By Jeleel Olawale
The Chairman, Ife Timber Contractors and Sawmillers’ Association, Comrade Olaobaju Olalekan has described the degenerating state of the Ife Forest Reserve as partetic and worrisome, saying the Forest has been deserted.
According to him, Ife Sasa Forest Reserve exists on World map paper but on its physical sense, it is not existed. It is a cocoa farm and there is lack of maintenance by the state government and Ile-Ife.
Olaobaju made this known in chat with our correspondent. He said the association had dragged about sixteen illegal farmers before the court on allegations of trespass, illegal farming with the support of the officials of ministry of environment but were later freed with the intervention of politicians.
He stressed that successive government tried to pleased its own people, “involvement of politicians in the Forest Reserve is a clog in the wheel of the Forest, our association has done a lot to protect the Forest but politicians have not helped the situation. We tried our best but to no avail”.
“Most of the trees we planted were being destroyed by farmers every year. A director in the ministry of environment supported us in the planting of trees and the tree we planted particularly at ‘Area 4’ vandalized. We even reported activities of a monarch in the area to the Ooni’s palace and nothing was done on it.
There are about one hundred and seventy Sawmills in Ile-Ife and if they are allowed to close down due to lack of timbers in the Forest Reserve may lead to people resulting to criminality. The current state of insufficient timbers is affecting economy of the town especially members of the association.
“Although, it is the responsibility of government to do massive replanting of trees but they failed to do so, we take upon ourselves to do the replanting. So, we are making progress. The plank industry has tremendously boosting economy of Ile Ife and Osun State in particular”.
Olaobaju said that there is no timber in the Government Forest Reserve, stressing that there is need for concerted efforts for the revitalisation of the Forest.
He noted that lack of proper supervision by the state government is affecting the forest, adding that the GRA had been deserted by the farmers and government did not do anything on it which shows insensitivity on the part of the government, “the Forest has become subject of politics and Ife did not even value it”, Olaobaju declared.
The chairman therefore, called on state government to invest in the Forest Reserve and give the association necessary support to rejuvenate it. He appeals to government and Ile-Ife not to make the Forest Reserve solemnly a farming area because it will consequently affect all in future.