Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives has expressed its worry at the annual deforestation rate in Nigeria, put at 3.5 per cent by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)’s 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment, amounting to approximately 350,000 to 400,000 trees.
The once enviable forests around the country are in real danger of being wiped out, the House said. Experts also believe the various ongoing efforts by the government and private sector operators to adopt tree planting and re-afforestation initiatives have not adequately compensated for the rapid loss of forest cover.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara speaking in Abuja Tuesday, recalled that Nigeria was once covered by extensive forests.
Dogara, who was represented by the Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, spoke at the hearing of the ad hoc committee investigating massive deforestation and corruption that has crippled the environment and its effect on climate change, where he added that deforestation has long been taken for granted, but now faces the threat of wiping out forest reserves.
“I dare say the figure is on the increase, especially with the coming of foreign merchants in search of ornate species of wood called Rosewood, which Nigeria is fortunate to be blessed with but is fast becoming a nightmare for the nation,” Dogara said.
“We were alarmed when the FAO reported that Nigeria’s present forest status is less than 5 per cent, well below the international recommended 25 per cent forest standard (afforestation). With this statistics, as a parliament of the people, we cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our nation being destroyed; we must all join hands to preserve our environment. It is our collective heritage and responsibility,” he added.
Dogara said the legislature is concerned with the manner of implementation of various Deforestation, Desertification, Afforestation and Reforestation projects by government at all levels without clear cut success.
These he listed to include projects such as the Sahara Great Green Wall Projects, the Clean Gas Cook and the Wonder bag Initiative, the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation, the UN-REDD+, the FCPF projects and several other local and international projects, which were intended to return Nigeria back to its status of a country with rich forests.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Bede Eke in his address, said the nation’s rich forests and its forest reserves hold the key to take the nation out of the current economic recession and even its state of insecurity.
He lamented that the deforestation with its attendant adverse effects have caused challenges in the eco system, agriculture, health, environmental degradation, climate change, economy and security.
Proactive measures must therefore be taken to avert total destruction of Nigeria’s once enviable forest cover, Bede said.
“It is important to mention that the change agenda of the present administration anchored on transparency in public service and zero tolerance for corruption would amount to nothing if institutions and individuals continue to engage in business with impunity,” he said.
Bede added that strict adherence to the rules and regulations for doing business in Nigeria, whether for domestic use or export purposes, must be complied with by all.
“The rampant ransack and exploitation of our rich forests calls for serious examination of the desirability or otherwise of certain agencies, which from our view have failed the nation in its enforcement mandate,” he added.