By Omeiza Ajayi
The Federal Government yesterday asked states to secure their forest reserves, saying they fall under their purview.
The directive came against the backdrop of the fact that bandits, criminal herdsmen and kidnappers use such reserves as haven for their nefarious activities.
Hoeever, Prof Samuel Erugo, SAN, said since forestry was not listed on the Exclusive Legislative List, states had powers to legislate on it.
It will be recalled that Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, drew the nation’s attention to the activities of criminal herdsmen in the state’s forest reserves and used the instrumentality of the reactivated 1969 Cattle Trade Law to evict the herders.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, who gave the charge at the first quarter, 2021, meeting of the Forum of the SGF and Secretaries to State Governments, SSGs, in Abuja, said the Federal Government will also strengthen the capacity of the National Parks Service to protect Nigeria’s 17 national parks against criminal gangs.
He said: “We all know that these criminal elements have turned our hitherto pristine forest reserves into an operational base and hide-out from which most of their activities are launched and sustained.
“Of course, we would still need our forests and other protected areas for the services they provide, especially as foreign exchange earners, sources of job creation, guaranteeing availability of soil nutrients and water for food security, serving as carbon sinks for addressing climate change and providing clement environment for a healthy living.
‘All forests belong to state governments’
“Therefore, the challenge is for governments at the state level to put in place processes and mechanisms that were hitherto operational for maintaining a sustainably managed forests, as all forests in the country belong to state governments.
“In a similar vein, the Federal Government will continue to strengthen the National Parks Service to ensure that all the previous seven national parks and the ten new ones created remain inviolate for use by criminal elements.
“I also want to thank the Forestry Association of Nigeria for the presentation they would make and call on them to also mobilise the forestry profession in the country in proffering contemporary and timely recommendations for consideration by governments at their various state levels, consistent with the status of ownership of these forest reserves.”
The SGF said in the recent past, Nigeria had been confronted with an inexplicable escalation of violence, resulting in insecurity across the nation, adding that the development not only serves as a drain to national resources but also creates a climate of uncertainty and challenges the ability of the nation to provide a convivial atmosphere for its citizens for daily living.
“Governments at all levels have been doing their utmost to address these challenges. However, its persistence calls for approaches that are more than the conventional and normal to involve all arms of government, all apparati of government and most importantly, those that have relationship directly with the rural communities and the citizenry.
“The theme for this meeting ‘The Role of Secretaries to the State Governments in Strengthening Sub-National Level Security Architecture’ reflects the need for this Forum to ensure that all machinery of government work in synergy to resolve our present security challenges.
“This theme underscores the imperative for the security agencies to share their thoughts with the forum and thereby highlight critical areas we can provide the necessary support and facilitation for their kinetic strategies.
“Learning from a practical experience of dealing with the issue of banditry, we have also requested one of our members to share with us so that others with similar experiences can also exchange notes and by the end of the day, we leave with practical steps and strategies to curtail this menace,” he added.
National Social Register set up
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, who spoke on ‘’Strengthening National Poverty Eradication Strategy’’, said the Ministry has established the National Social Register, NSR, to capture in detail, the data on all poor and vulnerable citizens in the country.
“So far, nearly 30 million individuals have been registered nationwide. To ensure that all stakeholders are carried along, the Ministry has commenced the socialization programme of the NSR to ensure that all MDAs recognize the need to harmonise, cooperate and mine the NSR for their project’s effectiveness.
Meanwhile, reacting to the FG directive to the states, Prof Samuel Erugo, SAN, said: “Forestry is not listed on the Exclusive Legislative List, therefore, the States have power to legislate on it. So, it’s not within the competence of the Federal Government to cede such power to the state that is constitutionally not bestowed on the FG.
“Besides, Section 1 of the Land Use Act vests all Land in every State on the Governor of the State; that should include land use and forestry.
“The President appears to have pronounced beyond the powers of the FG; merely restated the law.”