Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade, yesterday, vowed that his government will fight illegal wood loggers, whose nefarious activities, he lamented, have led to progressive depletion of the state’s forest reserve.
Communities, which are forest bearing, the governor regretted, have been massively dislocated and their land mass completely eroded thus creating huge environmental challenges with a cumulative long term consequence.
Addressing newsmen in his office, the governor threatened to use any political appointee and security agent who aid and abet illegal loggers as scapegoats.
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“Cross River State has 58 per cent of the entire forest cover of Nigeria. We have growing concerns about the rate and the speed of depletion of our forest.
“It is against this background that I am sending a note of final warning that I cannot watch the complete degeneration of our forest as we see illegal logging becoming the order of the day.
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“From today, anybody caught with illegal wood, your vehicle, the driver, the occupants of that vehicle, the destination of the stolen wood, the government official who is colluding, or the security operatives who are colluding or the forest guards who are colluding, will be picked up and dealt decisively with. We will ensure we involve the entire global community to sit and watch and monitor your prosecution to ensure justice is done,” he said.
Ayade said the illegal loggers have now developed into full-blown armed cartels that are prepared to harm anyone standing in their way.
He, however, assured that “we are ready to use as scapegoats, one or two people who are holding top government offices or people who feel they are connected to the governor or those who feel they are politicians and then create an impression that by the appointments they have they can now collude with illegal wood loggers.”