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Battling Illegal Logging, Deforestation in Bayelsa

BEVERLY HILLS, April 11, (THEWILL) – In its maiden commemoration of the International  World Forest Day, which held recently, Bayelsa State expressed commitment to protecting the state’s forest reserves as the State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, read a riot act to those working against the government’s interest. David Amous – Owei reports from Yenagoa

The Bayelsa  State Government has placed a ban on various logging, and deforestation activities that have been perpetrated under the watch of past administrations since the creation of the only homogeneous state of the Ijaws in Niger Delta region. Bayelsa State government has thus halted logging without permit and other deforestation activities in order to protect the state’s forest reserves.

Henceforth, all commercial timber dealers are to obtain permit from the Ministry of Environment before embarking on logging activities.

Governor Douye Diri, who stated this during this year’s International Day of Forests celebration in Yenagoa, also directed that an executive bill in consultation with the Environment Ministry and related civil society organisations be prepared and forwarded to the House of Assembly.

The governor also said that the new bill would repeal existing environmental laws that are now obsolete, though without enforcements by relevant agencies of government.

His words: “Henceforth, all timber dealers are to obtain permit before taking out logs from our forest reserves. This is to protect our forests.

“I hereby direct that an executive bill in consultation with the state Ministry of Environment and related civil society organisations be sent immediately to the House of Assembly.

“This bill should repeal every other existing laws. I trust the State Assembly to do justice to this bill so that we can protect our forests.”

Governor Diri emphasised that his administration was determined to protect such reserves through the legal framework.

“It is interesting that somebody that came from Cameroon has told us about an only specie in the world found in our state and yet we cannot protect it. So this bill should look at ways and means of preserving such few species in our forests.”

The governor, who also frowned at the use of dynamite by fishermen, noted that the bill should make the use of explosives on the state’s waterways an offence.

Diri asserted that as a government that preaches prosperity, it cannot fold its arms and watch forests in the state being degraded.

He directed the Commissioner for Environment to rejuvenate the forest guards and deploy them to their respective local government areas to ensure effective protection of the reserves.

The governor also granted the request by the Ministry of Environment to adopt six proposed forest reserves.

Speaking earlier, the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Iselema Gbaranbiri, said the International Day of Forests was declared by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.

Gbaranbiri remarked that healthy forests strongly influence the quantity of water yielded from watersheds, discharge the highest quality of water and provide logs, fuel woods, fodder and medicinal plants used by local and indigenous communities.

According to him, the state has six  forest reserves namely the Taylor Creek, Edumanom, Apoi Creek, Nun River, Igbedi Creek and Ikebiri Creek Forest Reserves.

He said since these proposed forest reserves have not been constituted, “ l use this occasion to call on His Excellency to set in motion the process for the constitution of four  forest reserves in the state.”

It is noteworthy that the Federal Government has signified intention to upgrade conservation of Apoi, the Apoi Creek Forest Reserve and Edumanon Forest Reserve.

The commissioner also said that Bayelsa State has been known for its luxuriant flora and fauna, but it is also a known fact that deforestation in the state is very high, just as the destruction of mangrove vegetation is alarming, reducing their capacity as natural coastal areas more vulnerable to effects of sea level rise. “Mangrove are important source of timber,fuel wood, post and other minor forest products,mangrove bark provides cheap plywood industry,” he added.

He said in order to preserve the dwindling and rapidly vanishing forest, there is urgent need to rejig  or formulate new policies to address current realities .

Coordinator of the Red Colobus Conservation Network, Miss Florence Aghomo from Cameroon, stressed the need for Bayelsans to be responsible in forest preservation saying, its socio-economic benefits cannot be over-emphasised.

According to Aghomo, Nigeria is a home to two of 18 Taxa species known to science and the Niger Delta Red Colobus can only be found in Bayelsa and Preuss’s Red Colobus in Cross River State.

Also speaking, Mr. Morris Alagoa from the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) on  behalf of Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director , who lauded the governor for the epochal event, appealed for the establishment of a zoological garden and community forest-driven management in the state.”

ERA/FoEN appreciates the event organised by the state ministry of environment , as it is first of its kind and we hope there would be positive outcomes,” he said.

He further said, already, communities like Apoi in Southern Ijaw and Egbebiri in Biseni in Yenagoa Local Government Area have laws preventing the felling of certain fruits like Irvingia gabonesis (ogbono or bush mango and bush bean). He added that there is need to support such communities  driven efforts with enabling laws with a view to preserving our forests stressing that. This can boost Tourism industry.”

In the same vein, Executive Director of Trees For Life Initiative, Chief B. Okolo, presented a medicinal plant, Dogoyaro, to the governor and his deputy. He lauded the Ministry of Environment for the programme which is aimed creating awareness and sustainability of the  Forest Reserves which have, ignorantly, been  depleted for pecuniary gains .

Highpoint of the ceremony was the planting of trees by Senator Diri alongside his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo and other top government functionaries.