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—- We’ve lost N200bn in three months

Dayo Johnson Akure

Members of the Ondo State Timbers Trade Association (OSTTA) yesterday protested the continued ban on logging activities in the state saying over 30,000 jobs have been lost in three months.

Its Zonal Chairman,  Rev Williams Atibioke said in Akure that ” the ban on logging activities has led to the loss of over 300,000 jobs across the state as workers in the value chain of logging business have been laid off.

 Atibioke said they have lost over N200bn in the last three months

” The state government would suffer in terms of paying billions in compensation to them if the ban on logging activities were not reversed.

He pointed out that they were waiting for the “intervention of traditional institution on the issue which was why the protest was not to shut down activities

“It is wrong for the state government to shut them out of the forest and allowed Flitchers operate freely and continue logging activities.

“We are legitimate owners of the forest. We are allottees of the forest. He allows others, the illegal occupants to take up our jobs. He allowed them to evacuate the already felled woods.

“We want to show him our grievances. We were informed the Obas and Kabiyesi want to intervene. If the Obas could not resolve this, the state government will pay dearly for it in cash.

“We have paid billions of naira. In the last three months, we have lost over N200bn.

” There was no reason given for the closure of the forest. We didn’t have any dialogue before logging activities were stopped.

“The Fletcher’s are pirates. They hijacked our business unaware. We have won them in court. Governor Akeredolu was our lawyer then. We want the forest to be open and Fletcher’s banned. They have ruined our business.”

General Secretary of the association, Pastor Olu Ayodele, said they have paid for a logging permit that would soon expire.

Ayodele alleged that illegal logging activities were still going on in Ondo forest reserves.

“We are the main stakeholders in the business. Some of the sawmills are now being vandalised. Our trucks are stuck in the forest because we were not informed.

“Our permit has 12 months span and the government has taken away three months. Over 200, 000 jobs have been lost. Each sawmill has over 50 staff.”

A member of the association’s Board of Trustee, Edward Adeyemi, said logging activities was the mainstay of the Ondo State economy.

He said that 75 per cent of the state’s population were employed directly or indirectly to the logging business.

Reacting, the information and Orientation Commissioner, Donald Ojogo explained that the directive banning logging activities was in their own interest as legitimate businessmen

“As such, any measure put in place to protect the sector must be embraced. But if they are angry at the action of the government which is temporary, it means there is more to it than meets the eyes.

” We do not want to believe they are sponsored; the protesters should also not give out themselves as tools in the hands of those who have ripped off the State.”

He urged the timber merchants to give the government time to harness all available options toward making the sector better.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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