Governor-elect to read ‘riot act’ against those destroying Cross River forest

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Governor-elect of Cross River state, Bassey Edet Otu, has been urged to read the ‘riot act’ immediately he assumes office on Monday against those destroying ‘the largest remaining vestige of pristine tropical rainforest in West Africa’ NEGROIDHAVEN has garnered.

A collective of development practitioners and civil society advocates led by We the People convoked a press conference where they reminded the incoming governor of the state his administration of the state they ‘are hopeful that your tenure as governor will witness tremendous progress in all spheres of the state, especially in the management of the environmental affairs of Cross River State.’

The press release further observed that the 2008 moratorium by the state government was supposed to address issues of the forest had failed to stop logging and similar negatives against the forest. It said exactly, ‘Your Excellency, recall that in 2008, arising from an environmental summit, the Cross River state government instituted a moratorium on the forest specifically targeting loggers which it considered the key drivers of deforestation at the time. For the government, this action was necessitated by the need to protect the most critical asset of Cross River state which is its vast forests and the wildlife it shelters.

‘However, despite the moratorium, the spate of deforestation has rather intensified. At the moment, logging activities have taken more alarming and sinister dimensions in the state. In several communities, loggers and timber dealers establish their trading posts close to the forests, and form trade unions to regulate the business. Logs are openly processed into various sizes, loaded onto trucks and transported to destinations within and outside the state fairly easily, while regularly compromising law enforcement officials including agencies tasked with checking deforestation.’

Given that the bids to deplete the forest by criminal elements have resulted to insecurity and other vices with economic implications, the press conference urged the incoming state government to read the riot acts to dissuade violence against the rain and mangrove forests.

‘Your Excellency, as you assume office on the 29th of May 2023, and deliver your inaugural address to the people of Cross River state, it will be a great opportunity to read the ‘riot act’ to those destroying the forests, and clearly state your preference for preserving the Cross River Forests’, it stated.

The group further noted that there is an economic benefit that goes with keeping the forest standing than with depleting it.

 

 

Below is an excerpt of the full press release:

 

Open Letter to the Governor-Elect of Cross River State His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Edet On: on Strategies for Protecting the Cross River Forests and Reversing the Negative Trends 

His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu Governor-Elect, Cross River State of Nigeria 

Your Excellency, Sir 

With great pleasure, WE THE PEOPLE a collective of environment and ecology focused civil society organizations in Cross River state express our felicitations with Your Excellency on your recent election into the Office of the Executive Governor of Cross River state, and wish you the best in your forthcoming inauguration into the Office on May 29, 2023. We are hopeful that your tenure as governor will witness tremendous progress in all spheres of the state, especially in the management of the environmental affairs of Cross River State. 

Your excellency, please permit us to inform you without equivocation or exaggeration that the administration you will lead from May 29th 2023 will be faced with very enormous challenges, especially in the ecological space of the state. 

Since the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon and the corresponding loss of all the oil revenues that previously accrued to Cross River state, our state has witnessed a massive drop in revenues which has significantly affected the state’s ability to drive development. However, the most significant and most dependable economic assets of Cross River State beyond crude oil revenues, is the enormous tropical rainforest in the state, the largest remaining vestige of pristine tropical rainforest in West Africa. 

Your Excellency, recall that in 2008, arising from an environmental summit, the Cross River state government instituted a moratorium on the forest specifically targeting loggers which it considered the key drivers of deforestation at the time. For the government, this action was necessitated by the need to protect the most critical asset of Cross River state which is its vast forests and the wildlife it shelters. 

However, despite the moratorium, the spate of deforestation has rather intensified. At the moment, logging activities have taken more alarming and sinister dimensions in the state. In several communities, loggers and timber dealers establish their trading posts close to the forests, and form trade unions to regulate the business. Logs are openly processed into various sizes, loaded onto trucks and transported to destinations within and outside the state fairly easily, while regularly compromising law enforcement officials including agencies tasked with checking deforestation. 

Your Excellency, the illegal trade in timber has exacerbated insecurity in Cross River state. To facilitate the theft of forest resources, the state has seen the emergence of an armed cartel of ‘Crossers’ who take responsibility for arranging consignments of timber from the forest, and conveying them to designated destinations outside the state. Their rank consists of thugs and militants armed with illegal firearms, deployed to intimidate, terrorize and maim forest protection agents and community vigilante groups that they perceive as threats to their operations. Their operations have led to the proliferation of small and light arms which have found their way into the commission of other crimes including robberies and kidnappings. On several occasions, ‘Crossers’ are known to have attacked community members, volunteer groups and task force members who prevent illegal extraction and transportation of timber products. The illicit trade in timber has expanded to include foreign (Chinese) interests as well as an international dimensions, Endangered species of wood are illegally extracted from the forests and exported overseas. 

Your Excellency, with declining sources of revenue, preserving and sustainably managing the Cross River forests represent a viable avenue to shore up the income of the state. Recall that prior to the moratorium, the forests made a decent contribution to the earnings of the state. This has long stopped. In converse, illegal loggers and their foreign counterparts have amassed enormous wealth by illegally harvesting and selling forest resources. It is interesting to note that while neighbouring Ebonyi state is principally a grassland state, it has the largest timber market in Nigeria solely on account of illegally acquired timber from the Cross River forests. 

We are confident that aggressively ending the ongoing deforestation in Cross River state will not only provide opportunities to generate much needed income for the state through alternative forest management frameworks, but will once again make the state attractive for international climate change interventions and finances. 

As responsible civil society organizations and experts in forest management we are confident that under your leadership and given the political will, the escalating threat of deforestation as well as the gaps and challenges associated with existing government responses can be fixed. On our part, we commit to exploring and developing alternative frameworks and policy options for addressing deforestation, and producing a draft policy alternative. 

Your Excellency, as you assume office on the 29th of May 2023, and deliver your inaugural address to the people of Cross River state, it will be a great opportunity to read the ‘riot act’ to those destroying the forests, and clearly state your preference for preserving the Cross River Forests. 

We wish to assure Your Excellency that as a collective, we are willing to work with Your Excellency in combating this enormous ecological and economic sabotage to our state. 

Here is wishing you the very best as your take office as Governor of Cross River State. Please accept our very best regards, now and always. 

This letter is endorsed by the following;..