Obasanjo Implores FG, States to Combat Illegal Felling of Trees, Poaching

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By Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has tasked governments at all levels to fight the illegal felling of trees and poaching to protect the forests and its abundant resources.

He said this at the 42nd annual conference of the Forest Association of Nigeria (FAN) in Ibadan Tuesday, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the association.

According to the former president, who was represented by Mr. Sunday Agusa, “We must ensure that we do not, arising from our negligence, lose our endangered species. We must begin to harness, document and advance the innumerable benefits of our forests in solving contemporary health issues. We must begin to look at and devise means of protecting our forests from those who are concerned about today without any iota of consideration for the resultant effects of their actions and inaction.”

A former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, in his keynote address, urged the government to arrest the ongoing spate of deforestation in the country to avert any negative effects of global warming and climate change.

Okojie, who noted that it is increasingly becoming difficult to check forest encroachment in Nigeria, stated that forest protecting agencies should be equipped with the necessary tools to fight encroachment in the forest estates.

He added that strategies for protecting the forest against encroachment should involve holistic approach that will incorporate social and energy security of the people.

He further identified inadequate policy and measures, weak law enforcement, and lack of transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s forest reserves administration as factors militating against forest preservation, noting that the newly approved National Forest Policy 2018 is capable of addressing most of the challenges confronting growth and development of the sector.

According to him, Nigeria’s forest is degraded, adding that the sources of economic trees that “produce timber, veneer log, fuel wood or the medicinal plants have been over exploited and degraded with some of the species under the threat of becoming extinct”.

The Minister of Environment, Dr. Muhammed Mahmoud Abubakar, warned against over exploitation of forest and forest resources to avert future pandemic, calling for holistic approach to protect the forest and its resources.

He disclosed that the federal government was reviewing policy towards the effective governance and management of forests and its resources.

The National President of FAN, Alhaji Ahmad Rufai Ibrahim, in his welcome address, stated that the association will continue to work and engage relevant stakeholders towards engendering reforestation and stop unsustainable degradation of the forest and its resources.

The Chairman, National Organising Committee of the Forest Association of Nigeria (FAN) 42nd Conference, Dr. Nureni Adedapo Adewole, maintained that the Nigerian forests and ecosystems are at the risk of unsustainable use.

Adewole, who stated that forest resources have become useful even in the search for the cure of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, said Nigeria’s “forest enclaves and her resources in Nigeria is suffering untold abuses in relation to utilization purposes, exploitation, management and monitoring”.

He added that Nigeria’s forests are presently being poorly managed and overexploited, urging the federal government to evolve strategies of abating the wrong use of forest and its resources.