By Emmanuel Una
CALABAR—CROSS River State Forestry Commission has begun the cultivation of the biggest forest in Africa with the planting of five million indigenous species of trees, which in addition to the existing forest reserves would form large canopy on roads and parks across the state.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Mr. Bette Obi, told NDV at Calabar: ”We have both timber and economic tree seedlings which we are planting in designated areas in the 18 local government areas stretching over 100,000 hectares across the state and this will culminate in the largest forest in Africa.”
He said volunteers have been recruited to plant the tree seedlings, which include mahogany, gmelina, oak, mangoes, oranges and guava with some meant to serve as economic trees for communities where they are planted, while others will serve as timber to function as biodiversity canopy alongside the current forest reserves in the state.
Gov Ayade committed
Obi stated that the Cross River State governor is environment friendly and has put in place effective structures to manage the rainforest with the creation of the Ministry of Climate Change and the appointment of a Special Adviser on Biodiversity, working in conjunction with the Forestry Commission to plant the forest.
”The governor has put in place a task force on Anti- Deforestation and has also introduced policies to checkmate illegal wood logging activities with a total ban on timber exploitation in the state, so our forests are well protected.
“It is therefore surprising that some environmentalists have continued to attack the noble intentions of Senator Ayade who made the construction of the 260 km superhighway one of his signature projects. As a commission, we believe that conservation and infrastructural development must strike a balance,” Hon Bette stated.
He added: “Cross River State holds over 50 per cent of the last remaining tropical rainforests in Nigeria. It is listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world, which is rich in flora and fauna with such rare species of animals like gorilla, drill monkeys and others found in the wild and the state movement is doing everything to protect these species.”
FG should approve superhighway continuation
According to him, ”We in the Commission are satisfied that the state government has evolved necessary safeguards required for the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment proposal conducted by the government and, therefore, call on the Federal Ministry of Environment to grant approval for the continuation of the super highway project”.
Obi reiterated that as the man on ground, he was aware that all the communities were in support of superhighway. He, however, called on the government to do everything needed to avoid environmental hazards during the construction of the road.
Appeal to NGOs
“We appeal to non-governmental organizations working with some foreign bodies not to frustrate the road project and let peace reign, as the superhighway will alleviate the sufferings of Cross Riverians,” he said.