Niger govt prosecutes over 120 illegal loggers to tackle deforestation

The Niger State Government on Tuesday said it had prosecuted over 120 illegal timber loggers to stop further depletion of the state’s forest reserves.

Dr Lucky Barau, Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry for Environment and Forestry, said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Minna.

“After a lot of sensitization and advocacy, especially to our local people on why the environment should be protected against desertification, soil and gully erosion, we had no other option than to introduce Mobile Courts to try illegal loggers.

“It is on record that over 120 offenders have been prosecuted so far and fined depending on their involvement,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary said five mobile courts located in Minna, Suleja, Bida, Kontagora and Borgu were set up to try offenders who contravened the state environmental laws.

Barau explained that one of the convicted persons was sentenced to three month service in correctional centre for attacking an enforcement officer, while over 100 persons are awaiting trial.

He said timber loggers, operators of saw mills and timber shades in the state must obtain licence from government, otherwise their business premises would be sealed and the owners prosecuted.

“This is to ensure that unauthorized trees are not felled for timber and fire wood.

“We used to have over 100 forest reserves in Niger state but as at today we have only 98.

“The remaining 98 forest reserves are not spared from the activities of deforestation, hence government policy to protect the forests,” the permanent secretary said.

Barau said when the government introduced Taungya farming in 1984 allowing farmers to cultivate within the forests without tampering with the trees, the initiative was abused by the farmers.

“The farmers later abused the concept by cutting down the trees for firewood, which added to the illegal activities of loggers and further depletion of the forest reserves.

“Government is not against felling of approved trees for building and other construction works, but is against indiscriminate felling of unapproved trees by unlicensed persons.

“In the recent time because of sustained arrests of persons engaged in indiscriminate felling of trees, illegal logging has reduced,” he said.

Barau emphasised that it was criminal not to get government approval before felling trees in the state.

“When unauthorized persons go to the forests to fell unapproved trees, sometimes they cut down economic trees such as Melina trees, Shea trees, Locust Beans trees and others,” he said.

Barau advised the people to only cut the branches, instead of felling the whole tree and endangering the environment.

The permanent secretary said the state government had established tree nurseries for planting as part of its reforestation efforts.

He also said the state was collaborating with the Federal Government and other international organizations to repopulate the forest reserves and protect the environment.

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