THE trees which make up our forests are “trees of life” because they manufacture and release the oxygen we breathe in, and then mop up the carbon dioxide we and other entities and activities release to the atmosphere. Hence, trees are called “carbon sink” in environmental parlance.
Trees also provide food and medicine for humans and animals. Without trees, a large part of the earth where we live would be washed away by soil erosion. Most importantly, trees provide homes for other wildlife which play vital roles in the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
For these reasons, the idea to further destroy our forests along the highways as a means of fighting armed criminals who lurk in them to launch attacks on travellers is self-defeatist and unwholesome.
Only last month, it was reported that the Edo State Police Command, in an effort to check incessant incidents of kidnapping along the Benin-Lagos highway, deployed five bulldozers which were seen in a video tearing sections of the forests along the road. The state’s Commissioner of Police, Danmallam Abubakar, had disclosed that the forest is to be cleared 50 metres inward between the Ovia River and Okada junction, for the “purpose of taking the battle to the kidnappers’ dens in the forest”.
The five Governors of the South East Zone, also resolved at a recent meeting to embark on this deforestation of major road corridors as their means of checkmating ambush attackers. This idea was reinforced after the Ogun State Police Command rescued five persons kidnapped around Ijebu Ode recently.
While the fight against bandits and kidnappers is important, we do not think it is necessary to destroy our forests in the process.
There is no known example of such a strategy in any part of the world, even in countries where there are full-blown wars. The same forests that provide cover for those criminals can also provide the needed covers for our soldiers and police operatives.
Destroying the forests on both sides of the road 50 metres down is quite enormous. The impact on the environment will be so huge. Apart from the loss of valuable resources in our ecosystem, the cost will be massive, especially as these pathways will need to be frequently retouched.
We, therefore, implore our military and police officers to deploy technology and combine efforts to take the battle to the forest where the bandits are hiding instead of cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
We cannot give up control over our forest hinterlands to terrorists and criminals. We still believe that the Federal Government is capable of exerting total control over the territory of Nigeria. These criminals should be flushed out forthwith.
Anything to the contrary is unacceptable.