Home Uncategorized Lifting Of Ban On Logging, A Reality Or Farce?

Lifting Of Ban On Logging, A Reality Or Farce?

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OPINION

By Chief Edwin Ogar

Cross River State of Nigeria is endowed with forests which includes mangrove, tropical and savannah forest. These forests are rich in biological diversity and has huge environmental, economic, historical and cultural importance to the State and Nigeria as a whole.

However, these forests have faced destructive illegal logging by unscrupulous and criminal elements in the society for personal gains. Committed efforts by many communities, environmental NGOs and individuals to safeguard the forests for the benefits of the present and future generations are undermined by government particularly the politicians and the Cross-River State Forestry Commission for personal gains.

The dire situation continued unbated till in 2008 when then Governor Liyel Imoke was provoked by the likely future consequences and decided to place a ban on legal/ illegal logging Though the ban was a welcomed development to the majority of the citizenry, but was inwardly rejected by the loggers, allies in government, transporters and wood users.

Despite this opposition, the ban persisted which forced the loggers and allies to devised schemes to strengthen the illegal logging which and necessitated the State Government to set up the Anti Deforestation Task Force (ATF) to enforce the ban after government has alienated the management of forest from the State Forestry Commission. This strategy did not address the ugly situation as illegal logging and deforestation quadrupled thereby inspired the good people of the state to voice out their concerns, calling government to revisit the logging moratorium while others proposed outright lifting of the ban.

On 10th August, 2023, 14 years after the ban came into force, the Cross-River State government following pressures, lifted the ban on logging. In a Press Release signed by the Secretary to the State Government. Prof. A. Owan Enoh stated that: ‘’The general public is hereby informed that the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Prince Bassey Otu, has approved the immediate lifting of ban on logging in Cross River State.  The Anti-deforestation Task Force on logging is hereby dissolved’’.

Furthermore, the Press Release, stated that His Excellency has also directed that:

  1. ‘’As enshrined in the Cross-River State Forest Law and regulations 2011 or (2010), any illegally sawn wood across the state is considered an offence and to face compoundment. Furthermore, prohibition of sawing wood in the forest reserve is still in force’’.

When the press release became public, the stakeholders celebrated lifting of the ban, praised Senator Prince Bassey Otu for yielding to the concerns of the common man and in particular forest communities whose means of livelihoods have been severely threatened beyond comprehension. Many NGOs and individuals organized meetings to strategize and fine tune the way forward in view of the lifting of the ban, and realistic pathways were drawn, suggestions made onto government for consideration.

In the euphoria of lifting of the ban, many did not look or study the press release texts carefully. The stakeholders were happy that finally the ban has been lifted, nothing more or nothing less.  

In aforementioned press release, the government of Cross River State said that in line with ‘’CRS Forest Law and Regulations 2011 (sic), any illegally sawn wood across the state is considered an offence and to face compoundment’’. But went further and stated that ‘’prohibition of sawing wood in the forest reserve is still in force,’’ meaning that the forest reserves are exempted from the lifting of the ban. I  n community forest, opposite is the case where logging is allowed and can continue till the forest is completely decimated.

This position of government is quite disappointing considering that forest dwelling communities are the most marginalized, neglected, backward, impoverished in the context of the state because of their illiteracy, poor manpower and low population. Their voices are not heard in the decision making and are faced with poor rural road, health centre, school, market, high mortality etc.

The economy of this indigenous peoples whose habitat is the forest are depended mainly on timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). These resources support the livelihoods of households as well as using part of the proceeds to build and maintain rural infrastructures for self-benefits rather than wait for government.

Most forest dwelling communities since 1992, have imbibed and accepted the strategy of community forestry and programs on conservation, sustainable forest management and livelihoods arising from the then British’s Overseas Development Administration (ODA) intervention in Cross River State. Notable communities like Ekuri, Iko Esai, Okuni, Abontakon, Mbe Mountains are indigenous forest dwelling communities that have made impact on community forestry in the state which need to be strengthened.

With the logging moratorium of 2008 which was expected to last for a short time, but was rather prolonged up to August 2023, many communities were still inspired and kept faith in community forestry. However, the preceded administration of Governor Ben Ayade brought heavy and unprecedented casualty to the forests occasioned by the superhighway which led to inordinate, widespread, illegal and destructive logging with no semblance of sustainability. This rich biological diversity of affected communities gone, livelihoods, culture, water supply gone, medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge endangered and the likelihood of their sustained wellbeing gravely deteriorated.

Soon after the ban was lifted, the loggers of all shades and manners have inundated the community forests, continued illegal logging contrary to the provisions of the forestry law and regulations of 2010. These are contributing to aforementioned problems and associated adverse climate effects, and, if nothing is done now to revisit the issue, it will aggravate the situation.

It is very crucial for government to revisit the lifting of the ban and put in place, sustainable mechanisms to conserve and safeguard community forest throughout the state rather than focus logging restrictedly on community forest. Government should be poised to collaborate with forest communities to enforce the CRS Forest Law and regulations rather than marginalize them.

Furthermore, forest communities need funds, materials and human supports to reenergize the comatose community forestry in the state so that they once again function effectively and deliver the dividends of ‘’ the management of the forest by the community and for the benefit of the community.’’ Considering the current poor financial status of CRS government, community forestry will reduce the burden on government in the provision of rural development.

The renewal of community forestry and the sincere passion, efforts and commitments by the state government to conservation of forests in the state will elicit international supports to the state, communities and further attract additional supports as solidarity to address climate change.

For CRS government to lift the ban without putting corrective and enduring measures to conserve community forest, livelihoods, health and wellbeing of the indigenous peoples, and, enhancing of climate change mitigation is not a reality but a farce.

Ogar is an Environmentalist and Programmme Coordinator, Worthy Association for Tackling Environmental Ruins (WATER)

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