wouldn’t come on time, and when the crops were planted, the yield was not fruitful.”
Also speaking, Martins Egot, the Executive Director of an NGO, Development Concern (DEVCOM), said the uncontrollable logging of timber illegally in the reserved forest was a prove that government had failed.
His words: “I see two things that are been demonstrated here. One is a system collapse, a system failure; what the community people are coming out here to say is that there is a failure in the forestry sector, there is a failure in government. The government that is supposed to be responsible for forest protection in Cross River State, has failed.
“The state needs to wake up because if you go through the whole of Ekuri, wood is littered everywhere and this is a state that as at twelve years ago, declared a moratorium on forest logging.
“And so, if we have a moratorium that is supposed to seize all of these illegal activities, what are we doing now? There is a higher degree of loss of forest. Already, Siba Wood Agricultural Company is invading the Iyamitet flank of the Ekuri forest and nobody is stopping them as they claim to have concession from government.”
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Afforestation, Biodiversity and Conservation, Honourable Bette Philip Obi, said, “Government is on top of the matter. The trend is very difficult to checkmate because of the number of persons involved in the illegality.
“It’s not true to say that the state is not doing anything about the situation. He (governor) has put in place a taskforce. He has directed the chairmen of local government councils to enforce the Forestry Commission Law by ensuring that no unauthorized person enters the forest to cut trees any further.”