Andy Esiet, Calabar
Cross River state forest is fast depleting as over 91,000 tons of timber leave the state every year due to illegal logging.
The state has over 50 percent out of the eight states that own forest in Nigeria but environmental experts are worried that with the reckless logging that is going on now unchecked in the next 10 years the state may not have any forest again.
The experts raised the alarm in a one day workshop in Calabar to mark this year’s World Environment Day in retrospect on Wednesday, organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), in collaboration with the Cross River-based Community Forest Watch (CFW) with the theme: “Only One Earth, Living Sustainably with Nature”
Presenting a keynote address at the workshop, an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science of the University of Calabar, Dr. Raphael Offiong said, the rate of illegal logging is so high that “250 tons of timber is taken out every day in the state and in 10 days 2, 500 tons are lost and in a year 91, 250 tons of timber leave Cross River. In the process of logging small trees and other things in the forest are destroyed” .Offiong said a study carried out in 2017 showed so much forest loss in the state and “we will not have our forest again in next 10 years
going by the rate of logging and deforestation going on in the state now…the state used to have 10 forest charge but most are gone.
“I say so partly because we are a consuming community. These forests that are being depleted indiscriminately have been in existence for thousands of years but today we are mercilessly depleting them without any form of control.
“We are not even caring about replacing them with new species of trees. It should have been as you bring down one, you plant at least two more and tender them with technology, but this is not the case and I tell you the truth, we are heading to a crash land…we are going to embark on an aggressive tour of our communities to check deforestation”.
In his remarks, ERA/I Executive Director, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, lamented that “the environmental degradation resulting in the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss contributes to ecosystem destruction and food security.”
Dr Ojo who was represented by Dr Mourice Ollory of CFW, charged governments at all levels “to partner with civil society organization and communities for a concerted effort to address the triple planetary crisis” , adding that despite efforts of the Cross River state government in addressing the evil of deforestation and logging, one could still see daily lots of trailer loads of timber leaving various communities in Akamkpa, Biase, Obubra, Etung and Boki Local Government Area, to unknown places.
On his part, Director, Cross River State Forestry Commission, Dr Ekpenyong Ita, said, “we have rain forest in 8 states in Nigeria and Cross River has 50 percent of it but the greatest challenge the state and it’s forest is facing now’s the issue of moratorium which was introduced in 2008 to check illegal logging and this was to last for two years but still now the ban is still in place yet logging is going on recklessly ” and between then and now the policy supposed to be reviewed. Before 2008 the state had 75 forest management committees to check illegal logging and they were very powerful.
“We have written to government that the moratorium policy is not working but to no avail. The various affected communities should also write so that we can go back to where we were before 2008. Logging should be regulated as carbon effect now is alarming due to deforestation. We are losing our forest at an alarming rate” .
Dr Itita Augustine Ekpe of the University of Calabar, in his remarks, said since rainforest regulates climate change, its depletion could spell room to climatic condition of the world and the time has come for the forest communities to protect their forest as they have the power to do so if only the government will assist.
He said that “between 2008 and so much deforestation is done as forest guards and forest guards are hiding because they are helpless. Before now they were powerful and highly respected but now because of some interest people are making money from illegal logging. Now Ekuri and other forest communities are being destroyed, it is bad.
On his part, Dr Itita Ekpe of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Calabar, who spoke on ” Rainforest Conservation as a pathway to climate adaptation, mitigation and Planet earth sustainability”, equally decried the alarming rate of logging saying the rainforest serves as carbon sink and it must protected.