Unchecked Logging Expands in Nigerian Reserve, Endangering Local Wildlife: Rangers Cite Weak Regulatory Oversight

by Chloe Baker
Unchecked Logging in Nigerian Reserve

As the sound of chainsaws reverberates, trees are felled and stripped of their branches by shirtless laborers next to an unpaved road. Nearby, logs are hoisted onto trucks, secured with wire, and transported away. The scene is a stark contrast to the purpose of this land: the Omo Forest Reserve in southern Nigeria, a sanctuary intended for endangered species such as African elephants, pangolins, and white-throated monkeys. Despite the clear violation, forest rangers have been reluctant to intervene due to previous experiences of legal impunity.

Ranger Sunday Abiodun commented to The Big Big News during a recent tour of the reserve, “Individuals whom we have previously arrested and handed over to the government are back in the forest, even more audacious than before.”

Conservation experts indicate that the peripheral areas of the Omo Forest Reserve, where some logging is permitted, have already experienced significant deforestation. As the easily accessible trees are depleted, loggers venture deeper into the 550-square-kilometer conservation zone, which is already jeopardized by unauthorized cocoa farming and illegal poaching.

Both conservationists and rangers hold the government accountable for its failure to enforce existing environmental laws and for not replenishing the forest adequately. Such negligence hampers Nigeria’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement to maintain carbon-absorbing ecosystems like forests.

While the government of Ogun state, which is responsible for the reserve, refutes these accusations, claiming it plants more trees than are cut down, those who work in and around the forest dispute this claim.

Sawmill operators, who obtain annual permits from the government for logging, say the fees they pay—amounting to 2 million naira ($2,645)—are supposedly for tree replanting, but this seldom happens. Owolabi Oguntimehin, a sawmiller in the nearby town of Ijebu, stated, “The government is not executing its responsibility to replant; it collects fees from us but does not fulfill its end of the bargain.”

Furthermore, even when permits are granted, state-employed forest guards attest that there is a lack of enforcement of logging standards. Joseph Olaonipekun, a guard, noted that the state’s forestry department used to mark permitted trees for cutting while ensuring compliance to prevent illegal logging— a practice that has been abandoned.

According to Nigerian ecologist Babajide Agboola, implementing selective logging can minimize the detrimental impacts on biodiversity while allowing young trees to flourish. “This approach would make logging and forest management more sustainable,” he said.

However, species like Cordia wood, mahogany, and gmelina are disappearing at an alarming rate from the forest, say both sawmillers and reserve guards. “A comprehensive reforestation initiative is critical to preserve the conservation zone,” urged Agboola.

Forest rangers employed by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a partner of the government in managing the conservation area, find it daunting to thwart illegal logging. Some loggers boast of circumventing regulations by bribing officials. Ranger Johnson Adejayin called for rigorous enforcement and sanctions to deter these practices.

The situation is further complicated by Nigeria’s reliance on sectors like agriculture and forestry, which contribute to 25% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and provide jobs in agrarian communities around the reserve. This raises questions about the political will to prioritize environmental sustainability over economic interests.

Wale Adedayo, chairman of the Ijebu East local government area, suggested shrinking the conservation zone to allocate more land for farming and logging, but acknowledged the need for reversing deforestation to combat climate change.

Meanwhile, the government has yet to officially designate the conservation area as a wildlife sanctuary, leaving it vulnerable to threats like logging and poaching. Emmanuel Olabode, who manages the Nigerian Conservation Foundation’s wildlife conservation project, stressed that the onus is on the government to enforce regulations.

Violence has even erupted over timber supplies; Olabode recounted an attack on a rangers’ patrol base in 2021 that left the area unprotected. Though the government plans to involve military and police forces to counter illegal activities, it urges compliant loggers to stand against their illicit counterparts.

This report is the second in a series of stories focusing on the Omo Forest Reserve.

The Big Big News’ climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations and maintains editorial independence. The AP holds full responsibility for all content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unchecked Logging in Nigerian Reserve

What is the primary issue discussed in the article regarding the Omo Forest Reserve in Nigeria?

