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Ondo State timber farmers allege degradation of forest

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Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

Following the nefarious activities of encroachers in forest reserves across Ondo State, some timber farmers have accused government officials and their cronies of aiding and abetting series of crimes including unfettered planting of Indian hemp.

In a petition written to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu by one of the victims, Mrs. Adenike Adeolu, who was allocated compartment 124 Akure/Ofosu Forest Reserve, alleged that some government officials were bent on destroying her business.

Adeolu, who has been into timber business for more than 22 years, alleged that some persons were earlier arrested and made to sign an undertaking to stop Indian hemp plantation in the reserves.

She also petitioned the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ondo State command, accusing some persons of planting and harvesting the illicit substance on her compartment; and the dealers setting the forest ablaze after harvesting it.

She said; “Some peopleoften raid the forest to destroy and extort the farmers, collecting huge amount of money from them.

These people storm the reserves and get as much as N500, 000 from the timber farmers and the money is not remitted into the state government’s purse”.

She lamented that several complaints had been made to government agencies and the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Agriculture, Pastor Akin Olotu, for assistance yet no solution in sight.

Subsequently, the Association of Olus and Baale Ala/Akure Ofosu Forest Area has sent a “Save our soul” plea to the governor dated February 28, 2018, lamenting that some officials were rubbishing his people-centred policies on forest reserves in the state.

One of those leading a strong opposition against Indian hemp plantation in the reserve, said she has been targeted by the illegal dealers, who influenced government officials.

“Some officials in the ministry have been employing government paraphernalia of office to victimize me without any good cause. I was banned unjustly through a stop work order, preventing me from doing my legal business just because I resisted the plantation of cannabis on the farmland which we inherited from our fore-fathers.”

She appealed to Governor Akeredolu to call some of his aides alleged to have been involved in the matter to order, warning that the plantation of cannabis would not only rupture the forest, but also create problems in the state at large.

The Guardian gathered that the Nigerian Police Force, Zone 11,Osogbo and NSCDC, Ondo State Command had sent investigation team to ascertain the truth of the matter.

Reacting to the allegation, the Special Adviser in the Ministry of Natural Resources; Mr. Fatai Lawal dispelled the allegations revealing that the timber dealers have been violating government laws due to her relationship with past government.

According to him, the woman farmer was leveling wrong allegations against the ministry to cover up all her illegal activities since she started the business.

He said; “the woman does not have license to operate and learnt that some government property given to her in the ministry, during past regime, were still in her possession.

“The ministry only stopped her from working because she is operating illegally in the forestry and it had to sanction her according to the law, which she had been circumventing in the past because of her influence.”



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