Text of Press Conference Organized by We the People and the Rainforest Resources
and Development Centre on the Spate of Deforestation in the Cross River Forests.

5th September 2022. Calabar.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, and civil society organizations, we thank
you deeply for finding the time to attend this briefing.
Like most citizens in Cross River state, we are pained and concerned by current happenings
around the vast Cross River Rainforest estate. Recall that in 2008, the state government had
instituted a blanket ban on all forest activities, specifically targeting loggers which it
considered the key drivers of deforestation at the time. For the government at the time, this
action was necessitated by the need to protect the most critical asset of Cross River state
which is its vast forests and the wildlife it shelters.
It is important to note that the Cross River Tropical Rainforest was esteemed the richest cover
in the whole of West Africa right up to the 20 th Century. A massive share of the forest cover
left in Nigeria is located in the state. As at 1990, it was estimated that 50% of Nigeria’s
remaining forest was located in Cross River, spanning through tropical rainforests and large
spreads of mangrove swamps in its southern parts. As at 1991, the total forest cover located
in Cross River State stood at 7,920 Km2, roughly covering about 34.3% of the state's overall
surface area. By 2008, the forest cover underwent considerable decline and dropped to about
6,102 Km2 and occupying 28.68% of the state's landmass. Between 1991 and 2001, the state
lost 1,514 Km2 of forest amounting to a 12% of its forest cover. Another 1,307 Km2 of forest
was lost in the 8-year period between 2000 and 2008, indicating a 17.64% decline in the
state’s forest. Available records indicate that each year, the rate of deforestation intensifies,
signifying a corresponding increase in the number of factors that drive forest loss which
includes illegal logging, agriculture, urbanization, amongst others. Other data indicates that
between 2000 and 2007, the forest loss was about 390 Km2. Between 2007 and 2014, the rate
increased sharply to 1,070Km2 in 7 years. Currently, the categorization of Cross River State
as the home of West Africa’s largest pristine rainforest is highly in doubt. The forests have
come under severe attacks by several actors including the state government, plantations
companies and illegal loggers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the progressive forest loss is going on at an alarming rate driven by
the following factors;
Salvage Logging by Commercial – Scale Agro-Allied Companies and Private
In simple terms, salvage logging is carried out in situations where a business concern,
principally commercial agricultural ventures require land to establish in otherwise forested
areas. To make the land fit for their purpose, they embark on massive logging and clearing of
the forest ostensibly to ‘salvage’ the land for that agricultural purpose. Research findings
show unregulated timber extraction activities by at least 21 Salvage Logging Companies and

55 private plantations being carried out in the pristine tropical rainforest estates of Cross
River state. Investigation also reveal that there are no publicly available records of
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports conducted before the commencement of
these projects.

Commercial Agriculture

Cocoa Plantations
At the moment, there is massive illegal encroachment and logging activities occurring in all
the Forest Reserves and the National Park in Cross River State. Research findings reveal that
several portions of conserved forest have been converted into monoculture cocoa and oil
palm plantation estates after logging have been previously carried out. Large scale forest
clearing necessitated by the need to secure land for the development of these plantations have
caused irreversible damage to the forest ecosystem and rich biodiversity of Cross River

Oil Palm Plantations
Experts reckon that at least 2/3 of the forest areas of Cross River State have been cleared and
transformed to commercial plantations. Out of this, oil palm plantations have been
established on 62.5% of what used to be forest areas. Wilmer is by far the biggest investor in
the oil palm space in Cross River State. Over the years, the company’s palm plantations have
extended well into protected forest areas which have been logged for the purpose of replacing
the trees with palms. A 2015 mapping analysis conducted by Friends of the Earth, revealed
that ‘deforestation has been occurring across all of Wilmar's concessions in Cross River
State, with a rapid acceleration starting in 2011, and an increase each year since.’
Pineapple Plantation
In Akamkpa local government area and on the fringes of the National Park, the Cross River
State government granted permit to Dansa Allied Agro, subsidiary of the business concern,
Dangote Group to establish a pineapple plantation and a facility for processing fruit into
pineapple juice. However, rather than plant pineapples or process pineapple juice, the
concession has provided cover for massive logging activities in the Cross River National
Park. Research reveals that for several years, the vast area occupied by the company operated
as a wood processing factory. For several years, all the company did was felling of trees and
process timber for sale to the public, at a time becoming the biggest source of timber in the
state. Several timber dealers confirm that the Dansa Allied Agro company was their major
source of timber for several years. The company defends their logging activities and describe
it as ‘salvage logging’.

Non State Drivers of Deforestation
Since 2015, logging activities in the Cross River forest took a new more sinister turn,
happening more routinely and openly. In many communities, loggers and timber dealers
establish their trading posts close to the forests, and form trade unions to regulate the
business. Logs are openly processes into various sizes, loaded onto trucks and transported to

destinations within and outside the state fairly easily. Transportation by road requires the
regular bribing of law enforcement officials including the state Anti-Deforestation Taskforce,
the Forestry Commission, the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps
and the Army. On the rare occasions where seizures of timber do happen, it is as a result of
disagreements over rates of ‘settlement’.
Driver of deforestation include the following;
 Forest Guides
 Chainsaw Operators
 Crossers
 Timber Merchants
 Transporters
 Law Enforcement Operatives

Strengthened Joint Taskforce
The destruction of the Cross River tropical rainforest persists and thrives because there is a
demand for illegally gotten timber and there are opportunities of getting those logs into the
markets. It follows that if the outlets into the market are blocked, the incentive to cut down
trees will diminish.
Combined Teams of Department of State Security (DSS) Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related
Offences Commission
A team comprising of the Department of State Security Services, the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences
Commission could make very useful contributions towards halting the illegal trade in timber
products originating from the Cross River forests. One strategy would be to monitor the bank
accounts of suspected ‘crossers’ and timber merchants, and take appropriate action as and
when due. When the movement of money meant for the purchase of timber and the bribing of
public officials is made difficult, this will create a climate of uncertainty which will in turn
make both local and foreign actors extremely circumspect.
Improved Customs Monitoring
Another strategy for discouraging the operations of external merchants is by the counter
activities of the Customs. Timber products are not light weight and invisible materials that
can be taken out of the country without the notice of the Custom’s Department. A properly
mobilized Customs Services can check illegal exportation of timber products out of Nigeria.

Reversing Government Policies that Threaten the Forests

The government of Cross River state takes a significant share of the blame for what has
become of the Cross River forests. From permitting salvage logging, to granting concessions
to commercial agricultural ventures and carrying out infrastructure constructions that require
destroying large sections of the forests, the government has not lived up to its claim of
preserving the ecosystem. To preserve what remains of the forests, the government needs to
cease all further concessions to commercial agricultural ventures near or within the forest
areas. It needs to go further to address complaints that concessions already granted have
expanded beyond their lines into the forests.
Additionally, it is important for the government to re examine all the infrastructural projects
it intends to carry out around forested areas. One way of doing this will be to carry out
independent and thorough environmental and social impact assessments, to unravel the
ecological, economic and social implications of each infrastructure project.

Communities Taking the Lead
The indigenous people who live in and around the Cross River forests have historically taken
the lead in preserving their forests. For generations, they fought off profiteers, including
those sanctioned by the government. While the colonial, regional and state governments
respectively saw the forests as a revenue source, the indigenous people saw it as part of their
heritage and existence. It is recommended that state government policies that deprive
communities of agency in protecting the forests be reversed, while communities are
encouraged to take initiatives in once again protecting the forests