Forest Reserves Infiltration: Ogun to Dialogue With Perpetrators - Ogun Commissioner
By: Saheed Adeola
The Ogun State government has continued moves to curb infiltration of it's nine Forest reserves.
The Commissioner for Forestry in Ogun State, Engr Taiwo Oludotun disclosed this during media chat with journalists in Abeokuta, the State capital.
Oludotun who lamented the level of illegal activities at the reserves, revealed that both locals and individuals from neighbouring states are responsible for the infiltration.
He said as part of deliberate plans to combat the infiltration, the state government through his Ministry is ready to dialogue with the major actors in order to find last solution to the menance.
Oludotun disclosed that the government is considering stiffer punishments and actions against those caught in the dastardly acts, stressing that the management of the ministry is planning to review forestry law in the State.
Oludotun explained that the change in global landscape necessitated the moves to review the existing laws, saying he is on the mission to safeguard and promote sustainable forestry practices.
He said the Ministry in order to preserve the forest reserves, would begin mass planting of trees across all the reserves
His words: "We are diligently working to curb the infiltration of unlawful occupants within our Ministry.
I firmly believe in the power of dialogue, rather than resorting to external force. I intend to engage with those perpetrating these illegal actions, most of whom are locals and individuals from neighboring states bordering our forests."
He added, "It is my aim to enlighten them on the importance of preserving our forests and dissuade them from these illicit acts.
"We shall also outline the government's terms and expectations. Only after repeated infractions we will consider stronger measures to remove them and halt their unlawful activities."
On encroachment of forests, Oludotun said "During the previous administration, numerous illegal settlers encroached upon our forests, We took legal action against many of them, confiscating their equipment and imposing fines.
We also engaged with local settlements within the forest, educating them on the significance of the forests. It is crucial for them to cooperate in curbing these irregularities."
On his mission, he said "Our aim is to maintain and protect our forests by planting more trees, Trees absorb carbon and release oxygen, making it essential to expand our tree planting efforts. This will not only help the environment but also potentially earn us carbon credits from international bodies concerned with carbon emissions."
While speaking on plans to expand revenue generation of the ministry, he said increasing the Ministry's income is one of his goals, however, it is not the primary focus of the government, insisting that the foremost concern is afforestation and the revitalization of the neglected forests.
He added "Once this vital task is underway, we will turn our attention to revenue generation. Our approach will be friendly and considerate of the state's economic conditions, ensuring that any revenue increase is achieved in a subtle manner."
According to him, "One of the government's responsibilities is to rehabilitate lands damaged by mining and soil excavation within our forests. We plan to achieve this by planting trees and introducing vegetation, such as bamboo, to counteract erosion and restore the soil.
Since planting seasons are limited, we must prepare the land during the off-season, as the planting season typically occurs during the rainy months between June and September. We have already ceased the extraction of sand from our forests and will put an end to illegal cocoa plantations within our forested areas. It is essential to emphasize that these lands are forests, not farm plantations."
The Commissioner also revealed that the ministry as part of good working conditiob, had invested in their staff and forest guards, by providing them with the necessary logistics, including motorcycles, to patrol and monitor forest reserves.
He said this will allow the Ministry to detect any unlawful activities promptly and take appropriate action.
Oludotun also revealed that the ministry is in collaboration with vigilante groups in order to enhance forest protection, especially as forest guards are not armed.
He added that the Ministry also engaged the police to address criminal activities within the forests, including hunting, which is strictly prohibited.
His words "We aim to resolve the problem of herders who consume young trees within our forests. Lastly, we are committed to protecting our conservation areas, particularly the land designated for elephants. We will work on legislation to prevent illegal poaching".