By Musa Yaro, Calabar
A coalition of environment and ecology-focused civil society organizations under the aegis of ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ in Cross River State have called on the state’s incoming governor, Senator Bassey Edet Otu, to read the riot act to those destroying forests in the state.
The group’s leader, Ken Henshaw stated this during a press briefing on Thursday.
Henshaw, flanked by Dr. Martins Egot, Odigha Odigha, and Oliver Onuoh among others, presented an open letter to the incoming governor, tagged, “strategies for protecting the Cross River forests and reversing the negative trends,”.
The group stated that the spate of deforestation has intensified at the moment with logging activities taking more 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 easily, while regularly compromising law enforcement officials including agencies tasked with checking deforestation.
“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,” the statement read.
The civil society organizations also informed that illegal loggers and their foreign counterparts have amassed enormous wealth by illegally harvesting and selling forest resources to international dimensions where endangered species of wood are illegally extracted from the forests and exported overseas.
“Their operations,” the group noted, “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.
“Their rank consists of thugs and militants armed with illegal firearms, deployed to intimidate, terrorize and maim forest protection agents and community vigilante groups perceived as threats to their operations,” We The People, disclosed.
Admitting that the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon and the corresponding loss of oil wells significantly affected the state’s ability to drive development, it reasoned that “the most significant and 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.”
The group further expressed confidence that aggressively ending the ongoing deforestation in the state will not only provide opportunities to generate much-needed income through alternative forest management frameworks but will make the state attractive for international climate change interventions and finances.
It maintained that it will remain committed to exploring and developing alternative frameworks and policy options for addressing deforestation including the production of a draft policy alternative.