Osogbo – Gov. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun said on Tuesday that natural forests should be jealously protected for they determine the continuity of the human existence.
Aregbesola made the call in Osogbo while declaring open a 3-day public hearing on forest encroachment.
Describing forest encroachment as the source of economic woes and communal clashes, he said natural forest provided oxygen needed for the continuity of the human existence.
The governor said the present generation should see itself as the custodian of land for the coming generation, in the same way past generations held it in trust for the present generation.
According to him, it is imperative for the people to preserve the forest for the general good of all and stop any form of encroachment.
“This public hearing is all about fostering peaceful atmosphere in our state in line with the 6-points integral actions of the government.
“It is a statement of fact that forest encroachment is a source of economic crisis and communal clashes in many of our communities.
“We must put a stop to any form of forest encroachment in our state and make our environment habitable, peaceful and economic viable,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, a resource person at the event, Prof. Labode Popoola, condemned the drastic reduction of natural forests in Nigeria, especially in the last 50 years, as a result of deforestation and other outlawed activities.
“There is an annual deforestation of about 3.5 per cent in Nigeria, which makes the environment to be at risk of global warming,” he said.
However, Chief Adeyeye Adekola, a community leader and one of the Ile-Ife kingmakers, expressed confidence in the steps being taken by the Osun government to end the menace of forest encroachment.
Adekola said forests around the ancient town, especially the Shasha forest, remained paramount to the people of Ile-Ife because of its economic value.
Also, a timber contractor at Ikire, Alhaji Tiamiyu Adeola, said the issue of illegal activities in the forest was worrisome and required urgent attention.
Adeola said billions of naira had been lost to encroachment of the forest, while the environment was no longer safe for peaceful habitation. (NAN)