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Allegations of Armed Militias Engaged in Illegal Logging Rampant in Cross River State

In a chilling revelation, allegations have surfaced suggesting the existence of powerful illegal wood loggers aided by armed militias who intimidate locals and perpetuate the illicit plundering of the forests in Cross River State. These claims were vehemently echoed by the advocacy group, We The People, during a thought-provoking workshop held in Calabar. Titled the “Multi-Stakeholders Conference on Deforestation in Cross River State,” the event aimed to shed light on the urgent need to address the harrowing situation.

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During the one-day conference, participants united against the rising threat of illegal logging and called upon authorities to delve into the activities of the militias and those who support them. A 37-point communique was issued, undersigned by the group’s Executive Director, Ken Henshaw, as well as Dr. Odigha Odigha, Chairman of the Non-Governmental Coalition for Environment (NGOCE), and other prominent figures. The communique emphasized that these illegal loggers now operate under the protection of armed thugs, ensuring their illicit trade continues undeterred by state or non-state gatekeepers.

The group expressed deep concern over the significant depletion of the Cross River rain and mangrove forests, attributing this loss to illicit or uncontrolled logging bolstered by the presence of armed militias. They bemoaned the composition of the recently inaugurated antideforestation committee by the state governor, alleging that it consists of big-time timber dealers likely to compromise the cause.

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Citing a recent incident where 32 trucks laden with logs were seized in Yala Local Government Area (LGA) as they attempted to leave the state, We The People demanded the immediate disbandment of the committee. According to the group, the existing legal instruments on forest management are neither robust nor adequate to protect and conserve the forests, leaving them vulnerable to persistent degradation.

Another significant challenge highlighted by the group is the communal armed conflicts in some areas, which further hamper conservation efforts. They stressed the urgent need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan to effectively manage the forests and eliminate deforestation. The preservation of these vital ecosystems, the communique emphasized, is critical not only for biodiversity but also for mitigating the escalating climate crisis.

To ensure meaningful change, We The People calls for a multi-stakeholder approach involving government agencies, local communities, civil society organizations, and independent experts. Enforcing stricter regulations regarding forest management and cracking down on illegal activities should be prioritized. In addition, concerted efforts to disarm and dismantle the armed militias involved in illegal logging must take place.

Experts in the field of environmental conservation and forest management have long warned of the devastating consequences of deforestation. Beyond the loss of biodiversity, deforestation exacerbates climate change, destroys livelihoods, and threatens the delicate balance of ecosystems. Cross River State, known for its rich biodiversity and vibrant rainforests, holds incredible potential for eco-tourism and sustainable development. However, the survival of these invaluable natural resources hangs in the balance due to the activities of armed loggers.

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This alarming situation demands immediate action from the authorities. Security agencies must thoroughly investigate the allegations of the involvement of armed militias in illegal logging, and those found guilty should face the full force of the law. The government should engage experts in forest management, as well as local communities and civil society groups, to develop and implement robust strategies for sustainable forest conservation. Only through collaborative efforts can Cross River State strive towards a future where its forests thrive, its communities prosper, and the environment is safeguarded for generations to come.

By addressing the urgent need to combat illegal logging and protect the forests of Cross River State, we can pave the way for a sustainable and brighter future for this region’s environment and its inhabitants.

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