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Bauchi: The politics of deforestation

Recently, a committee was inaugurated by Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammad to implement the government’s White Paper on the report of administrative committee on land use…

Recently, a committee was inaugurated by Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammad to implement the government’s White Paper on the report of administrative committee on land use abuse, illegal allocation and farmers and herders clashes in the local government areas of the state.

This news, to some extent, soothed our hearts that have been burning helplessly for several months because of the impunity and lawlessness being perpetrated by government officials and politicians in our local governments.

The scandalous sale and allocation of the historic Lame-Burra Game Reserve and Burra-Tamba Grazing Reserve by a group secretly formed by local government officials and local politicians is the heaviest blow we have ever suffered as community and environmental activists.

About two decades ago when we started our activism to protect our forests and reserves against deforestation and other harmful activities so as to avoid environmental disasters and other negative effects, we thought by now, the problem of deforestation in our area would have been reduced or eliminated completely.

The Lame/Burra Game Reserve, which covers about 2,351.92 km2, is situated in Toro and Ningi Local Governments Area. The area was designated for nature reserve and maintenance of natural habitats.

One will never expect that this Game Reserve being one of the greatest treasures and tourism attraction sites of the State will be carelessly managed and left in the hands of local politicians who subsequently decided to sell it to the highest bidders.

Motivated by greed and the huge amount money they generated without hitches, the local government officials, local politicians and a certain bureaucracy of our traditional institution decided that more money would come if they allocate some of the forest reserves in the area to themselves, cronies and any interested buyer.

Environmental activists and community leaders alerted the government on the dangerous trend which is capable of plunging the state into serious security and environmental disaster.

The District Head of Burra Alhaji Ya’u Shehu Abubakar has been the greatest force in the fight against deforestation but he is lone in the fight thus he watched them helplessly. Knowing that he was the major threat in their deforestation and farmlands allocation business, the officials connived and got him suspended from office. They now have a freeway.

Later the government cancelled all the allocations in the reserves and set up a committee to investigate. But this didn’t stop the atrocities. They paused on the allocation and concentrate on logging and massive production of charcoal from the Reserve.

It’s obvious that local politicians see our forests as political bounties. Whenever an election is held, the target of the members of the winning party is to take control of forests and reserves in their communities. This twist of politics started more than a decade ago but worsened from 2020 to date.

Nobody will think that after many actions taken by Governor Bala Mohammad against the then caretaker chairmen of Ningi, Darazo and Misau as well as some traditional rulers on their involvement in deforestation and farmers and herders clashes, there will be any local government official or traditional ruler that will support or take part in these nefarious activities. But the crop of leaders and politicians we have at the local governments are doing more atrocities to the reserves and the environment and fuelling more ill feeling and chaos among farmers and herders.

Most of them don’t share the vision of the present administration of protecting the environment and preventing farmers and herders clashes and it is clear that the warnings and policy pronouncements by Governor Bala Mohammad are falling into their deaf ears.

The DIG Sani Muhammad-led White Paper Implementation Committee has a lot of work to do in investigating the institutionalised destruction of forest reserves in the state. Many big names in local governments are involved. The magnitude of the negative effects of these activities should be great thing of concern for any patriotic son of the state. Thus they should spare no one in their task.

I am also of the view that after punishing all people found wanting in these atrocities against the state, government should come up with workable policy about all forest reserves in the state with a view to protecting and strengthening them for the optimal benefits of the citizens.

Abdul Ahmad Burra can be reached via [email protected]

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