Nigeria: Imoke Seeks Protection for Rain Forest
Calabar — Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, has called for the protection of the nation's rainforest, 90 per cent of which he says is in Cross River State and is one of the richest in biodiversity in Africa.
Imoke said the call became necessary because the rainforest is facing serious threat from illegal encroachers.
Imoke, who spoke at the Copenhagen Summit on Global Warming in a paper titled, "Can REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) Save Nigeria's Last Rainforests?" said the forest is constantly under attack by hundreds of small scale loggers and farmers and those collecting firewood.
The governor said a 2002 study found out that the state has a rate of deforestation of over two per cent per annum.
According to him, it is one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and is a crisis for the state, given that it has few other resources to depend upon.
Imoke said unlike other parts of southern Nigeria, the state gets little from the oil revenue.
Imoke said as the newly elected governor of the state in 2007, he realised that the state was in crisis and so convened an environmental summit which involved all the environmental NGOs in the state; forest communities and international experts.
The governor said he also removed revenue target from the forest sector of the state, which was previously a major source for internally generated revenue and an incentive for the state Forestry Commission to promote unsustainable logging practices.
According to him, the decision of his administration to grant a logging moratorium and set up an Anti-Logging Task Force was to eradicate timber exploitation in the state so that government could obtain carbon concessions instead.
Imoke said as the governor his vision for the state is to have one million hectares of forest lands under REDD.
Imoke said in spite of all the efforts, he is under pressure because there is almost no capacity to implement REDD in the state among the communities, the NGOs or even in the state's Forestry Commission while the state's economy is facing a crisis and could hardly pay salaries monthly.
According to him, so many people would like to see the repeal of the ban on illegal logging if the potential promise of REDD is not forthcoming.
"I am here to look for donor support for a REDD readiness programme for the state. I have also joined the Governors' Climate and Forests Task force (GCF), so that the state's REDD pilots will be prepared for inclusion in the compliance system being proposed by California.
"I believe that this approach will greatly enhance our chances of protecting our home heritage, Cross River Rainforest," Imoke said.
According to him, "this is what will guarantee the survival of the last and highly endangered Cross River gorilla, Nigeria chimps and drills and expand the forest cover of the state as the real mitigation against climate change."
It would be recalled that while in Copenhagen, Imoke was admitted into the Governors Climate and Forest Task force (GCF), sitting alongside other world governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, USA, to discuss ways of protecting the forests.