ODSG Forest Reserve prosecutes, evacuates over 200, 000 encroachers
TO reduce threats to wildlife, ecological and natural disasters, Ondo State Government has doubled up its efforts through the Ministry of Natural Resources to combat the persistent encroachment on the 16 forest reserves bordered by Ogun, Osun and Edo States.
In the recent past, over 200, 000 people have been evacuated from the reserved area to the neighbouring states, mainly Osun. More than 200 people, two Chinese nationals and about 500 vehicles were impounded, including two large Dangote trucks labelled: DSS-2B-006 (TIP 306) and DSS-2B-023 (TIP 223). They are facing ongoing trials for forestry related offences.
According to the Commissioner for Natural Resources, Tunde Atere: “Ondo State is blessed with vast natural reserves with 16 forest reserves along the borders of Edo, Ogun and Osun States.”
He lamented the constant encroachment on the reserves and the negative implications on the wellbeing of the state.
He noted that efforts of Governor Olusegun Mimiko to enhance planting, massive production of seedlings and maintenance of old and young plantations through the Regeneration Department of the ministry, have always come under frequent attacks by the encroachers, who either trespass into the reserves for farming or illegally fell timbers for commercial purposes.
The Commissioner said the Exploitation Department of the ministry, which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring judicious management of forest estate, has raised alarm that over five million trees planted by the governor since his inception into office six years ago, have been endangered by the encroachers.
Atere identified majority of the encroachers as non-indigenes of the state, who have come to sojourn in the local councils for greener pastures. He mentioned further that they were spread across the 16 local councils of the state, except Ilaje and Ese-Odo that are swampy and difficult terrains for forest reserves.
Nevertheless, he listed all the measures outlined to ensure the preservation of the reserves and sustainability as a reliable fallback in the distressing times of economic crunch and oil doom that threaten the prosperity of many nations of the world.
He disclosed that Ondo State emerged first among the eight states that participated in the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Programme due to the prioritisation of Mimiko in the forest reserve, saying: “as he is building the state, he is building the forest too.”
Atere described REDD+ “as an effort to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.”
The Director of Regeneration Department, Bukola Ojumumu and the Director of Forest Exploitation and Utilisation Department, Owolabi Adesusi, affirmed that external encroachers from neighbouring states were the ones posing great threat, adding that they were checked by the joint task force department, which clamped down the illegal activities in the forest reserves and prosecuted the suspects.
The ministry recounted their sour experiences in the hands of the encroachers, whom they said oftentimes engaged in diabolical means, threats and assassination attempts to continue their illicit activities, but was resolute to check them through ‘Community-based Forest Management System.’
“We will make them to face the full wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others,” the Commissioner and directors said, expressing their commitments to the governor.
Recently, The Guardian gathered that 120 vehicles impounded had paid their fines, 46 still remained unpaid at the ministry in Akure, more than 200 encroachers had been convicted, while the two Chinese and the two Dangote trucks that were arrested in February and loaded to full capacity with fletch-sawn planks, were still standing trial in a competent court of jurisdiction.
The state Assembly member representing Odigbo Constituency II, where the forest reserve that shares border with Ogun State is situated, Fasogbon Akin, confirmed the constant encroachment on government reserve areas.
He described the south senatorial district, the major hub of forest reserves in the state, as the most notorious area where encroachment thrived in places such as Akinlaja and Akinfosile, towns that are the outskirts of Ondo and Ogun states.
“About two weeks ago, some of them were still caught in the area, burning as a means of killing the teaks, planting cocoa without the knowledge of the guards monitoring the reserve because of the large expanse of land,” he said.
He advised the state government to consider relocating the people to an agrarian area where they can farm or lease the reserves out to cash crop farmers, who will be making livelihood out of the venture and as well as generate more revenue to the purse of the state.
The Odigbo lawmaker also urged the government to check and caution some of the forest guards, whom he said aided and abetted the encroachment among the natives after they must have got some gratifications from the ignorant folk.