By Orumwense Sarah .O.
Have you ever wondered how Nigeria’s economy was sustained before the discovery of crude oil in the 1950’s? Crude oil was first discovered in Oloibiri in Rivers State, Nigeria in the year 1956, prior its independence.
Nigeria’s economic mainstay and foreign exchange earners then were commodities like timber, ground nut, cotton, cocoa, amongst others, prior to the discovery of crude oil. Like many other African countries, Nigeria strongly relied on Agricultural produce and timber exports at that time.
When Nigeria got its independence on 1st October, 1960 as a sovereign state, it inherited eight national parks, 445 (four hundred and forty-five) forest reserves, 12 (twelve) nature reserves and twenty-eight (28) game reserves from its British Colonial Administrators. The exclusive reserves which were intended for the protection and conservation of the forest biodiversity in the Country prior the 1950s are no longer in existence. Unfortunately, much of the vast forest reserves have been deforested, degraded, encroached on, and converted to other land uses as a result of the rapidly increasing population growth and mismanagement of land administration in the Country.
Consequently, it became expedient for Edo State Government to act fast in order to avert the adverse effect of bio degradation occasioned by deforestation and other practices that are inimical to environmental sustainability.
In order to tackle the problem of deforestation, degradation, depletion, mismanagement and neglect of forest assets, the bill to establish the Edo State Forestry Commission was passed into law in November, 2022 and inaugurated on 7th June, 2023, with a 10-year forest restoration and plantation strategy development by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led Administration.
The Ten years strategy, which will serve as a guide to all forms of investments in forest restoration and plantation, is aimed at attaining forest conservation, utilization and restoration in the forest reserves located in the State. The Okomu Forest Reserve is the biggest of the rain forest reserves in the State, followed by the Gelegele Forest Reserve, which faces similar challenges of illegal logging and uncontrolled farming activities.
It is worthy of note that the Okomu National Park in Ovia South-West Local Government Area is one of Nigeria’s largest parks with forest resources and wildlife. The forest block covers an area of 1,081KM² (one thousand and eighty-one square kilometres) in Edo State and about 50KM west of Benin City. It is one of Nigeria’s most important conservation areas. The Edo State Forestry Commission has three technical departments which are Forest Management and Utilization; Forest Plantation and Extension Services; Conservation and Eco Tourism; as well as Department of Shared Services and Planning, Policy Research and Statistics.
Since its inception, a lot has been invested into recruitment, capacity building and personnel development, training and retraining of personnel in and out of the State by the Edo State Government. The Commission has embarked on collaborations in the areas of tree planting spanning 40,000 (forty thousand) hectares, across the three senatorial districts of the State. It is the first of its kind after many years in the State and in the Country in general.
Although forestry management started in Edo State hundreds of years ago, currently there are 49 (forty-nine) forest reserves across the three senatorial districts of the State. The Edo State Government, through the Forestry Commission and collaborations, has raised nurseries and plantation in Ehor Forest Reserve where over 14,000 (fourteen thousand) seedlings have been planted.
It is hoped that such forest resources will boost the economic potentials of the State, even as it helps to combat the adverse effect of global warming, which has become of grave concerns to world leaders in contemporary times.
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