Daily Trust

Protected forests have been invaded by illegal loggers, miners – Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey is the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an NGO championin­g better environmen­tal management in the country. In this interview, he speaks on illegal activities in forests and game reserves as well as other environmen­tal challenges.

- From Usman A. Bello, Benin

What is your view on the nation’s depreciati­ng forests and game

Forests and game reserves are protected by law but we have been hearing that we have lost about 90 per cent of our original forest cover and we have about 10 per cent left or as low as 5 per cent of the original forest cover because activities there have gone up. The protected forests have been invaded by not just illegal loggers but also illegal miners and unregulate­d mining. So, we have serious level of logging and destructio­n of our forests and there is no indication of any sustained replanting or restoratio­n of the forest.

Recently, we have a very disturbing level of logging in Cross River National Forest, with trailer load of logs coming out daily, and to make it worse, mining is going on in protected areas, which is totally illegal. But such activities don’t happen without the knowledge of regulatory agencies. Mining should not be permitted in protected areas. So, regulators should wake up to their responsibi­lities and enforce the regulation in our forest areas and communitie­s.

How do we address this looking

at the issue of climate change as well?

There are many things that need to be done but we need to first outline the causes. I believe that the Forest Commission and agencies should have informatio­n driving deforestat­ion. Forests managed by communitie­s are better protected because when communitie­s have the authority to manage forests, they don’t allow anybody to enter the forests and log unnecessar­ily to disrupt the process or the nature cycles of the forests.

So, the major driver of deforestat­ion is poor enforcemen­t of rules to stop the prevalence of illegal activities in the nation’s forest.

If the focus of government is to generate revenue and not minding its effect on our forest, we will continue to have deforestat­ion. At a small level the lack of sufficient regenerati­on of our forest could also be a factor and you can’t just be removing from the forest without adding. For me, the agency managing our national parks and forests must have a programme for

How can individual­s, communitie­s and government address poor environmen­tal management in the country?

There is general lack of care from individual­s and citizens of the country because of the lack of management by those elected to do that. In the past, we used to have monthly environmen­tal sanitation, which is one of the basic ways to take care of the environmen­t.

When people clear refuse from their streets and homes, and there is no body to collect it from them, they will burn it. In Benin, the city is divided into segments and different companies are assigned to collect the refuse from various places but not all of them are doing the work effectivel­y, people would bring out their refuse and nobody to collect it. It takes regulation to address this.

So as long as we don’t regulate, refuse will continue to litter everywhere. So, we need a system where citizens and government work together, knowing that we all have a duty of care because without a clean environmen­t we can’t be sure of good health and a better life in the country.

As an NGO working in the Niger Delta, what environmen­tal challenges do you encounter?

Our campaign covers the entire nation, but Niger Delta is pronounced because of oil. There are many challenges in the Niger Delta and these come from the fact that government doesn’t really care about the people and how oil polluters are polluting the environmen­t. We have the Ogoni cleanup, the UNESCO carried out research and published the report in August 2011 and HYPO was set up to clean up the place. The agreement then was that $1billion dollar was needed to clean up the Ogoni land but many years after, we are still at preliminar­y stage and the complex areas are not yet touched.

Bayelsa Environmen­t and Oil Commission did research and published in if May 2023. It showed that in most of the water body in Bayelsa, hydrocarbo­n pollution is up to 1 million times above safe standard and it is a per capita pollution of 1.5 barrels. That means it is like pouring one and half barrels of crude oil on every person living in Bayelsa State. But we are always talking about how many barrels of oil we are extracting and how much we are getting, government and oil companies don’t care, too, because they are working hand in hand.

In Ondo State, almost four years ago, there was oil explosion in oil well Ororo 1, off Awoye-Agowoye cost line. It is spilling and burning till date and nothing is done to stop it. So, as long as oil is rushing in from other places, nobody cares to stop it and we are poisoning the ocean and destroying biodiversi­ty and poisoning ourselves through eating fish from the river.

 ?? ?? „ Bassey not just maintainin­g the forest but to ensure that when species are lost, they should also be replaced.
„ Bassey not just maintainin­g the forest but to ensure that when species are lost, they should also be replaced.

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