By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”Edo State government has threatened to shut down one of the foreign firms in the state, Okomu Oil Palm Company, unless it paid the over N300 million realised from illegal felling of trees in the stateâ€™s government forest reserve.
The company was also accused of alleged encroachment into 15,000 hectares of reserved land belonging to the state government over the years, just as the government expressed its determination to ensure that its forest was well protected to boost the internally generated revenue of the state.
Speaking to Vanguard in Benin City yesterday, Chairman of the state Forestry Monitoring Committee, Comrade Lucky Eriyo, and Secretary, Mr. Benson Edosomwan, lamented that the company had exploited the state over the years by felling trees illegally without paying levies to the state government.
Eriyo said the state forest reserve had been destroyed due to alleged failure of management of the company to re-plant the trees after felling them.
He added that the state had suffered set backs in the production of quality woods and vowed that the company may be shut down unless they pay the N300 million to the state government.
According to him â€œ they have already destroyed our forest by cutting all these logs and they do not re-plant.
â€œAny where you cut log, you have to re-plant and after we have checked everything they did, it amounted to N300 million. All these years they have been operating, they have to pay for it. Because of their activities we are losing millions of naira every year and now they have to pay.
â€œThe Ministry of Environment has written them severally but they refused to reply our letters. If they say they will not pay, we will shut down the company because we need money to take care of the state and they cannot destroy the state for us.
â€œWe need money to be able to achieve all the things the Comrade governor promised the people of the state. Most of these logs they export them to other countries to make money, but they have not been paying to the state.
â€œThey have been doing a lot of havoc to the state, that is why they must pay the money in order to remain in the state.â€