BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Worried by persistent illegal logging in Cross River State, over 300 Eco-Guards have been inaugurated as volunteer’s members of the Cross River State Task-force on anti deforestation.
It could be recalled that the State Government had recently put in place the State Anti-Deforestation Task-force with Mr. Odey Oyama as the chairman to check illegal logging and deforestation in the state.
Performing the inauguration of the Eco-Guards and donating equipment in Wula, Boki local government area recently, the Executive Director of Development Concern (DEVCON), Mr. Martins Egot said, “we are supporting the Task-force with Eco-Guards, equipment and other items because we share in the vision of protecting the forest of Cross River State”.
He said, DEVCON is basically an environmental organization that is geared towards sustainable management and protection of Cross River forests, “so this is part of our contribution to support the Task-force, we have presented equipment and uniforms and our volunteers of Eco-Guards are being inaugurated as volunteer’s members of the Cross River State Task-force.
He said “the Eco-Guards across the state are 300 spread across the main four forest LGAs of Boki, Obubra, Akamkpa and Etung. Basically we have given out about 300 T-shirts and caps and about six GPS, six cameras and then some jungle boots to be use in the forest for the monitoring”.
In his remarks were in , the Chairman of the Anti-Deforestation Task-force thanked DEVCON for the support as saying, “on my way down here, I have seen the kind of destruction that is going on, I don’t believe in mounting of check points in the highway, they should stop the destruction that is going on because when you are on the highway.
The destruction is going on inside the forest” and certainly the Eco-Guards will help in that regards, he added”.
He suggested that the best thing to do check reckless logging in the forest “is to cut down the supply of chain saws by making sure that all the chain sources are out, that is the man who supplies the logger. If you cut off the chains of supply, you won’t have the need to stand on the check point; the logging will no more be available for them. We cannot do it all alone, and we need this kind of corporation and of even the members of the communities who own the resources.
“It is because they just sit down and look, without doing anything. What I expected all the chiefs to do is to mobilize all the youths in the communities to protect all the resources that belong to them. Land they always say is a heritage given to man by God. It is a heritage given to the communities by God. It is an inheritance, which means you must pass it to the next generations. These resources were passed unto us by our fathers and it was passed unto them by their fathers so we owe it as a point of duty to hand over the resources back or forward to our children who are going to come up and they will hand it over as such.
“But unfortunately, in this generation, we have under our watch seen the entire ecosystem going, we have lost a lot. Logging does not destroy the environment like farming, for those who are logging sustainably, you just pick the mature timbers and take it out, then the ones on ground, will grow up to full maturity after some periods of time but the farmers goes in there and clear everything, get it burn down and destroy the entire ecosystem”.
On the ban on logging, Oyama said “it has caused this problem; the ban on logging is too long, for 11 years now, since this ban was placed on logging. If you ban a product, you are going to encourage smuggling because people must survive. The essence of temporary ban is to allow stakeholders, all the communities to come and sit on the round table and have a discussion about these resources on how we can best manage the resources without depleting it the way we are doing.
“When we all agree that this is how we are going to go about it, it must be sustainable management of the forest. If a logger wants to log, you will have to go to the forestry commission and obtain a permit, if it is a community forest, we will give you our community consent letter. You will agree with me that in the last eleven years, communities have not benefited royalty, government has not generated revenue”.
Paramount Ruler of Boki local government area , Ntue-Atue E.O. Ojong and the Clan Head Wula, Boki ,Chief Otu-Damion Aria, promised to help the task-force succeed saying, “we know the terrain we have in Boki, we have our boys and our young men are languishing doing nothing so nobody can stand on his own and say let me do surveillance job in a particular area if he is not committed to do it. Nothing is too big and nothing is too small.
“To our young men, you are the forest surveillance as the name implies, people may not know that you are doing the job, you may not even be on uniform and you report back to the government, you don’t need to be afraid, you have a leader, please protect our forest and let us have in mind that with the presence of the Afi Mountain Surveillance team on ground, there is a degree of protection of our forest. I also pray that there should be sources of funds, because a hungry man is an angry man, you cannot be working for nothing, once you are hungry and angry, and you will not be able to perform effectively”.