The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has disclosed plans to set up the Edo State Forestry Commission and update the state’s forestry laws to checkmate activities of criminal elements and preserve the state’s forest assets.
Obaseki who disclosed this during a meeting with forestry stakeholders in Benin City, said the forests need to be policed and the process properly governed to keep criminal elements at bay.
He said his administration closed the forest following massive illegal deforestation, particularly the virgin forests such as Okomu and the Gele axis.
The governor noted: “Forestry is very important and can’t be under any Ministry as it has to stand alone. We have to set up a Forest Commission that is only for forestry. This will help us update our outdated laws, which we have been operating for 60 years under the defunct Bendel State.
“You can’t be using or operating the law of Western Region (60 years ago) today; we need to update the laws,” he added.
Obaseki continued: “We must come up with a Master plan for our forest that will put all of us in the know of what to expect in the business 20 years from now.
“We must have a new forestry law to stop us from operating lawlessly. We must secure the forest and this process must commence with the hiring of people and training them to secure the forest to help us carry out our reforms.
“The forest must be policed. Some of the security challenges we face today as a nation is as a result of the activities of bandits in the forest. We must know what is going on in our forests; it must be governed and we must know what is going on there.”
“Before now, Bendel (Edo) can boast as one of the areas of the British Commonwealth that has the best forestry management practices but the same cannot be said of the state today. We are taking serious measures as a government to correct this,” the governor noted.
He said his administration will carry all relevant stakeholders along, put a new law in place, hire forest guards and train them to secure the forest, adding “until all these are achieved, the forest will not be opened.”
Urging for collaboration among stakeholders to preserve the state’s forest reserves, Obaseki said: “There are allegations that politicians are a part of the problem with the degrading of our forest; we want to correct that and find out who these politicians are and ensure that we correct this.
“There is also an allegation of corruption in the Department of Forestry that people collect money to compromise the system; we would find them out.”
A Timber License Contractor, Isokpan Precious, drew the Governor’s attention to the illegality of a Chinese Company that degraded and is doing havoc to the forest as their movement is not tracked or monitored.
He said the Government is losing money daily following their illegal activities in the forest, urging the government to stop their operations and not allow them to have a field day.
On his part, Friday Aiguokhian, urged the government to block the entrance gate of the company to discourage the act for a safer forest, adding, “Our neighboring states still benefit as over 50 vehicles still convey wood through the Forest with the help of some security forces.”