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Implement stricter laws on forest crimes, Onoja appeals to FG

The Director General of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Joseph Onoja, has appealed to the Federal Government and states to implement laws on forest crimes to curb the menace.

Onoja made the appeal at a programme to celebrate the International Day of Forests at the Lekki Conservation Centre on Wednesday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the programme with the theme “Forest and Innovation: A New Solution for a Better World” was organised in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture.

According to Onoja, there are laws on forest crimes, but implementation is the problem.

“We have laws that are not really implemented. Forest crimes, like any other crime, should be punished, but the enforcement of these laws is the issue we are having.

“We have our partners who are working with the National Assembly to bring up the forest and wildlife crime laws that will be able to bite harder.

“But even with all the beautiful laws that we have, the other part of it is the implementation.

“There is a need for the Federal Government, states, agencies, and other partner agencies that are involved in enforcing these laws to be empowered,” he said.

He added that those in charge of enforcing these laws should be given the necessary equipment and tools they need to carry out their mandate.

While talking about the theme of the programme, Onoja said the day was established to continue to create awareness about the importance of the forest.

“Stakeholders need to find innovative ways to continue to protect and sustainably manage the forest so that it can play its ecosystem role by preserving our lives as humans.

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“When we protect nature, nature will play its role in helping us live a conducive life.

“If we don’t have forests again, then we are doomed because forests produce a lot of things for us, from food to raw materials and habitat to animals that play ecosystem services for us.

“So, forests are very important, and that is why this theme is all about forest innovation,” he said.

He added that bringing up innovative solutions was key, so everyone could know the importance of the forest and apply innovative ways towards preserving it.

“One of the innovative solutions is to find alternative energy sources, especially in the local areas.

“When we talk about deforestation, it does not only end from an environmental point of view; it has an effect on the health and development of women and girls.

“The time the girls need to develop themselves, they are using it to scout for firewood.

“And when they have done this, you find these women with children at their backs cooking and inhaling the smoke, which also cuts their life span.

“By the time we bring some of these innovative solutions in trying to get alternative sources of energy—solar and cooking stoves—it helps us, which also preserves the forest,” he said.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Lagos State, Miss Abisola Olusanya, said during her welcome address that the day was aimed at harnessing the power of innovation to protect and sustainably manage the forest.

“Every March 21, just like our individual birthdays, is a special day that should be taken as an opportunity to raise public awareness about taking responsibility for our environment and our future.

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“This year’s theme, ‘Forests and Innovation: New Solutions for a Better World,” highlights the critical need for us to harness the power of innovation to protect and sustainably manage our forests,’ she said.

Olusanya, who said the population of Lagos State, presently estimated to be 22 million and still growing, would undoubtedly exert tremendous pressure on natural vegetation.

“As we all know, forests are not only essential for biodiversity conservation but also play a crucial role in mitigating climate change.

“They also provide livelihoods for millions of people, ensuring the overall well-being of our planet.

“In Lagos State, we recognise the significance of our forests and the urgent need to adopt innovative solutions to address the challenges facing them,” she said.

She added that rapid urbanisation, deforestation, illegal logging, and climate change were threatening the very existence of the forests, putting the ecosystems and communities at risk.

“I am committed to working tirelessly with our government, stakeholders, and partners to promote sustainable forest management practices and drive innovation in the conservation and restoration of our forests.

“We must strive to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection, ensuring that future generations can inherit a world rich in biodiversity and natural resources,” she said.

Earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, Dr. Rotimi Fashola, said in his goodwill message that the forest was something everyone needed to think about.

“In our small gathering, let’s start to think about nature. You cannot kill nature; it will always fight and win, but we all want to be on the positive side of nature.

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“When nature fights, it sweeps everything and I hope nature will not sweep us away,” he said.

The Special Adviser, Office of Political, Legislative and Civic Engagement (OPLCE), Dr. Tajudeen Afolabi, said in his goodwill message that the forest was life.

“When the last tree is cut, the last man on earth dies. Why don’t you go back to your house and plant trees there?” he asked.

Afolabi, who is also the National President of Forestry Association of Nigeria, added that there should be sustainability in tree planting, enjoining everyone to protect the environment. (NAN) (

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