Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Illegal logging in Ondo State
Illegal logging in Ondo State of Nigeria
Efforts to conserve the Nigerian forests started in the late 19th century during the colonial era. The British-led government realized the un-monitored rate of forest exploitation and the potential of it leading to subsequent ecological problems. This was the advent of a reservation policy and programme in Nigeria and with the effort, an area of 10% was put under forest reservation. The results represent the forest reserves we have all over the country as of today. On paper, Nigeria has a total of 1,160 forest reserves covering a land area of 1075 km2. However, this is not the same story if a ground truthing exercise were to be carried out. Many of the forest reserves have nearly been stripped of their former richness because of the unchecked extent of anthropogenic deforestation. All the other areas that were not categorized as forest reserves are referred to as the free areas and they cover a total of 914 km2. .;; ) Upon independence the Nigerian government took over from the colonial government and the control of forests was placed under the jurisdiction of the regional governments and which subsequently became divided into states. So, each state in the Nigerian federation has a department of forestry that sees to the affairs of the forest and they answer to the authority of the state governments. However, despite 'flag' independence, the Nation’s forestry sector continued with the templates of the British and which is still in use today with relatively few changes.
About Ondo State
Ondo state is located within the tropical rainforest zone of Nigeria with an approximate area of 14,788.728 km2 and in size. The state lies within longitudes 4°301 & 6° E and latitudes 5° 451. The forest type is typically an evergreen one due to the high precipitation and insolation rate. Ondo state was carved out of the old western region of colonial Nigeria and it was created in 1976. Ondo state has sixteen documented forest reserves out of which thirteen were noted for reservation potential as of the time structured forestry practices began in the 1930s.(
Framing the Problem
Illegal logging problem can be defined within the scope of the following processes: Issuance of permits and plot concessions, felling, transportation, log processing and the sale process. The illegality occurs when these processes are done in violation of applicable local, national or international laws. Globally it has been estimated that a total of 810 billion US dollars is lost on a yearly basis on account of illegal logging and this says so much about how bad this problem is, globally.. As of today, the deforestation rate has climbed high, and Nigeria has one of the highest rates in the world. Particularly, illegal logging has been a major factor of concern on the deforestation issue. According to), on an annual basis, the country loses about 400,000 ha of forest  The problem, however, could be traced back through history as the exploitation of the Nigerian forest already started way back during the colonial days. Despite the fact that the colonial masters realized the fact that the continuous unchecked logging activities would be a problem in the longer run, they had their primary objective on maintaining an economic platform of revenue generation from the rising export of logs from the Nigerian rainforest which includes Ondo state (;.The post-independence era in Nigeria as a whole is just the continuation of British policies and practices, and one important issue that was evident in the pre-independent and the post-independence dispensation was that the rights of the people have never been recognized. The non-inclusive approach of the government is well portrayed in the introduced land use act in 1978 which completely stripped the indigenous people of their rights to the forests that have always been theirs. 
State Department of Forestry
However, the poor management template of the forest reserves in the state by the department of forestry has greatly fueled the illegal logging problem. There are no up to date databases for the volume of harvested logs from the reserves and the extent of replanting done over time. Additionally, there has been no review of the age-long template of management and policies put in place by the British during the colonial era. So, it is not so far-fetched to attribute the root of the illegal logging problem to the ill-fitting structure of the forestry department of Nigeria and which invariably reflects in the context of the state level. Another of the linked factors is the corrupt practices within the state-controlled forestry department. There exists a rot in the system. Many of the forest officers present in the state department would be found guilty of corruption, if there were an independent investigation. The most important point of consideration for most of these officials is money, rather than their required civil responsibilities Also, as a result of the un-reviewed status of the State Forest Policy Act, the forest tariff rate is quite low and that means there is not so much revenue going into the coffers of the Ondo state forestry department. That reflects in turn on the poor state of finance of the department. Another problem is the poor enforcement of Forest laws. This further corroborates the issue of corrupt practices and the ever-increasing rate of illegal logging activities in the state.The free areas of most of the forests in Ondo state have been heavily exploited compared to the reserved area. Reasons being to the fact of the exorbitant fine attached to felling illegally in the main forest reserves. This situation pushes the potential loggers to look for alternatives in the free areas which the government also has a control on. However, loggers that can possibly pay more would always have their ways in the main forest reserves and that is synonymous to the part of “given to the highest bidder”. During the process of the concession of logging areas, often illegal loggers go beyond their designated point as there no adequate facilities to measure and verify the extent of their mandated cuts. So, illegal felling happens concurrently both in the free areas and the main forest reserves, although, the free zones are the most exploited.The highest level of exploitation has been attributed to the areas around Owo free areas in Ondo State and wood species of high economic values have the record of being the most exploited .Most illegal logging activities are carried out at night and those involved are often armed and dangerous and they pose a danger not just to the ill-prepared forest guards but also the community dwellers.
