Executive members of the Timber Traders Organisation (TTO), Akure-Ofosu branch in Ondo State, have declared their readiness to join hands with the state government in curbing illegal activities of encroachers and poachers in the state forest reserves.
They have also shown their willingness to collaborate with the state Ministry of Natural Resources in regenerating the forest reserves.
The Chairman of TTO, Akure branch, Mr. Rotimi Fasua, made the declaration during a meeting with the Commissioner for Natural resources, Tunde Atere, and executive members of the organisation in the office of the commissioner last week.
Fasua, who revealed that more than a quarter of the Akure-Ofosu forest reserves is being used to cultivate Indian hemp illegally with a sizeable portion depleted by coca farmers, said the organisation is ready to work with the state government to curb the illegal activities.
He said that indigenes of neigbouring states poached on the forest at will, adding that flinching is going on with impunity in the reserves.
While saying members of his organisation have the legal right to do business in the reserve, Fasua said his members are ready to work with government to curb the illegal activities as it threatens the future of their business.
Responding, the commissioner decried the high rate of depletion of government forest reserves across the state by encroachers and poachers.
He warned against any act of illegal activities in the state forest reserves, adding that the full weight of the law will be brought on anyone caught as, according to him, government will not fold its arms while its forest reserves are being depleted.
According to him, if the activities of the encroachers continue, the forest reserves will be on the verge of extinction in the next few years.
He, however, called on the indigenes of the state to strive to protect the reserve and see it as their heritage. He adding that government, in the last seven years, has planted millions of economic trees and will not fold its arms while illegalities thrive.
Other stakeholders who spoke at the meeting commended the decision of TTO members to collaborate with the state government to curb illegal activities of encroachers, and in regenerating the forest reserves.
By Oluwatope Akinjide