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Bisong seeks lifting of forest moratorium

A member of the Cross River House of Assembly representing Boki 2 State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Hilary Bisong, has called on the state government to lift the moratorium placed on logging in the state’s forests.

Bisong, who spoke with newsmen in Calabar, said that in 2009, the government of Cross River State under the leadership of Senator Liyel Imoke instituted a two year moratorium on logging in Cross River State and setup a taskforce on anti- deforestation to enforce compliance. However,  the two years moratorium has lasted for 10 years running with present evidences showing that the policy has outlive it’s potency

In view of this, Bisong said that the management of the state’s forests should be the exclusive responsibility of the Forestry Commission as provided in the Cross River State Forest Law 2010 as amended.

He said that the idea of the state Governor, Ben Ayade to set up a taskforce committee was laudable, adding that the committee should function to provide military presence and enhance sustainable management of the forests.

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Bisong, who had earlier raised the motion at the floor of the assembly, said that the forests reserves were critical to the well being of Cross River people, thereby condemning the indiscriminate logging of woods across the state.

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According to him, Cross River State having lost the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state, the only survival strategy left is the `forest wealth’, adding that the state was unique in term of its forests reserve and enjoy an enviable status in global conservation discuss.

“Cross River State own more than 50 percent of the remaining pristine forest in Nigeria, and I pride myself coming from Boki local government which houses the Cross River national Forest Park . The way the forest has been managed in the last decade calls for worry.

“I drew the attention of the house that we exist to provide solutions to government policies. As solution architects, when government makes a policy, we are the people’s voices and after a while we need to review it and see how far it has gone.

“The Policy of moratorium on logging in Cross River State was a product of environmental summit held to manage the state forests effectively in 2008 by stakeholders as preparatory for the state to get ready for the UN REDD. It was proposed that they should be a moratorium for two years and it took effect in 2009.

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“But unfortunately, the moratorium has been on for 10 years now and there’s a need to review it. A review of it and the activities of the forest show that it has not been effective.

“Before the moratorium was placed, deforestation in Cross River was placed at 6 percent, now it is at 30 per cent. And it is provided that logging is the primary driver of deforestation. In the process of the moratorium, government and communities have generated nothing from it.

“The governor in his second term had to re-evaluate the activities of the taskforce by strengthening them with a price of N500,000 for each truck that is arrested. The moratorium has outlived its period, it is time for us to lift the ban and manage the forests effectively,’’ he said.

He wondered that during the period of the moratorium, government was building houses, schools and others, adding that once you put a ban on a commodity, it becomes on a black market and the price will automatically go up.

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The lawmaker cited the case of a of bag rice that was sold for N7,500 before the ban on importation of rice that led to the hike in price to N18,000.

He said that if the ban is lifted, Forestry Commission will now function optimally in line with the Forestry Law of the state 2010 as amended because it explicitly provides and explain how the forests should be managed.

“If we lift the ban, it will enhance community participation in the forests management; the state will manage the forest properly through the Forestry Commission and the logging will be controlled to curb all forms of illegality, woods will no more be expenses among others.

He maintained that the moratorium had no defined strategy apart from just setting up the anti-deforestation taskforce to stop logging.

He explained that a moratorium must be specific, timeframe; the objective must be clear and they must be measurable indicators.

He commended Ayade for setting up the taskforce committee to arrest illegal logging activities across the state, adding that it will help to curtail illegalities in the forests.



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