The search for two expensive pieces of wood, “Apa and Bubinga” by the Chinese nationals are fueling unprecedented deforestation in Cross Rivers Forests and putting them under severe threat, resulting in indigenous communities’ threat to livelihoods and exposing them to dangerous climate change impacts.
Carrying out the act, Chinese nationals pay the locals who spot the trees “Apa and Bubinga” N5, 000 and the landowner N20, 000 if he has community ownership of the land.
Apa and Bubinga are of great value in China which is resulting in Chinese nationals taking a desperate move to ensure they get them.
Angry with the unprecedented deforestation caused by the Chinese nationals, environmental protection advocacy groups in Cross River State, Rainforests Resources and Development Centre, and We the People Centre for Social Studies and Development, in September 2022 disclosed they will drag the state government to court for not living up to her responsibility to protect the forests from the activities of illegal loggers.
Community residents and environmental activists who spoke to MAWA-Foundation, in different accounts narrated how illegal loggers backed by security men invade the forest to cut trees and transport them outside the state for business.
In different interviews, Residents of Ekong Anaku in Akampka Local Government and Bansam in Boki Local Government respectively, recounted how the activities threaten biodiversity and the community livelihood.
“Boki forest is fast disappearing, if nothing is done to save it, illegal loggers will bring it to its end as soon as possible” Edet Eyong told MAWA.
A youth leader in Boki who spoke to MAWA but wants his identity concealed, accused the local and state governments, and powerful individuals of working with the illegal loggers to destroy the forests for monetary gains. He described the huge deforestation across River State as a network of crime being carried with the backing of the state authority.
“The huge deforestation you see in Cross River that is destroying the forests and environment is a network of crime committed with state backings,” the youth leaders said.
The residents pointed out how animals and vegetation that served as their means of livelihood are fast disappearing. A situation they blamed on the activities of Chinese nationals, and warned that if nothing drastic is done, the forest is likely to go into extinction in the next 10 years.
In attempts to mitigate the unprecedented deforestation, local organizations like Friends of the Earth, Centre for Social Studies and Development, Rainforest Resources and Development Centre are undertaking nature-based solutions to curbing deforestation and climate change. Some of the interventions are planting trees and educating the locals on protecting the forests.
Unprecedented deforestation has continued in Cross River state even as there exist State and Federal ministries for environment and forestry charged with the responsibilities to implement environmental legislation and protect the forest and environment.
Although Nigeria makes no pretense to addressing climate change and has gone ahead to create a CLIMATE CHANGE COUNCIL to show her commitment to this course, she does not take protecting the forest and environment seriously. And this is even as they contribute hugely to mitigating climate change.
MAWA-Foundation could not immediately reach out to the Cross River government for an official reaction.