The disclosure by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) that the country is losing about a half kilometer of its land mass annually to desert encroachment is upsetting. The Director-General of the NCF, Muktari Aminu-Kano, raised the alarm in Lagos at the 2018 edition of the Green Ball series with the theme: “Green Recovery Nigeria: Restoring Mangroves and Reclaiming the Desert.” The NCF boss lamented that mangroves were also being lost in the Niger Delta region.

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The most worrisome aspect of the development is that the country has lost up to 95 per cent of its forest cover. Aminu-Kano also advised that urgent measures must be taken now to curb deforestation and forest degradation, which are the ugly consequences of climate change for the nation.

Going by the reports, it is estimated that 350,000 hectares of land are being lost annually to desertification and the land lost is about 0.6, which is about half a kilometer every year. We commend the NCF for raising the alarm. However, we lament the continuous loss of Nigeria’s forest cover due to legal and illegal deforestation.

The Federal and state governments should be worried over the development and do something urgently to stem the tide. It is sad that while the world reportedly lost 3.3 per cent of its forests between 1990 and 2005, Nigeria lost 21 per cent. In 2016, Nigeria’s forest reserves stood at 5.04 of its total land mass of 923,678 square km.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forests are lost every year. Available statistics show that the annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is 3.5 percent or approximately 350,000 to 400,000 hectares per year. According to reports, Nigeria has the highest deforestation rate in the world.

Conservation experts explain that deforestation involves the cutting down of vegetation for economic or social reasons without any commensurate efforts on reforestation. It causes soil erosion, loss of wildlife and biodiversity ecosystems, as well as desertification. The government should map out plans to combat the deforestation challenge forthwith.

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It is never a matter that should be treated with levity or toyed with. The government must, therefore, promote clean sources of cooking energy and discourage the use of firewood. Government should ensure that cooking gas and kerosene are readily available and affordable in order to dissuade the people from using firewood for cooking.

There is the need for public enlightenment, especially in the rural areas on the need for them to use kerosene or gas for cooking. The Local Governments should lead the campaign in the rural areas. Let the Government also sustain the intensive campaigns against tree felling and encourage tree planting. There is the need to strengthen the Green Recovery Nigeria scheme which is aimed at retaining a significant proportion of the nation’s land mass under forest.

It should muster the political will to wage a relentless war against deforestation and desertification. It is regrettable that Nigeria entered an agreement with FAO in 1988 to restore 25 percent of its forest cover but has done nothing in that direction. However, other African countries have commenced the implementation of the agreement.

The increase in population and the effects of climate change have manifested through gully erosions in the South East and desertification in the Sahel. All states in the federation must embark on activities to check the continuous loss of the nation’s land due to deforestation and desertification.

They should be in the forefront of the tree planting campaign. There should be sustained efforts to replace all felled trees. Let the government come out with sustainable programmes to manage our land resources and diverse vegetations.

The Great Green Wall project of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration should be revisited. All tiers of government should work concertedly to check the rate of deforestation and desertification in the country.

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