By John Ighodaro
CALABAR â€”Governor Liyel Imokeâ€™s attempts to stop deforestation in Cross River State has met with tough resistance as men of the state Anti-deforestation Task Force he set-up have been attacked by desperate timber dealers.
There has been growing conflict between the timber dealers and the Anti-deforestation Task Force since it was set up. It came to a head Tuesday, July 22nd, when some timber dealers attacked men of the task force, inflictingÂ bodily harm on the team leader of the Ikom Surveillance Unit of the task Force, Mr. Effa Okongo when the unit accosted a pontoon loaded with timber on its way to Lagos.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr. Okongo said, â€œIt was in the night of Tuesday when we received a report that there is a pontoon loading timber at the Ofatura Beach. We went there for surveillance to confirm the report and saw some young men loading the pontoon. When weÂ asked who owned the wood they said â€˜Caponeâ€™. We then asked them to call the Capone.
The CaponeÂ came, we saw over fifty flash lights advancing towards us. Some of the policemen and some task force members took to their heels leaving two of us with a policeman.
â€œThe Capone then ordered his men to attack us. The two of us with the policeman were stripped and the gun taken from the policeman. They then started beating and inflicting machete cuts on us,â€ said Okongo.
Okongo whose fore finger had been cut off had machete cuts on his head and back.
Special Adviser to Imoke on Special Duties, Mr. Casmir Obok, said the attack on the Task Force members was â€œunwarranted and those who think they can cow the task force from carrying out its legitimate function should think again; what we are doing is in the interest of all of us and several generations to come therefore their cowardly acts will not stop usâ€.
He assured that the attack on the Task Force men who were doing their legitimate duties will not be condoned..
Although no arrest has been made,Â Mr. Obok however said the police, the State Security Service and other law enforcement agencies have been informed of the incident.