A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), known as “We The People”, has disclosed that the illegal trade in timber is exacerbating insecurity in Cross River state.
The group, which runs a Centre for Social Studies, stated this during a press briefing in Calabar while appealing to Sen. Bassey Otu, the governor-elect of Cross River, to deal with those destroying the state’s forests when he assumes office.
According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, between 1990 and 2010, Nigeria lost 47.5 per cent of its forest cover or around 8,193,000 hectares.
Currently, Nigeria has only about 10 per cent of its original forest cover still standing; this figure has reduced significantly on account of massive deforestation activities going on in forests in the country.
In a letter to the governor-elect, the Executive Director of “We the People”, Mr Ken Henshaw, said to facilitate the theft of forest resources, the state has seen an armed cartel known as ‘crossers’.
He said these crossers take responsibility for arranging consignments of timber from the forest and conveying them to designated destinations outside the state.
He maintained that the ranks of the crossers consist of thugs and militants, armed with illegal firearms to intimidate and main forest protection agents and vigilante groups they see as threats to their operations.
“In 2008, Cross River instituted a moratorium on its forests, specifically targeting loggers which it considered to be drivers of deforestation at the time.
“However, despite the moratorium, the spate of deforestation has intensified because at the moment, logging activities have taken a more sinister dimension in the state.
“In several communities, loggers and timber dealers establish their trading posts close to the forests, form trade unions and logs are openly processed into various sizes and transported to destinations within and outside the state easily.
Henshaw said the activities of the crossers had led to a proliferation of small arms and increase in crime, as crossers are known to have attacked community members and task force operatives who prevent illegal extraction of timber product.
According to him, ending the ongoing deforestation in Cross River will not only provide opportunities to generate income through alternative forest management framework but will also make the state attractive for international climate change intervention.
He added that as a responsible CSO and experts in forest management, they were confident that under the leadership of the governor-elect, the escalating threat of deforestation and challenges of the responses of the government would be fixed.
Supreme reports that it is estimated that about 50 per cent of Nigeria’s remaining forest is located in Cross River, but these forests are undergoing fast depletion.