Aggrieved loggers in Edo State on Friday in Benin City disrupted free flow of traffic as they took to the streets to protest alleged closure of the forests to their operations in the past seven months while granting access to some Chinese loggers to do business. They claimed that the action of the state government had subjected the over 8,000 loggers and their dependants to untold hardship.
The protesters, who brandished placards with different inscriptions expressing their grievances against the Godwin Obaseki-led government vowed to continue with the protests until their demands are met.
Speaking to journalists at the Edo State secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, secretary of Edo Saw-millers Association, Dr. Nosa Abosanmwan, said “Our workforce is over 8,000, and all of them are at home. You can imagine the number of people depending on them. Many of these workers have families, and you can imagine the ripple effects this is having on us. We supported the governor when he was contesting, but we didn’t know he would put us into suffering this way. “The painful part is that our forests have been closed to indigenes, but opened to the Chinese to be picking woods. But we don’t want to take laws into our hands, that is why we are staging this march. He has made series of promises and none of these promises have been kept; we are going to continue until our demands are met.” Also, the Chairman, Edo State Timber Lorry Owners, Walter Osadolor, said there are about 2,000 trucks in the state with each having three to four workers. He appealed to the public to prevail on the state government to allow them go back to the forests. Reacting to the development, the state communication and orientation commissioner, Andrew Adaze Emwanta, explained that the state was carrying out reforestation and that many of the loggers were carrying out illegal operations in the forests. Emwanta however denied the allegation that Chinese operators were being granted access to the forests, stating in another breath that the issue would be investigated. He said the government had commenced a meeting with the leadership of the unions to carry them along in the new regulations in Edo forests.