By Dennis Agbo
ENUGU- THE people of Greater Okpanku communities in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State recently trooped out en masse to plant trees against desertification and other forms of climate change.
The people said they were not only planting trees for environmental protection but also tree crops for economic emancipation.
Okpanku is an ancient town, recently subdivided into two autonomous communities of Ekoli and Okpanku.
Members and leaders of the two communities under Greater Okpanku were reunited in the project as their traditional rulers, leaders of thought, Town Union leaders, women and youths converged at Central School Okpanku from where they went to different parts of the community to plant the trees.
Chairman of Greater Okpanku Leaders of Thought, Chief Paul Ogbonna said it was the first time in the history of Okpanku that a decision was taken to have an organised tree-planting campaign.
Ogbonna said with the tree- planting, their communities stood a chance of protecting their soil which he said was already being washed away with possible erosion in the near future.
“Secondly, the economic trees that have aged and those ones felled could now be replaced. The fruits constitute a strong source of revenue to individuals, families and nation.
“What we are doing is to replicate what is obtainable in other nations of the world and reinforce our belief in the restoration of our eco-system and make our world a better place to live in,” Ogbonna said.
The community leader added that it was also to create a new wealth base for the people and safeguard the future of the children.
He disclosed that the communities had banned felling of trees in the forest. “We will no longer tolerate any further violation of the law banning felling of trees and we are today empowering the Greater Okpanku Neighbourhood Association to apprehend those who might decide to fell trees in our forests from today,” Ogbanna reiterated.
He stressed that the tree planting was going to be continuous exercise and urged his people not to uproot any of the planted trees.
Traditional rulers of the two autonomous communities, HRH Igwe Prof. Sampson Ukpabi of Ekoli and HRH Igwe Reginald Chukwu of Okpanku, who both performed flag-off the tree planting, cautioned against tree felling in the communities, adding that the communities initiated the idea of the planting on their own conviction.
“If there were no tree here, this place would have become a desert. We will devote dates for for maintaining and continuous planting of the trees,” Igwe Ukpabi said.
Woman leader in the community, Mrs Victoria Agha said they were called for a meeting in the community to intimate the women of the project. “We taught it was a joke but now we see it is real. We will continue to ensure the trees are maintained,” Agha said.
Another woman participant in the tree planting, Mrs. Nwakaego Ajah said “the trees will help is train our children. That’s why we are planting oranges, mango, cashew, plams, pears and other cash economic trees. We feel this planting is good and that is why we are doing it.”
Political Leaders of the constituency, who could not come in persons, such as Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; House of Representatives member Toby Okechukwu, among others sent representatives.