The leadership of the Cross River State REDD+ Communities Coalition representing forest communities delineated for the implementation of climate change mitigation in Cross River state have raised alarm over the rate of deforestation in the state. This information was made public during a consultative town hall meeting with We the People in Ikom, Cross River State.

According to the leaders, efforts towards the take-off of REDD+ in the state have been seriously compromised due to the emergence of a new forest security regime which has encouraged the surfacing of illegal loggers. They stated further that the government of Cross River state through its lax treatment of forest preservation is also principally responsible for the resurge of illegal deforestation in the state.

In his comment, the Chairman of the CRSRCC Chief James Achu stated that the attitude of the state government has encouraged persons to descend on the forests at an alarming rate. “When the state government decided to create a massive Super Highway through the forest that took a huge chunk of land which is not necessary for the highway, it demonstrated that the preservation of the forest was not principal in its thinking. When it decided to clear a large chunk of the mangrove forest under the guise of establishing an entertainment venture called Calas Vegas, it showed that the forest was dispensable”. Chief Achu went further to inform the meeting that never had the state suffered a higher rate of deforestation than at the current time. He described the rate of deforestation as ‘free for all’.

In his own comment, former Chairman of the Ekuri Initiative, a forest community founded conservation organization Mr. Manus Olory called attention to an emerging trend where hitherto protected forests were being leased to politicians and private individuals for the establishment of cocoa plantations. He said one of the Ekuri forest clusters had already lost a large parcel of pristine forest to a local politician for the establishment of one such plantation for 99 years. The forest was thoroughly logged, the timber sold and cocoa planted. “Today, promoting the logic of conservation attracts ridicule, logging is the fashion” he added.

It will be recalled that over a decade ago, the government of Cross River State imposed a moratorium on the State’s vast forests, banning all logging, harvesting and hunting in the forests. Soon after, it engaged the United Nations supported REDD+ process with the intent of further protecting the forest for REDD+ and the generating of carbon credits. A REDD+ inception phase was initiated with the aim of getting the state and its forest communities ready for the full implementation of the climate change mitigation scheme. Whether this REDD+ Readiness phase has been successful is a matter of debate. Several Community members claim the readiness phase failed to reach out to them and didn’t secure their free, prior and informed consent.

The consultative meeting was organized by We the People as a forum for REDD+ delineated communities in Cross River State to address emerging concerns about abuses of community rights and livelihoods within the framework of REDD+ implementation.

In the coming weeks, We the People will create public spaces for sharing the concerns of these communities as well as engaging the responsible UN REDD+ agencies.