A lot of controversies have been generated since Governor Ben Ayade announced the State Interim Taskforce on Anti Deforestation with the mandate of stopping illegal logging of woods in the state.
Cross River State is blessed with the largest rain forest in the country and earns millions of dollars yearly from world organizations to preserve this forest as a way of curbing climate change! To demonstrate his desire to maintain the rain forest the governor recently hosted a “Green Carnival” to encourage the planting of trees in the state, and about 1 million trees was planted across the state to make up for the large trees that have been fallen from illegal logging!
Before now, the Anti deforestation committee was seen as a ‘gold mine’ because of the huge financial reward that members receive from illegal timber dealers and as such, several persons lobbied heavily to be nominated as members of the Anti deforestation committee.
Recently, Governor Ayade dashed the hope of many when he made public the list of the new anti deforestation committee. A lot of persons were shocked as this list could not capture their interest. Many felt that the names announced by the Governor did not consider political jugganuts in the state.
Firstly, away from the usual, the Governor in his wisdom named a woman – Hon. Florence Bassey for the first time as Chairman of the committee to work with other pragmatic and vibrant young men; like Erasmus Ekpang and Achilles Akuku who are seen as unrepentant loyalists of governor Ayade!
Just recently, I read an article online titled: “The Illegality of Gov. Ayades Anti-Deforestation Taskforce Committee” by one Benjamin Ashaka-Oweh who accused the committee of complicity in illegal logging of timber in the state, appears to be a well hatched and calculated cheap blackmail to distract and cause disrepute to the Committee as can be clearly seen in most of the points raised in the said article. For instance, the author said Governor Ayade had promised to pay five hundred thousand naira (N500,000)to the committee for per truck of woods impounded but still went ahead to allege that the Chairman and Secretary were collecting ninety thousand (N90,000) naira bribe from Timber Dealers per Truck, how can a reasonable person sacrifice five hundred thousand (N500,000) naira for ninety thousand Naira(90,000)?
He also mentioned a visitation made by the Secretary of the committee – Mr Erasmus Ekpang to the immediately past DG Anti-deforestation Hon Abubakar Ewa of which investigations reveal that the said meeting held three days after inauguration for the sole purpose of receiving handing over note from his predecessor Rt. AVM Osim.
Further investigations into the matter revealed that the said Article was sponsored by one Mr. Mfon Bassey who is also a member of the committee. Mfon was said to have felt slighted when a woman was named the Chairman of the committee ahead of himself, who had lobbied so hard for the chairmanship to advance his personal aggrandisement.
From the first day the committee was inaugurated, the said Mfon has been making efforts to sabotage the activities of the Committee to raise a presumption of incompetence in the side of the chairperson, thank God for the seeming understanding and support of other members of the Committee.
In several occasions, Mr Mfon was alleged to be parading himself as the chairman and also went ahead to constitute his own parrallel marshals/agents made up of his former boys at CTRA against the one constituted by the entire committee, his second grouse was that out of the 3 vehicles given to the committee of which one each was shared by the chairman to the three senatorial districts, non was given to him.
In what was seen as yet another desperate attempt to hatch his nefarious plans and gain unmerited favour from the government, Mr. Mfon was alleged to have started paying timber dealers to log woods which he will in turn present to the state government as illegal wood apprehended from the waterways.
Our investigation also revealed that unlike the former taskforce which apprehend few Trucks in four years, this interim Taskforce has impounded more trucks with Timber evidence at wood park Calabar. The committee lead by the Chairperson have visited all the operational points to get first hand information on activities of wood loggers across the state and at no point have they compromised their stance against illegal logging of woods in the state in line with the Governor’s directive as alleged by the said report.