There’s ongoing destruction of the environment in Kaduna State by wood dealers who take pleasure in destroying the ecosystem to provide wood products to not only residents in core Northern states, but foreign nationals in Niger Republic, Cameroon, Chad, among others. It is a normal scenario to observe no fewer than 20 empty trucks heading to the southern part of Kaduna State every morning and return at sun down, carrying firewood and timbers and heading to the border states of Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi. Unlike the past where these wood merchants concentrated their nefarious activities at the Birnin Gwari forest, the raging presence of bandits and other criminal elements in the area has forced these merchants to shift their lucrative but destructive business to Southern Kaduna, an area known for its rich vegetation and abundant natural resources.
Like the Birnin Gwari forest that once provided resources for a flourishing wood business, activities of the wood vendors have been concentrated in areas designated as grazing reserves. Having been driven from the Birnin Gwari forest and environs that once provided endless supplies of wood products for their business, these vendors have found a new treasure house in the southern axis of Kaduna State, especially in the Ikulu Chiefdom that has over 75-80 percent of the seized 73,000 hectares for Ladugga Grazing Area that was initially pegged at a little over 40,000 hectares. From records, the road to the massive deforestation of Southern Kaduna by unscrupulous wood vendors commenced more than four years ago, but slowly assuming a frightening dimension, with no less than 20 trucks of wood products transported out of the area on a daily basis, and 80 percent of these plundered wood products from Ikulu Chiefdom.
Following unconfirmed reports that the Kaduna State Government had increased the size of Ladugga Grazing Reserve from over 40,000 to 73,000 hectares, new areas hitherto not designated are now to be captured in the new reserve whose demarcations are yet unknown. It is widely claimed that plans to add the remainder of over 30, 000 hectares to complete the initial 73,000 has been completed and awaiting official gazette by the state. The fear that the Ladugga Grazing Reserve had been expanded gained credence when a team of surveyors on the orders of Kaduna State Government, under the protection of armed security men, spent several days surveying areas to be added to the reserve. Presently, not only have activities of wood vendors turned Ladugga into a goldmine, people residing close to the reserve are increasingly finding it difficult to resist further pillage of their environment to stave off negative impacts of global warming. Apart from destroying wildlife habitats and destruction of the soil structure, the ongoing destruction of the environment through the chopping down of trees could serve to further worsen problems associated to climate change and completely endanger the agricultural prospects of the area.
The spiraling cost of kerosene that used to be a source of energy for the poor has turned firewood into a treasure-trove for wood vendors who now collude with state officials in charge of forestry department to look the other way as trees are indiscriminately cut down to further the wood business. Investigation by this reporter reveals that the felling of trees is not only destroying the ecosystem and causing anxiety among the people, but also unleashing unprecedented pillage on the entire ecosystem of the area.
The ecological devastations unleashed on the Chiefdom is chiefly seen in Gateh and Yadeh areas where the activities of these wood dealers now constitute grave threat to the ecological stability and prosperity of the Ikulu Chiefdom and increasing the prospects of environmental destruction. In a bid to stave off further devastation of the ecology, various options have been adopted by the state government to encourage afforestation and rally community leaders, especially traditional rulers, among others, to form a bulwark of resistance against further devastation of the ecosystem is based on this positive efforts geared towards afforestation that led to the planting of over 3.7 million trees in 2016 and 2017.
However, most of these trees were planted in five local government areas in mostly northern part of the state. The LGAs included Birnin Gwari, Kubau, Makarfi, Ikara and Giwa. According to the State Director Forestry, in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Anthony Kachiro, the state government had established 310 km shelter belt across five local government areas to tackle the menace of desert encroachment. Worried by activities of these wood merchants, the Paramount Ruler of the Ikulu ethnic nationality and Agwom Akulu, His Royal Highness Yohanna Sidi Kukah, had early in 2019 formed a committee to look into the problem with a view to halting further ecological ruination caused by wood traders. The meeting between members of the committee and wood dealers took place sometimes in April 2019. According to a source privy to the meeting, the committee members told officials of the wood dealers to halt environmental destruction that was fast turning the area into a desert due to the activities of wood merchants.
From enquiries carried by yours sincerely, it is very obvious that contrary to claims by the wood vendors that they have permission from agents of state to cut down these trees, these environmental destroyers are simply playing the accomplice role to destroy the ecology of the areas. It is yet to ascertain how a government that is committed to the protection of the environment could at the same time give permission to wood dealers to cut down trees.
While officials in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources were silent on the destructive activities of these wood merchants, it is obvious that certain people in conjunction with undesirable elements are poised to turn the green fields of Southern Kaduna into deserts through the illegal destruction of the environment. To further broaden their destructive activities, the wood vendors have expanded their nefarious undertakings to other areas in Kajuru Local Government Area.
Warning these enemies of the environment, the chairman of Kajuru LGA, Mr. Cafra Caino, warned that their activities will no longer be condoned by his council. There is no gainsaying the fact that chopping down of trees have left devastating footprints on the ecology of many areas affected by the activities of wood vendors. With silence from relevant authorities, it is appropriate to bring to the attention of the Kaduna State Government to wade in and curb the illegal deeds of these vendor.
On this note, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai is hereby called upon to instantly halt the activities of these wood businessmen whose activities in Southern Kaduna is turning the once rich ecosystem into a desert vast land. We cannot keep silent over these atrocious deeds that is threatening our environment. By their activities, the Kaduna state government is losing billions of naira in terms of revenues and destroying the ecosystem. These wood vendors that are now purveyors of our ecological doom need to be brought into book, with their accomplices being made to face the full wrath of the law. We all owe it as a moral duty to preserve the environment so that future generations will be saved of the catastrophe of desertification.