Nigeria forests cover on a con­tin­u­ous de­cline

Daily Trust - - ENVIRONMENT - By Alex Abutu

An ex­pert has at­trib­uted the con­tin­ued de­cline of the coun­try’s for­est cover from 12 per cent in 1967 to 37 per cent in 1996 to the ab­sence of bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion and po­lices to guide against the abuse of the for­est re­serves.

Prof. La­bode Popoola, Pres­i­dent of the Forestry As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria, said at a re­cent meet­ing with the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment Mrs Lawren­cia Mal­lam that “pro­gres­sively, the for­est cover of the coun­try has dwin­dled, in spite of some mod­est ef­forts at plan­ta­tion es­tab­lish­ments by both pri­vate and pub­lic con­cerns.”

The to­tal land area of Nigeria is 923,678km2. In 1900, the area un­der for­est was 971kms and by 1970 there was a re­mark­able in­crease as the for­est cover in­creased to 9,342kms but as at 1999, the for­est cov­er­age has dropped to 46,542kms.

Rea­sons for de­cline

Ac­cord­ing to Popoola, sev­eral rea­sons can be ad­duced for the de­cline prom­i­nent among which are the rapid cre­ation of states from 12 in 1967 to 36 in 1996, heavy de­mand for wood for con­struc­tion and other pur­poses, and non-for­est friendly poli­cies which have con­tin­ued to pose threats.

Other rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to him, in­clude a sharp drop in bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion to forestry to less than 2 per cent of to­tal an­nual al­lo­ca­tion of pub­lic funds, while states still em­bark on ag­gres­sive rev­enue gen­er­a­tion through un­planned and un­con­trolled log­ging.

Po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity

The Forestry As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria noted in one of its pub­li­ca­tions that no mean­ing­ful for­est man­age­ment ac­tiv­i­ties had taken place in the coun­try over the years and this had re­sulted in trans-boundary for­est serv­ing as hide-outs for crim­i­nals. It also noted that for­est guards, who hitherto were firmly rooted in the for­est pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate se­cu­rity for com­mu­ni­ties and for­est es­tates, are no longer avail­able.

Ob­so­lete laws

The Federal Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil ap­proved the Na­tional For­est Pol­icy in 2006 but there are no na­tional laws in place to back the pol­icy.

De­for­esta­tion

De­for­esta­tion has been on the in­crease over the years and has re­mained unchecked as the high cost of house­hold en­ergy has forced fam­i­lies to rely on fire­wood and char­coal.

The ac­tiv­i­ties of tim­ber deal­ers and char­coal pro­duc­ers, ac­cord­ing to Dr Chris Oko­rie, founder of Planet Guide, an NGO cam­paign­ing for the pro­tec­tion of forests, have al­most turned the dry high land and moist for­est in the south to sa­van­nah while the sa­van­nah wood­lands are fast be­com­ing Sa­hel.

Poor re­mu­ner­a­tion

Mo­hammed Sani, a forestry staffer with Zam­fara State, noted re­cently that for­est guards no longer ex­ist be­cause of the pal­try sum they get as salaries. The job, ac­cord­ing to him, is haz­ardous yet there is no in­cen­tive or re­mu­ner­a­tion com­men­su­rate to the haz­ards as­so­ci­ated with the job.

Way for­ward

Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment Mrs Mal­lam ac­knowl­edged the fact that the na­tion’s for­est cover had re­ally de­clined in re­cent times but as­sured that govern­ment, through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives, was de­ter­mined to in­crease the for­est cover.

Ini­tia­tives aimed at in­creas­ing the cover, ac­cord­ing to her, in­clude the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive on Af­foresta­tion which dis­trib­uted over 40 mil­lion seedlings free of charge to states for on­ward dis­tri­bu­tion to schools and in­ter­ested in­di­vid­u­als or or­gan­i­sa­tions and the Great Green Wall project which is ex­pected to raise over 20 mil­lion seedlings for plant­ing in the 11 north­ern states fac­ing threats of de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion.

She also pledged to seek ways of in­creas­ing fund­ing for the forestry depart­ment of the min­istry to en­able them em­bark on re­search and other ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sion on how best to in­crease the na­tion’s for­est cover.

FAN had in their sub­mis­sion to the min­is­ter ar­tic­u­lated some quick-fix mea­sures which if im­ple­mented would in­crease the coun­try’s for­est cover as fast as pos­si­ble.

Among such so­lu­tions was the need for govern­ment to give the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive on Af­foresta­tion the de­sired im­pe­tus as the pro­gramme has the po­ten­tials of rais­ing seedlings for the coun­try as wit­nessed in the phase one of its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

They also ap­pealed to the min­is­ter to ex­tend the Great Green Wall project to all states of the fed­er­a­tion, not­ing that eco­log­i­cal chal­lenges which the project was de­signed to ad­dress tran­scend geopo­lit­i­cal bound­aries.

They also called for the in­clu­sion of forestry pro­fes­sion­als in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of for­est re­lated ini­tia­tives across the coun­try, which ac­cord­ing to them, would en­sure that the aims and ob­jec­tives of such project are ef­fi­ciently re­alised.

The as­so­ci­a­tion said: “There is the need to ur­gently un­der­take for­est and bio­di­ver­sity re­sources as­sess­ment of the coun­try to es­tab­lish the sta­tus of the re­sources. One can­not ad­e­quately man­age what he does not know or have con­trol over. There is also need for the con­vo­ca­tion of a Na­tional For­est and Bio­di­ver­sity Di­a­logue to evolve in­ter-sec­toral and in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal strate­gies for more holis­tic ap­proach to sus­tain­able for­est man­age­ment.”

As we con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence the de­cline in for­est cover, it is im­por­tant for govern­ment to, as a mat­ter of ur­gency, ad­dress or im­ple­ment its de­ci­sion of set­ting aside 60 per cent of the Eco­log­i­cal Fund for af­foresta­tion and forestry re­lated is­sues as re­cent se­cu­rity chal­lenges have shown that if the forests are well treated, in­sur­gents and other crim­i­nals us­ing the for­est to per­pet­u­ate crime against the state and people would have no hid­ing places.

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