The People of Ekuri Community in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State are demanding the sum of N500 million compensation from Ezemac International Nigeria Limited over illegal logging.
The community alleged that the company carried out an illegal logging in Ekuri forest, a Community Conserved Area (CCA) in Akamkpa Local Government Area of the state.
The Ekuri Community is also demanding that “Ezemac International Nigeria Limited takes immediate steps to end logging of Ekuri forest and pullout immediately from the said forest.”
Mr Edwin Ogar, the Programme Coordinator of Worthy Association for Tackling Environmental Ruins (WATER), disclosed this on Sunday, April 16, 2023.
He said that the community was no longer comfortable with the activities of the company.
Ogar, who has the power of attorney from the Ekuri Community to conserve and manage the community forest for the livelihood and improvement of Ekuri villagers, said: “The situation is very bad.”
He said that the forest they have been conserving for years has been destroyed by the company without permission.
According to him, the Ekuri forest which is a protected area, has equal status like the national protected areas or forest in Nigeria, registered under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC).
He noted that the community was also seeking an urgent international intervention as their forest was under threat of extinction.
“The Ekuri Community which has stalled the logging activities of one of the loggers, Ezemac International Nigeria Limited, is demanding N500 million from Ezemac as compensation.
“The compensation is for the illegal entry, destruction of swathe of Ekuri forest including timber, understory, poles, non-timber forest products, medicinal plants, cultural heritage, watersheds and animal habitats.
“It was when our Ekuri forest guards went into the forest to do boundary cleaning, they realised that the company has ravaged part of Ekuri forest and in the course of working, we saw two timber trucks coming to evacuate the wood inside the forest.
“We intercepted the trucks and seized the keys and brought the keys back home. We also saw a bulldozer inside the forest, as well as a loader and skidder inside Ekuri forest.
“However, the company came into discussion with Ekuri community, claiming they were ignorant of the Ekuri boundary that was why they mistakenly entered but they pleaded for mercy and we agreed and they paid a fine,” he said.
In his reaction, Mr Ezenwa Igwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Ezemac International Nigeria Limited, said: “What happened is that they have a forest and they called me to open a road for them.
“I wanted to work there but the condition they gave me I could not continue but my people mistakenly entered their forest and felled 112 trees.
“In the process they fought with my workers and injured one of them.
“We entered into peace talk and they said since I have entered their forest without permission, I should do cleansing and pay the sum of N580,000.
“They went for counting and said I should pay for 100 trees and any extra and I entered into an agreement with them for the money.”
According to him, after two days, he was called to stop work that he had encroached into the Ekuri forest.
He explained that, in the process, the Ekuri community people removed the batteries of his caterpillars, thereby causing some damages.
“For four months now, they have stopped my workers from working and everyday we pay N300,000 for the machines and my business is failing,” he said.
By George Odok