•…set to activate synergy with other stakeholders
Edward Ogon, Special Adviser, Mortgage Finance and Housing Development to the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, has kicked against the continuous illegal exploitation of large parts of the Boki forest in the state, maintaining that, the harmful activities being undertaken by illegal loggers in this forest are seriously undermining the once cherished and safe environment.
“Our Boki Rainforest is blessed with natural forest resources which historically have been of great benefit to the livelihood of our people as well as providing support to people from neighbouring communities. It is important to state too that our forest is the last remaining tropical rainforest that is contiguous with the Republic of Cameroon. Our rainforest, together with the Congo and Amazon rainforest, is critical as a solution to the reoccurring debate on global climate change. We have to decisively protect our forest from the reported increase in unmitigated and devastating illegal logging happening at such an unimaginable and unprecedented scale”, he added.
Ogon, an eminent Boki son, first elected to Nigeria’s House of Representatives in 2003 to represent Ikom/Boki Federal Constituency, also told www.calitown.com during a recent interaction that, “I am deeply troubled like anyone who sees the danger ahead. If we gloss over the illegal plundering and exploitation of our forest resources then we are mortgaging not only our future but the future of our children. We must secure our future and reduce our carbon footprint to conform with the international template as recommended in the communique of the recently concluded COP26 Environmental Conference on Climate Change.”
In strong terms, he condemned the invasion of the Cross River State’s Forest Reserve and other areas by unknown and unscrupulous timber merchants, pointing out that “experts estimate that at the increasing unbridled rate of illicit logging/ deforestation, Cross River State may have lost not less than 90% of her original forest cover due to such human activities, especially in the last eight years. Sadly, this prized forest is threatened by increasing deforestation due to timber exploitation. But this illegal plundering of our forests has not failed to attract the attention of relevant environmental actors. In reaction to these illegal timber and other environmentally unfriendly activities, the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS and the Cross River State Forestry Commission, CRSFC, have raised alarm over the rate of deforestation in the Afi River Forest Reserve, ARFR, which covers approximately 380sq km. These bodies argue that if measures are not taken to halt this forest depletion, the area may be completely lost in the nearest future.”
Confronted with facts that several government agents were part of the forest plundering cabal, he replied: “It regrettable that despite the concerted efforts of the state and local government, some unscrupulous elements have continued to plunder the forest under the guise that they have government permit or approval. From credible sources, these claims of having government approval to log is clear deception. These activities are carried out without the knowledge of the government. But it may not be out of place to suspect that a few bad eggs in government agencies charged with the responsibility of protecting the forest may have compromised their positions and are colluding with these illegal loggers.”
On a personal level, Ogon says he is activating an all inclusive synergy with other stakeholders in the environmental responsibility chain to confront this menace. “However, what I will do can only be meaningful if done in tandem with us all. It is an all inclusive task and should involve every Boki person. Protecting our forest starts with us as host community. We must all play our part.”
“Having said that, I will make further suggestions to the state government to reinvigorate the machinery for checking these illegal timber loggers who are misrepresenting the government by circumventing the governor’s sincere efforts. In the interim, we, the people of Boki, should monitor and report such activities to relevant government agencies. We should also undertake tree planting to encourage sustainable, widespread reforestation. Finally, may I reiterate that climate change is real. It is not imported from anywhere. It is caused by unfriendly activities in our environment and its effects are being feIt globally especially in distorted climate and weather conditions, extreme flooding and rapid desertification among others. It is not a condition to expect in the far future. Climate change is already here but we can check its devastating spread by the way we treat our environment.”
The Afi River Rain Forest Reserve is one of the largest remaining relatively intact Forest Reserves in Cross River State. It also serves as an important corridor linking the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary to the Mbe Mountains and the Cross River National Park which are home to the critically endangered Drill Monkey and Cross River Gorilla. It is located in Boki Local Government Area.
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