Osun wages war against illegal occupants of forest reserves
The Osun State Government has issued a 21-day ultimatum to encroachers on government forest reserves across the state to vacate the lands, saying that their activities in the forest reserves were negatively affecting the health and economic conditions of the people of the state adversely.
The State Government lamented the spate of deforestation by illegal farmers and miners in its forest reserves and asked them to vacate the lands or face the full wrath of the law.
Addressing a press conference in Osogbo on Thursday on the implementation of the state government White paper on Shasha Forest Reserve in Ile-Ife, the chairman of the implementation committee, Prof. Labode Popoola asked people to desist from encroaching into government forest reserves saying that such action was destroying the ecosystem.
According to Popoola, the Vice Chancellor of Osun state University, Osogbo, the government was ready to reclaim Shasha Forest reserve and other reserves in the state, warning that illegal farmers and timber contractors on the lands should vacate them.
Popoola said the dwindling fortune in forestry sector in particular was caused by de-reservation and encroachment of gazetted forest reserves in the state and stressed that the state government had resolved to embark on projects that would improve the sector well-beibg despite the meagre financial resource at the disposal of the government.
His words, "Without forest, we are all gone. Forest is about life and it makes living possible. No settlement can take place if those who want yo settle there do not have forest. The problem of deforestation is a global phenomenon and that is why reclamation is going on in many parts of the world. We are in trouble in Nigeria because about ten percent of our land is only coveted by forest when we needed about twenty five percent."
"People have destroyed our forests in Osun and we are ready to wage war against illegal occupants of these reserves. Its a pity that these desecrated forests are internationally recognised. These forests have been gazetted as natural forests of importance.
While further appealing to residents to desist from abusing and trespassing into forest reserves, Popoola said that the implementation committee was considering facilitating workable forest policy and rejuvenate the whole process of forestry in the state, adding that forest guards would be recruited to ensure that forest reserves were protected against encroachment.
He added that the committee would plant trees on a 60- hectare of land to mark Governor Aregbesola's 60th birthday explaining that " the establishment and maintenance of the commemorative plantation is not only to honour his Excellency in acknowledgement of his unflinching support for promotion of forestry in area of massive afforestation in the state, but also kick start awareness creation and campaign against illegal occupation of forest estates, unlawful exploitation of timber resources and to save Shasha Forest Reserves and others in the state from total extinction. "
Also speaking, a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Forestry, Natural and Mineral Resources and a commissioner designate, Mr. Tunji Ajilore, on Forestry, Natural and Mineral Resources, said large-scale deforestation was caused through illegal tree felling and farming in the forest reserves.
He vowed that tangible efforts would be made to safeguard the reserves from further destruction and eventual extinction, adding that there were specific laws guiding the operations of forest reserves across the world and that reclaiming forest was reclaiming life.
Ajilore said there are established farm settlements across the state that would enable people to engage in all sorts of farming, rather than wilfully destroying existing forest reserves with all kind of plantations, stressing that the reserves were purely established to preserve of the ecosystem and natural resources of the area.
He also warned illegal miners to desist from destroying reserves saying that anyone caught would be legally death with.