FOLLOWING the massive influx of indigenous criminals and strange, foreign elements masquerading as armed killer-herdsmen into our forests and using them as cover, the Governors of the South West and South East, in July 2019 decided to set up security outfits in their respective geopolitical zones.
The South-East Governors decided to adopt the Forest Guards strategy which had already been pioneered in Benue and Ekiti states under Governor Samuel Ortom and former Governor Ayo Fayose, respectively. Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, said the plan to set up the Forest Guards in the five states of the zone was to key into the green light being shown by the Federal Government towards the state police idea.
When this idea was made public in July we applauded it because we saw it as a way by which the people of each zone can contribute their quota towards curbing the occupation of our forests by criminals and terrorists who use them as camps and staging grounds to kidnap, kill, rape and destroy the farms of indigenous Nigerians.
We also felt it would assist the law enforcement agencies who have shown their inability or unwillingness to secure the country’s territorial integrity.
However, as in earlier editorials, we must reiterate our vehement reservations about the decision of South-East Governors to cut the bush 50 metres inwards from the edges of both sides of the highways “in order to have a clear view” of the roads ahead. That is too much waste of valuable forest resources, quite apart from the huge financial costs which might render the scheme infeasible. Ten metres are more than enough.
To make matters worse, there are yet to be denied reports that in Enugu State where the first batch of the proposed 1,700 Forest Guards has already been recruited, some forests are already being cleared ostensibly to eliminate “hiding places” for these criminals.
This is a great disservice to the environment of the South East which is already the most widely deforested zone in the South. The effects of this are obvious in the massive numbers of erosion sites and the rapid development of savannah vegetation in places where thick rainforests used to stand majestically only a few decades ago.
There have also been worrisome reports of foreign companies illegally cutting down trees in Enugu and Ebonyi forests for charcoal production for export.
It is the duty of Forest Guards or rangers to protect the forests from ecological criminals, terrorists and sociopaths through the deployment of modern strategies and techniques.
The use of these Guards to threaten the well-being of forests is an environmental crime and must not be allowed.
Let us protect the forests to enable them protect us!