Govt, plank sellers bicker over illegal tree logging, ban on forest activities

• Plank sellers allege loss of over N5bn to ban on forest activities

The last may not have been heard of the ban of forest activities in Ogun State just as the Plank Sellers Association of Ogun State alleged that its members have lost over N5 billion worth of planks and other properties as a result of the ban.

Tribune Online recalls that Governor Dapo Abiodun in September placed a ban on all forest activities that do not have to do with reforestation, agricultural activities and farming activities in the state.

While describing the recent development as ‘great loss to the state’, the association at the weekend appealed to the state government to reopen the forest in the interest of the economic development of the state.

The association claims that five members of its members have been reportedly missing as a result of high debt incurred over the ban placed on their activities since September.

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Addressing newsmen on behalf of other members, the Chairman, Chief Nafiu Saka lamented that most of their members have turned beggars on the street.

While also appealing to the government to leave the free area under the control of the association, Saka urged that the government can still hold on to the government reserved forests.

Also speaking at the event, Vice Chairman of the association, Monsuru Ayodeji noted the government could generate more revenue from forestry, adding that the money members of the association pay to the ministry of forestry is higher than revenue from other ministries.

He advised the state government to appoint officers with experience on plank selling to take over the Ministry of Forestry in the state.

Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abiodun, Kunle Somorin in a swift reaction said the ban was not a punitive measure but one aimed at regulating their activities in the light of increasing climate change all over the world.

Somorin added that the government is still liaising with stakeholders in the sector to proffer lasting solutions to the challenge.

He said: “Let’s put the suspension order in perspective. First, the state government had to suspend forest activities to forestall the overexploitation and illegal tree felling going on in its Forest Reserves across the State.

“Activities suspended cover logging, timber exploitation, evacuation of logs and Forest Concession as well as activities in all government and non-governmental open forest areas and not those that have to do with reforestation or agricultural activities and farming activities.

“It wasn’t a punitive measure. When it became obvious that genuine farmers needed access to do some harvesting, in October, Government granted an eight-day waiver for the evacuation of perishable agricultural produce like tomatoes, vegetables, plantains and Bananas within forest reserves across the state.

“The period of waiver was to relieve operators in the forest value chain from suffering incalculable losses.

“Loaded trucks of timber were also allowed to move out of the reserves within the same period – Thursday 17th of October till Friday, 25th of October, – while processed cocoa beans and ripe cocoa pods were allowed to harvest and move out of the forest reserves within the same period.

“That intervention was necessary so as to prevent great economic loss and untold hardship to the operators in the reserve.

“This is a listening government and a people-friendly one. The government will continue to monitor and review situations in the reserves for effective utilisation and sustenance of the forest.

“I’ll enjoin all stakeholders to view the positive side of the suspension in this age of climate change and in the face of the overwhelming effects of what deforestation through tree logging felling and dispersal of animals in our rainforest from their natural habitat which their activities cause.

“The state government expects total compliance from the forest operators and seeks cooperation of all stakeholders for the maintenance of peaceful coexistence of humans, plants and animals in the reserves.

“However, the state government is currently consulting with stakeholders with a view to implementing long-lasting and sustainable solutions to manage forest reserves across the state.”

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