PALANGKARAYA, Indonesia (22 September, 2011)_The Nigerian state of Cross River must protect its remaining tropical forest by taking a lead on REDD+ readiness activities and mobilising neighbouring states to take up the fight to protect its resources, said a Nigerian representative at the GCF task force meeting yesterday.
“We are determined to protect our forests and we hope that our preparation for REDD+ will encourage others to fight for REDD+ in all the Nigerian states”, said Arikpo Arikpo, Commissioner for the Cross River State Forestry Commission.
Nigeria, once in the heart of the tropical rainforest belt, has lost over 95 percent of its forest due to logging for oil exploration, commercial timber production and forest clearing for agriculture.
With billions of dollars being generated in the economy from oil revenues alone, environmentalists fear that the Nigerian government has little incentive to move forward with Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation schemes (REDD) schemes, a mechanism that pays developing countries to keep the forest standing.
At the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force meeting held in Kalimantan, Arikpo called on policy-makers across the 36 Nigerian states to take the lead in developing sub-national REDD+ polices in order to gain REDD funding.
“We must be the engine that drives and anchors REDD+ at the national level, otherwise we will not succeed.”
Arikpo also demanded national recognition for existing biodiversity laws that would ensure the protection of thousands of plant and animal species found in Nigeria’s last remaining forests.
“Cross River is a biodiversity hotspot and as I far as I can see, there has been no attempt by the government to protect our resources. Unless there is a movement at the grass roots level to push the biodiversity agenda, then REDD+ will not happen” he added.
The Cross River state now holds 66 percent of all the forest left in Nigeria and is home to over 1,000 plant species and 400 animal species.
In Cross River a state-wide moratorium on illegal logging and a special task force to detain illegal loggers have so far proved successful in reducing deforestation rates. The UN-REDD programme is also providing over $3-4 million for the development of a two year REDD readiness strategy.
Nigeria joined the GCF in 2009 and its Governor, Head of the Forestry Commission in Nigeria, Odigha Odiga, has been an outspoken advocate for REDD in Nigeria and in other African states.
“Cross River state is really leading the way for the whole country and is really changing the way that people are thinking about REDD, not just in Nigeria but throughout Africa”, said William Boyd, GCF Secretariat.
Nigeria has one of the worst deforestation rates both in Africa and worldwide, losing approximately 400,000 hectares or 4 percent of its forest each year.