The conservator-general of national park service (NPS), Dr Ibrahim Goni has tasked environmentalists on the need to restore Nigeria’s forest cover and increase the forest area to 3 per cent by 2030 as stated by the United Nations.
He stated this in Abuja in commemoration of International Day of Forests (IDF) with the theme, Forests and Biodiversity’, which underscored the importance of education at all levels in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation.
Recall that the United Nations had designated 21st of March annually to raise awareness of the importance of forests to people and their vital role in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security.
Regrettably, Nigeria is experiencing four percent forest loss annually, which is considered as the highest globally.
It was further estimated that 1.5 million trees are felled down daily through illegal logging, thereby leading to 3.5 percent deforestation annually.
The forest cover had depleted to less than 10 percent as against the mandate of the Food and Agricultural Organizations’ (FAO) that each state is expected to keep its forest cover to a minimum of 25 percent of its land area.
Goni maintained that NPS is always brainstorming with stakeholders on the need to halt and reverse deforestation, adding that it would provide them the opportunity to understand their roles and contributions in promoting forest activities and expanding forest areas.
He stated that the federal government is spending a lot, both in human and financial resources to deliberately plant, preserve and conserve the forests, which he noted are home to 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change as well as provide livelihoods for humans and offer watershed protection.
The CG said that after oceans that forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon that provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare, adding that forests absorb harmful greenhouse gasses that produce climate change.
In tropical forests, the NPS boss maintained that a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass.
To this end, he pleaded with landlords to plant at least a tree in their compound, saying that the agency plant trees regularly for the good of the environment and humans.
He added, “We deliberately grow natural trees and nurture them all year round in our parks to serve as a buffer during natural disasters such as flood and rainfalls as part of ecological restoration”.
However, the immediate past director of forestry, federal ministry of environment, Mr Andrew David Adejoh had during an earlier interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja admitted that Nigeria is losing hundreds of billions of dollars to illegal tree felling.
He said that a study carried out many years back indicated that the country is losing billions of dollars annually to biodiversity and forest resources.
Adejoh added, “We cannot quantify the cost to lives and properties. In monetary terms, it’s in hundreds of billions of dollars. There was a study done many years back in what the country is losing due to biodiversity and forest resources, the quantification was running into billions of dollars annually”.
The director hinted that a body, Inter-governmental Policy Platform on Biodiversity & Eco-system Services (IPBES) carried out research and discovered that globally, especially in West African region, recorded a loss of $250 billion annually from forest and biodiversity loss like fisheries in the mangroves and larger ocean bodies, deforestation, as well as other intricacies like the air.
He noted that the federal department of forestry as an institution and the federal government does not have any forest reserve, adding that no tree belongs to the federal government but to the States and are managed under the land use act.
According to him, “What we do at the federal level is to provide guidelines on how they should be managed for the benefit of the country. For illegal felling of trees, we have developed guidelines. For those guidelines, in each State; one of the basic things that happens is before anybody cut a tree from the reserve or forest area, such person must be given a concession plan”.
Adejoh noted that States issue concession and monitor it, saying that based on such concession that individuals would be allocated areas to cut and how long they are expected to cut, but regretted that the process is enclosed with illegality.