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Cross River forest communities protest alleged neglect by governments, others

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Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

• Italian firm to set up waste recycling plant in Calabar
Forest communities in Cross River State have called for an urgent intervention from the Federal Government and international community before they are forced to tamper with their forest as means of livelihood.

The people of Etara, Etara Eyeyeng, Agoi Ekpo, Agoi Ibami and Ekuri after a five-day capacity-building workshop on climate change mitigation by Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment (WATER) with support from Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organisation at the weekend, said for years, they have been preserving the forest yet nothing tangible has come to them.

Village Head of Etara, Ntufam Edwin Ogar, said: “We need the foreign agencies to give us assistance. Our people are ready to conserve. Even the state and federal governments should assist us. We intend to explore goat farming as they have taught us.

“If the government and agencies give us support, most of our people would not indulge in logging and hunting. The message I have for my people is to make a way and put what we have learnt into practice and government should also create a way that people would no longer be interested in logging and hunting. Many of our elders have died keeping this forest.”

Also, a retired civil servant in Etara and a cocoa farmer, Mr. Simon Ogar Ifere, lamented that “a lot of things have been destroyed in our community. Lots of economic trees, palms and many more have been destroyed. We are appealing that government should sympathise with the owners of these lands and at least give out a subvention. Let them not feel that they have lost and government is not really seeing their existence in the state. Let them give something to these people to compensate them for whatever they may have lost in their environment.”

However, the Officer on Climate Change with WATER, Miss Agbor Agatha Owor, said the communities through the capacity building programme were taught how “to practise sustainable agriculture. We have taught them how to farm and gather non-timber products in a sustainable manner to ensure the availability of these resources for the generation yet unborn.

“So, they have all agreed that our forests would not be completely lost.”

Programme Co-ordinator of WATER, Chief Edwin Ogar, said: “The communities are complaining that they are poor and the only way to survive is to cut down the forest and cultivate food crops for them to survive and sell to earn an income. I appeal that both government and the donors should do something because these communities are within sensitive areas of Cross River. They are situated in the forest belt. They still have the remaining forest in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, an Italian firm, Management Environmental Finance (MEFIN), has expressed interest in establishing a 40 million Euros waste recycling plant in Calabar.

A leader of the Italian delegation, Mr. Chinedu Okpalama, during a presentation at the conference room of the governor’s office in Calabar at the weekend, said: “It will cost Cross River nothing to install the plant as the company is committed to using the state as its pilot for the establishment of the plant in Nigeria and it is going to invest 40 million euros… Once this is done, Cross River will be the hub for environmentally-treated waste.”

The state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, directed the Commissioners for Power, Lands and Environment to fast-track the process for the take-off of the project and assured the firm that “we are ready to release 100 hectares of land to you.”



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