The search for Rosewood, popularly known as Madrid among the locals by the Chinese Nationals has continued to fuel deforestation, leading to biodiversity loss and climate change in the Bali Local Government Area of Taraba State.
MAWA-Foundation learned that Madrid is highly valuable and has become the most expensive wood in China as it is being used for plywood and veneers for making furniture. Also, trading in Madrid wood is now a big business among the locals in Bali.
Chinese Nationals, MAWA learned, have invaded the Bali Forest, and are cutting down any Madrid tree seen on sight. The locals who spoke to MAWA said Chinese Nationals carry out the act using community people mainly the youth who depend on the money they make, from illegal logging for survival.
A youth leader who did not want his name mentioned, said before the invasion of Chinese loggers, Madrid trees were found in abundance in many parts of Taraba State, but have become scarce since they began cutting them down on a large scale.
“Before the invasion of Chinese loggers, Madrid trees were found in abundance in many parts of Taraba state, it has become scarce, we want the government to stop this massive invasion and protect our forests,” the youth leader said.
The activities of Chinese Nationals in Bali and other forests in Taraba state have continued for a long period. This is even as Mr. Ismail Salmanu, an environmentalist, speaking in his residence, told MAWA that Chinese activities are leading to unprecedented deforestation that exposes the locals to erosion and climate change.
Miss Roseline Abike who spoke to MAWA at her small provision shop, disclosed that apart from Bali, Madrid trees are found in other parts of Taraba State like Gashaka, Gassol, Donga, Kurmi, and Sardauna areas. While pointing out that none of the places is left out by the Chinese loggers. She, however, disclosed they began invading Taraba Forests in search of Madrid trees as far back as 2015.
Miss Aliyu, a journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) who spoke to MAWA narrated how the Chinese Nationals connived with the locals to cut down Madrid trees and transport them out of Bali using Cameroon and Lagos routes.
She, however, added that many of the locals who are engaged in the activities are making huge earnings and are often considered big boys in town.
Mr. Magaji, a community resident who spoke to MAWA, described the Chinese activities as a network of environmental crime backed by the state and its agents for the sole aim of making money. Magaji pointed out that civil servants and politicians are actively involved in the business of helping Chinese Nationals to carry out illegal logging with state backing.
“The Continued invasion of Bali Forest by Chinese Nationals in search for Madrid trees is a network of environmental crimes with state backing leaving the locals to bear the major consequences,” Magaji said.
Magaji who spoke in his residence told MAWA that the lucrative nature of Madrid wood in Bali makes it very difficult for actors involved in the forest deforestation to stop. According to him, those who are actively involved in the Madrid wood business make between N3 million and N4 million weekly, an amount he said is a major factor fueling the activities.
Mr. Peter Aku, who spoke to MAWA on his farm along Jalingo Wukari road, said he got his financial breakthrough via trading in Madrid wood. According to him, his first N1 million was from the business.
“I have no problem with the Madrid wood business, my financial breakthrough came from it, I made my first N1 million from it, it is our oil money, and no going back,” Aku said.
According to the official, each truckload of Madrid wood pays N500k as revenue to the state government. An amount he said is paid in different revenue collection areas. Pointing out the revenue collection areas are found at Mallum village in Ardo-Kola, Wukari Road in Jalingo, Takum, and Zing communities.
The official disclosed that huge revenue from the Madrid wood business is so lucrative which makes it very difficult for the government to sincerely and honestly stop the illegal logging activities.
Miss Jacinta, who claims to have been in the Madrid wood business for over two years, clarified that the Chinese Nationals have timber dealers’ hub where they buy the wood from the locals, cut it into different sizes, transport them to Lagos before the final shipment to China and other parts of European countries.
A local that is actively involved in the Madrid wood business who spoke to MAWA and does not want his identity revealed, narrated how the Chinese Nationals are given police protection by the state to search the forest to identify Madrid trees.
Mr. Ephraim Dauda, an environmental activist, and a resident of the Mayo Kam community in the Bali Local Government Area where the unprecedented logging is taking place, told MAWA that the activities of Chinese Nationals have adversely affected the forest ecosystem, destroying biodiversity which poses dangers to the rural livelihood.
According to Dauda, apart from destroying the plants, animals such as monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, crocodiles, and elephants have left the forest since intensive and uncontrolled logging began.
He added that it is unfortunate that the government and its officials that are supposed to rise and protect the environment have joined in destroying it in consideration of monetary gains above human existence and environmental protection.
MAWA learned that government intervention with local support working to protect the forests is facing resistance from those who benefit from the illegal logging business.
For instance, Rangers at Gashaka Gumti National Park in the Gashaka area of the state, working to protect the forest were killed by persons suspected to be illegal loggers and poachers in the year 2019.
However, a local interest group, African Nature Investors (ANI), is assisting in protecting the forest. Working in collaboration with stakeholders, about 49 Rangers have been trained in forest protection.
When MAWA sought a government explanation, a senior official from the Taraba State Ministry of Environment, who prefers his identity concealed, accused the government of supporting illegal logging over financial gains.