BENIN CITY – The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has urged stakeholders to support government policies on forest regeneration.
Addressing stakeholders during a workshop at the Government House in Benin City, the governor said the state government will strengthen collaboration with stakeholders including timber and lorry owners, sawmillers and others to tackle illegality in the state’s forestry sector.
“Our forest is now full of lawlessness as people just cut down trees anyhow, bribe authorities and continue with their normal life. We have a drug problem in the state as 57,000 hectares of our forest as of today is now used to cultivate cannabis. We used to have forest guards which are long forgotten. We must bring them back to help us guard and protect our forest,” he noted.
Obaseki said, “We have neglected the forest and left it in a bad shape. If those that came before us consumed and treated the forest badly this way, we would not have met the forest.”
The closure of the forest, according to the governor, was not done to punish anybody, but in the best interest of stakeholders and to improve the forestry sector to enable it contribute meaningfully to the development of the state.
He said, “You all voted for me to govern Edo State and whatever we are doing is for the benefit of all of us. We have to be responsible to our forest. Forestry will not be under any ministry but on its own to be able to function effectively and efficiently. We want to govern this sector properly. We must update the law guiding forestry. We can’t operate in 2022 with an outdated law of 1930 or 1940.
“We must take our policy seriously and implement it to get a good and better result. We have to bring in experts to help us secure our forest. Our focus should now be how to regulate those who play in the forestry space and ensure we use qualified persons, focusing on bringing investors into the state to invest in the forest and protect it against criminal elements.”
The governor added, “We must come together to contribute to fund the forestry commission. We are open for discussions and in a hurry to reopen the forest for business. We must grow a minimum of one million trees a year to save and preserve the forest or else we won’t have any business for the next 10 years. It is important if we want to have a business doing forestry.”
In his opening remark, the the Edo State Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability, Hon. Jonathan Lawani said, “The forest can serve as a source of revenue generation for the state, create employment opportunities for the youths, as well as provide social and financial benefits if properly utilized.”