One other driver of illegal logging as identified is the high rate of unemployment in the state and this has further aggravated the level of desperation and which leads to the search for alternatives means of livelihood sustenance . For this reason, many young people have become agents for the foreign and local wood-based businessmen and industries dealing in illegal log purchases.
Local Community Involvement
Another noted driver of illegal logging in Ondo State is the involvement of local communities. Due to the poor economic status of the locals and the heavy presence of foreigners with a lot of money, many community leaders have indirectly influenced the continuous felling of trees illegally. In most circumstances, there is a liaison between the local chiefs, the forest officers, and foreigners that need wood at all cost. This is well buttressed by the findings of  The study revealed that most logs in the wood market are often sourced illegally. This situation might have been the opposite if the community dwellers had their right to the management of the forests recognized.
The unregulated management of the Ondo State Forests has allowed for external influence from foreigners who have greatly taken advantage of the poor management situation of the forests reserves. This situation has become an international concern especially with the shift of focus of certain countries on poor and susceptible African countries possessing commercially desirable wood species (. An example is that of China's interest in Rosewood. This species can also be found in some certain part in Ondo State and neighboring states' forests. The Chinese appetite for this wood type has drawn a lot of attention to and invariably a lot of possibility of more money in the black market. Currently, Nigeria is taking lead as the lead supplier of Rosewood to China, according to (. In 2014, the total export of Rose Wood from Nigeria alone reached 300,000m3. This was a situation that never existed until just some few years ago and now the population of Rosewood has greatly reduced.
The forest ecosystem is often subjected to a great deal of degradation because of the after effect of illegal logging which is usually carried out in haphazard ways in the forests  Felling of logs unlawfully as noted, often open the forests to several possible manifestations of degradation such as loss of canopy cover, destruction of saplings and other tender seedlings on the forest floor  The loss of forest canopy cover will reduce the potential of local microclimates and which has a potential to affect the hydrological processes of the area at large. Another manifestation of degradation is the destruction of habitats of other dependent lifeforms in the forest. With climate change on the frontline, there has been a continuous emission of stored up carbon in the trees destroyed during careless felling.
Ondo State is losing a lot to illegal logging activities. The situation is such that several dubious small-scale wood-based industries and their foreign counterparts are found to usually evade tax payment to the government. The forest officers are also guilty of not remitting what ought to be remitted. So, the country has lost so much in potential revenue, with reference to a newspaper article (), Nigeria has lost a sum of 1 Billion Naira (2777800.0000 US Dollars) through illegal logging to foreign countries in the last 6 years.
Despite the involvement of the locals in the unlawful exploitation of the forest in Ondo State, there is still the angle of impact on their safety as most illegal perpetrators often use weapons and aggressive means in the process of felling logs in the forests. Often there has always been the problem of kidnapping and killings. This situation is quite rampant but, unfortunately, there has not been proper documentation to showcase the extent of loss in this regard 
Illegal logging activities is a big problem in Ondo state, and the situation is applicable to all the states in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Now, the situation is worsening day by day as the focus of felling is now shifted to immature trees because of fewer mature trees remaining in the forest. In the near future, Ondo State might be left with nothing of indigenous tree species and the potential impact of heavy illegal activities could be very detrimental to the state and the country at large. However, there is the need for an urgent review of national management templates and policies in such a way that the existing problem might be well addressed. An adequate and transparent database is needed to ensure a proper monitoring regime of activities of wood harvesting and planting. Additionally, there is the need for the reviewing of the Nigerian Land Use Act to recognize rights of indigenous peoples . A broad democratic effort is needed in the context of protecting the forests in Nigeria and this will determine the outlook in the state and local levels. Also, there is the need for an overhauling exercise in the forestry department nationwide such that criminal officers are fished out. The necessity for the engagement of stakeholders that really understand the intricacies involved in forest management is highly essential now.
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