Cross River laments illegal logging rate, plans ‘Green Carnival’ in Calabar

Cross River governor Ben Ayade

The government of Cross River state has decried the rate by which illegal loggers were ravaging its virgin forest.

It said it would hold its annual ‘Green Carnival’ on Tuesday, July 27 so as to plant and replace thousands of trees degraded mainly by illegal loggers.

The Co-chairman of the Central Planning Committee for the 2021 Green Carnival, and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Eric Anderson, in a press briefing in Calabar at the weekend, said the theme of this year’s Green Carnival would be ‘Go Green’ in line with government’s resolve to replenish the degraded forest.

“We need to go green to replenish our degraded forest stock, enhance aesthetics and by extension, mitigate climate change. I will not fail to bring to your attention the worrisome dimension forest exploitation, especially illegal timber logging, has assumed in our dear state,” he stated.

On the carnival costume, Anderson said “We are looking at 10,000 costumes to be used, the bulk of which will be produced by our own Calabar garment factory. We seek to use the Green Carnival to create awareness in the citizenry to imbibe the culture of tree planting. In the light of this, we are collaborating with the state Ministry of Health to provide guidelines for observing COVID-19 safety protocols during the carnival.”

Flanked by other Committee members, Anderson described Cross River State as nature’s gift to Nigeria, to Africa and the world at large and noted further that “Cross River holds over 50 percent of the last remaining tropical rainforest in Nigeria, it is listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots. The state has five distinct ecotypes Mangrove, tropical rainforest, Montane,Guinea and Sahel Savanna.”

He lamented that the 5 million trees targeted by the Ayade-led administration when it came on board in 2015 had not been met.

“The target has not been achieved but a lot has been done in the area of tree planting and forest regeneration,” he said, and disclosed that the carnival would be staged in Calabar, the state capital, and all the 18 local government areas of the state.

Explaining the source for seedling for the carnival, Mr Bette Obi, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Afforestation/Biodiversity, said there were arrangements to source for the seedlings locally, noting that the state planted 100,000 trees last year but that government was looking at planting a little more this year.

The Committee pointed fingers at some elements in the law enforcement agencies for abetting logging despite efforts of the government to bring it to an end.

Meanwhile the people of Edondo, Okokon and Ekuri forest communities in Obubra and Akamkpa local government areas of the state, who were infuriated by what they described as ‘indiscriminate and brazen ravaging of special woods like Bobinga, Black Afara, Apa and others by illegal loggers for export purpose,’ have protested against the pulling down of their forest.

The protesters, who were armed with placards and banners chanted “our forest our lives, our lives our forest,” as they marched from their communities down to Ochon junction by Ugep-Ikom federal highway, demanding that something be done urgently over the matter.