By Ene Asuquo 

Forest stakeholders have called on the state Governor, prince Bassey Otu to immediately disband the anti-deforestation taskforce that was set-up by the Governor.

The stakeholders met in Calabar the State capital at the second multi-stakeholders conference on deforestation organized by a group called “We The People”.

The attendance made up of forest experts, community leaders and  environment experts alleged that more than 80 per cent of the taskforce members engaged  in illegal wood logging in large scale.

Two former chairmen of the state forestry commission,  Dr Odigha Odigha and Peter Jenkins as well as the paramount ruler of Boki LGA of the state, alongside other forest expert like Ken Henshaw and others raised the alarm, insisting that the state government must disband the taskforce immediately. 

The 21-man taskforce is headed by Mr Charles Ikpeme and Secretary is Chief Cyril Anthony.

The 1-day workshop also accused a good number of the state House of Assembly members as amongst those allegedly devastating forest resources in the state.

“The formation of the taskforce by Gov Bassey Otu is a very dangerous signal to forest management in the state.  I am very afraid that they can not achieve anything because more than 80% of the members are amongst the key men that plunder our remaining forests. 

“They and some state legislators are members of dreaded armed cartels which, with connivance with some Chinese nationals, terrorised local forest activists and guides and reap several millions of Naira from illegal logging.

“Composition of that taskforce does not augur well for the state; it is the greatest blunder, a disturbing signal from the government. We have not seen anyone there who is a forest protagonist. That taskforce can mar the government of Senator Bassey Otu if not dissolved now”, the experts said.

Ken Henshaw, convener of the workshop said they lost it when the governor failed to read the Riot Act on deforestation during his inaugural address.

Reacting to allegations against himself as a person and taskforce earlier where he was alleged to have reacted violently,  secretary of the taskforce, Chief Cyril Anthony denied that they are not dangerous and are not illegal wood loggers.  

He said the state governor properly consulted with stakeholders before he approved of the membership

“It is not true that the taskforce members engage in illegal deforestation otherwise the governor wont appoint us”, he said.