Cross River Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu has hailed the collaboration that exists between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and State Government Agencies in the execution of critical projects that are geared towards good governance and sustainable development of the State and country at large.
Professor Esu stated this while declaring open a two-day Validation Workshop for the Cross River State Draft Forest Policy, held recently at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar.
The Deputy Governor, who pointed out the finalization of the Draft Cross River State Forest Policy as one of such plausible joint efforts, affirmed the Ayade-led Administration’s commitment towards sustainable management of forest resources to engender environmental goods and services in perpetuity.
“The State has a total land area of 21, 265km2 of which 29.95% (6421.96km2) harbours the largest high forest reserve in West Africa, while 5% of the land area is swamped with large expands of mangrove forest. Together, these account for over 50% of the remaining tropical biodiversity in Nigeria,” Prof Esu stated.
Speaking further, Prof. Esu said “the Cross River State forest, listed among the 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world, unfolds vast investment opportunities in the forest sector,” adding that “the present administration will strive to harmonize economic and infrastructural development, while enhancing environmental sustainability.”
The Deputy Governor noted that the validation of the first ever produced Forest Policy in the state is very dear to the State, adding that as a forest-endured State, committed to sustainably managing its forest resources, posterity will hold its leaders accountable if they fail to put in place guiding strategies as contained in the draft forest policy for the wise management of the renewable and very valuable resource (forest).
The Deputy Governor expressed deep appreciation to the Cross River State Forest Commission and the State Sustainable Fuel wood Management Project for their efforts towards the drafting and finalization of the forest policy, which is near realization in today’s validation workshop. He urged participants at the meeting to give their best in the review, so as to come out with a successful validation of the first ever State Forest Policy.
Articulating his views, the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah Williams, who was represented by the Member resenting Yakurr I State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Nelson Ofem, described the Commission’s effort as a step in the right direction that will make for social engineering in the forestry sector.
He said the House of Assembly is there to look at the draft policy and ensure that the right thing is done for the betterment of the entire Cross River State.
Also speaking, the Director-General, Forest Research Institute of Nigeria, Prof. Adesola Adepoju, said Cross River State features prominently in the world’s discussions on forestry and climate change, harbouring the only remaining contiguous forest in Nigeria.
Prof. Adepoju intimated that Cross River State remains the only State that can attract support from the Green Climate Fund and called on the State actors to endeavour to maintain the State’s position in forestry and climate change activities.
He lauded the State Forestry Commission’s effort in putting a policy in place, advising that such document must be in conformity with the National Forest Policy.
Earlier in a welcome address, the Permanent Secretary of the State Forestry Commission, Mr. Timothy Ogbang Akwaji hinted that the Stakeholders Meeting was to take a holistic look at the draft document and validate it so that, it can help strengthen the growth of the Forestry Sector.
Mr. Akwaji further stated that Cross River has the most biologically diversified forest in Nigeria, with over 50℅ of the remaining Rain Forest in country domiciled in the State, describing it’s Forest as “nature’s gift to Nigeria, Africa and the World.”
The Permanent Secretary called on the State Government to put an end to the moratorium that has led to the abuse, exploitation and wanton destruction of the forest and return forest management to the Forestry Commission which has the ability to sustainably manage the Cross River State Forest.
In her remarks, the Secretary of the Technical Working Group and State Focal Person, Sustainable Fuel wood Management Project, Dr. Edu Effiom expressed gratitude to all stakeholders who contributed to the actualization of the draft policy, especially UNDP for funding the entire project.
Dr. Effiom said the Technical Working Group consisted of reputable people in the academia, technocrats, seasoned foresters (retired and serving), community representatives, non-governmental organisations and a host of other critical stakeholders in the Forestry Sector.
Prof. Augustine Ogogo of the Department of Forestry at the University of Calabar, and Veteran Forester, Chief Arikpo Ettah, respectively delivered goodwill messages hailing the Policy and soliciting for its speedy actualization.
The two-day workshop featured breakout groups which brainstormed and presented reports for consideration of inputs. The event also drew representation from the Department of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment and contingents from Edo and Kaduna States of Nigeria.