The article primarily focuses on unchecked logging activities taking place in the Omo Forest Reserve in southern Nigeria, a protected area intended for the conservation of endangered species like African elephants, pangolins, and white-throated monkeys. Despite legal prohibitions, logging continues, and forest rangers have been reluctant to intervene.

Who is responsible for managing the Omo Forest Reserve?

The government of Ogun state in southwestern Nigeria owns and is responsible for managing the Omo Forest Reserve. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation also partners with the government in conservation efforts.

What roles do the forest rangers and sawmill operators play?

Forest rangers are responsible for patrolling the reserve, enforcing existing environmental regulations, and reporting illegal activities. Sawmill operators are businesses or individuals who obtain permits from the government to log in designated areas of the reserve, typically paying a fee for this privilege.

What are the endangered species residing in the Omo Forest Reserve?

The Omo Forest Reserve is home to threatened species such as African elephants, pangolins, and white-throated monkeys.

What is the government’s stance on the issue?

The government of Ogun state refutes accusations of lax enforcement, stating that they are replanting more trees than are being cut down. However, this claim is disputed by both forest rangers and sawmill operators.

Why have forest rangers been hesitant to act against illegal logging?

Forest rangers have been hesitant due to prior experiences where arrested individuals were seen back in the forest, engaging in logging again. This has led to a feeling of impunity among illegal loggers.

What complications arise due to Nigeria’s economic dependence on forestry and agriculture?

Agriculture and forestry contribute to 25% of Nigeria’s greenhouse gas emissions and provide employment opportunities in agrarian communities. This presents a dilemma for the government as it weighs the need for economic development against environmental sustainability.

What is the role of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation?

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation partners with the government in managing the conservation zone within the Omo Forest Reserve. They employ forest rangers to patrol and protect the area, particularly regions identified as vital habitats for endangered species.

What are some proposed solutions to the problem?

Proposed solutions include stricter enforcement of existing environmental regulations, comprehensive reforestation initiatives, and potentially employing military and police forces to counter illegal activities.

What are the future plans of the government to combat illegal logging?

The government plans to involve the military and police to fight against illegal operators in the reserve. It also urges compliant loggers to take a stand against their illicit counterparts.

More about Unchecked Logging in Nigerian Reserve

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ConcernedCitizen September 1, 2023 - 10:07 pm

Can’t believe they’re still debating whether to make it a wildlife sanctuary or not. Just do it already! Lives (animal and human) are at stake here.

JohnDoe42 September 1, 2023 - 11:53 pm

Wow, this is eye-opening. I had no idea that the situation in Omo Forest Reserve was this bad. What’s the govt even doing?

TravelBug September 2, 2023 - 6:38 am

Visited Omo a few years back and it was breathtaking. So sad to think that future generations might not see it the way I did.

PoliticoThink September 2, 2023 - 8:08 am

With an economy heavily reliant on agri and forestry, it’s a tough call for the Nigerian govt. But they gotta act fast.

LocalResident September 2, 2023 - 8:50 am

I live near the reserve and its sad to see how things have gone down hill. Deforestation is real folks, its happening in our backyard.

EcoWarrior87 September 2, 2023 - 3:45 pm

seriously, where’s the accountability? These are endangered species we’re talking about. And the rangers can’t even enforce the law coz of corruption. smh

CrypticCrypto September 2, 2023 - 3:57 pm

This is why blockchain tech could actually help. Imagine a transparent ledger for all logging permits and reforestation efforts. No more hiding behind bureaucracy.

ClimateChampion September 2, 2023 - 4:14 pm

The Paris Agreement clearly isn’t enough if countries can’t even manage their own reserves. Time for international intervention maybe?

FinanceGuru September 2, 2023 - 6:14 pm

I don’t get it, they collect fees for tree cutting but don’t replant? Seems like a financial scam on top of an ecological disaster.

EthicalInvestor September 2, 2023 - 9:17 pm

Reading this makes me reconsider where my money’s going. Don’t want to invest in companies that indirectly support this kind of activity.


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