Francis Edu, the Director in charge of Conservation, Protection and Compliance in the Cross River Forestry Commission and three other officials of the Forestry Commission are presently recuperating after being viciously attacked by persons suspected to be working for the state’s Anti-Deforestation Task Force (North).
Investigations by www.calitown.com revealed that Edu and his team, alongside eight assigned officers of the Nigeria Police, were drafted to Ijiaraga community, Ukelle, North of Cross River, close to Ebonyi state, to intercept a convoy of 45 trucks loaded with timber, heading out of the state.
The movement of the trucks, out of the state, was however put on hold after the wood merchants were tipped off about the arrival of Edu and his team, from Calabar. We can however not conclude, but reliable sources inside Ogoja informed us that “at some point after the team arrived and had spotted the trucks, the policemen who were to offer them security cover, insisted they wanted to go and report their arrival for special duty at the Ogoja Area Command Office, as it is standard practice, and they left.”
That departure of the policemen was the one window of opportunity hurriedly exploited by a gang of boys, said to have arrived in an identified vehicle, owned by the recently appointed Director General, Anti-Deforestation Task Force, in charge of Cross River North, one Emmanuel Asegem. The boys fiercely insisted that if Edu and his team did not return back to Calabar, they may not see the next day.
“Shortly after that altercation, the boys who outnumbered the team, kept to their words and began the vicious attack on Edu and his team, beating and causing the team to flee”, we were told. “Each of those trucks was conveying 680 planks, to be sold at N1,800 each. Please do the calculation”, www.calitown.com was told.
To precise numbers, our calculation showed that 680 planks sold at N1,800 is N1.224 million naira. For the 45 trucks on this particular trip, a princely N55,080 million naira, was illegally leaving the state with nothing accruing to the CRS.
Asagem, the DG, was unavailable for comments as several attempts to reach him bore no fruits. One source, who does not want his name in print told us in confidence that, “you people are only just hearing about this thing because the team was attacked. When government puts people like this DG to be in charge of checking deforestation, government will not sincerely tell you that they put him there as settlement after he lost his party’s primaries. It is an opportunity to recoup his finances, at our collective expense and those who feed from him will defend their food on the table and beat up officials like this ones from the Forestry Commission. I just hope something is done because the scale of deforestation and trade in wood is criminally massive”.
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