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World Forest Day: Benue vows to preserve reserves, Lagos warns against illegal tree felling

The Benue State Government says it will ensure the preservation of the existing 55 government and 75 communal forests reserves in the state as part of efforts to mitigate climate change.

International Day of Forests
From right; Dr Oluwarotimi Fashola, Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture; Miss Tawakalitu Odusanya, winner of the 2022 essay competition on International Day of Forests receiving her certificate from Ms. Abisola Olusanya, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, during the news conference of 2022 International Day of Forests in Alausa, Lagos on Monday

Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dr Godwin Oyiwona, made this known on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Makurdi at the end of a programme to mark the 2022 World Forest Day.

The theme of this year’s World Forest Day is “Inspire for the Future: The Role of Forests in Ensuring Sustainable Product’s and Consumption.”

Oyiwona said the government would do everything possible to ensure the preservation of all the existing forests for improved human sustainability.

He said the environment needed to be sustainable for human beings to live comfortably, adding that continuous illegal deforestation activities were causing harm to the earth, thereby resulting in climate change.

He said that reducing deforestation, which is a major cause of climate change, is a crucial mitigation step in the battle to preserve the planet.

According to the commissioner, Benue, being an agrarian state, is keen on afforestation, adding that the celebration of World Forest Day is an important milestone.

“Forests store massive amounts of carbon, provide numerous ecosystem services, and are amongst the most bio-diverse biomes on earth.

“Despite their value, forests, especially tropical forests, the equivalent of the land of the UK are massively lost every year.

“I consider forestry as a very important area which requires attention because of the role it plays in the environment.

“The fact that this sector has not received the attention it deserves as can be seen from the alarming rate at which trees are being cut without replacement, and the adverse effect this inflicts on the environment is worrisome.” he said

The commissioner further disclosed that the government was making conscious efforts for tree planting to protect the already fragile environment, as well as to ensure the continued existence of biodiversity on earth.

“I have heard experts posit that ‘the day the last tree dies, the last man dies.’

“I am therefore, using this occasion to make a clarion call on all of us to join hands with the Ministry of Water Resources and Environment in order to achieve this noble objective of planting trees to protect the environment.

“I call on those involved in wanton cutting of trees without following due process to desist from this act, as Government will hence forth not spare anybody involved in this unwholesome act.

“The officers in charge of managing the forest estate of the state are accordingly directed to do everything lawful to see to this, as it cannot continue to be business as usual, or risk disciplinary actions,” he said

He regretted that the forests were being degraded by the public for either timber or firewood.

Oyiwona charged Forest Guards to step up their guards to check illegal felling of trees.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has warned residents of the state to desist from cutting down any tree without relevant approval from the directorate of forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ms. Abisola Olusanya, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, gave the warning during a news conference on activities to commemorate the 2022 International Day of Forests, on Monday, March 22, at Alausa, Ikeja.

She said that every March 21 has been set aside to commemorate it and also alert peoples’ consciousness to extraordinary challenges presently confronting the world, which is brought about by environmental and climatic changes.

Olusanya noted that the celebration was an event to raise public awareness about the importance and contributions of forests to the earth’s life cycle.

She said that the theme was a pointer to the relationship between life on earth and forests, urging residents of the state to report any of such infractions or illegal tree felling to the ministry.

“As a government, the state is deploying huge resources to maintain a balanced ecosystem; as joint stakeholders, it is our responsibility to encourage and mobilise every single member of our families and constituencies to plant one tree each.

“The water we drink, the medicines we take, the food we eat and enjoy, the shelter we have, and even the oxygen we breathe, all have an association with forests.

“This implies that we can no longer afford to take the issues of deforestation, arbitrary removal of vegetation, illegal tree felling, emission of toxic substances to the environment, and every other form of actions that endanger the ecosystem with levity.

“We must map out strategies to mitigate the effect of our activities on the environment and maintain sustainable forest preservation vis-a-vis production in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 11, 12, and 13.

“Vulnerable habitats like Lagos, which has a population estimated to be over 22 million, will undoubtedly face tremendous pressure exerted on the natural vegetation.

“Let me also use this opportunity to remind us that it is against the law to cut any tree in Lagos state without getting the approval of the directorate of forestry in the ministry of agriculture.

“We will, therefore, appreciate your cooperation in furnishing the ministry with information when and where such infraction takes place,” she said.

The commissioner said that a lot of activities had been planned to commemorate the event to show the seriousness of Lagos towards the need to protect the environment and safeguard the food system.

She said that they include tree-planting campaigns to encourage vegetation regeneration, ceremonial tree planting and debates, and essay competitions for secondary school students.

“The debate and essay competition is aimed at raising awareness of school children to the need to be conscious of their environment and to imbibe the culture of conservation.

“It is on this premise, that we will be involving you students, the future generation, henceforth in the celebration of the International Day of Forests.”

Odunsaya Tawakalitu, an SS3 student of Oriwu Senior Model College, Ikorodu, scored 67.5 per cent to emerge the overall winner in the essay competition.

Josephine Hunpe, a student at Lagos State Model College Kankon, got 65.7 per cent to come second, while Obefami Destiny of Vetland Senior Grammar School, Agege, came third with 60 per cent.

In the junior category, Adejibola Marvelous of Vetland Junior Grammar school emerged first after scoring 60 per cent, while Adron Sewam of Badagry Junior Grammar school got 59 per cent to come second.

Esther Aroseh of Yewa Junior school came third with 58.5 per cent.

“To encourage and motivate the winners, the ministry will establish a mini forest in their schools with selected trees,” the commissioner said.

The Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) donated 2,000 indigenous seedlings to the state government to commemorate the day, while trees were planted within the premises of the State Secretariat, Alausa.

By Emmanuel Antswen and Olayinka Olawale

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