Members of the Ondo State Timber Traders Organisation have cried out as their businesses face hard times as a result of the state government’s ban on all lumbering activities in the state.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu ordered the ban as soon as he assumed office after observing irregularities and illegal felling of trees in the state’s forest reserves.
However, the operators complain that the the ban, which has lasted for two weeks, is adding to their already bad financial situation.
They appealed to the state government to lift the ban on the closure of the state’s forest in order not to worsen their economic woes.
The timber traders who made this appeal after their meeting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, said the call became imperative to save their business and to save its members from hunger.
The traders who met on Monday to review the situation, said lifting the ban was necessary to save their business as well avert severe hunger now threatening members of the timber organisation.
Speaking at the meeting, the chairman of the organisation, Ade Olukayode, condemned the action of the government, arguing that 90 per cent of the revenue accruing internally to the government came from the lumbering business.
Noting that the timber traders organisation had contributed tremendously to the economic development of the state, Mr. Olukayode said the state government caught them unawares when it delcared the forest reserves closed.
“Most of the timber traders obtained loans from banks to carry out their lawful businesses,” he said.
“The closure has affected their business negatively in the last two weeks.”
He wondered why the government decided to close both the free zone and the reserved area asserting that members of the association obtained permit from the government and are operating legally.
Mr. Olukayode said efforts were underway to resolve the problem, and called on members of the organisation to maintain the peace.
Also speaking, the chairman of the union in Akure South Local Government Area, Kunle Omotosho, appealed to the governor to consider the plight of the timber operators.
“The forest was closed across the state because of the atrocity of encroachers, but we operate legally and remit to the coffers of the state government as and when due,” he said.
“We want to appeal to the government to listen to our appeal and save us from the present situation, we are losing money day in day out while the present economy is bitting harder.
“Some encroachers have ruined the business. Our forest had been taken over by these people from other states. They are in the forest now working without any hindrance while some government officials are working hand in hand with them.”
Efforts to get an official response from the state government was unsuccessful as the governor’s newly appointed spokesperson, Segun Ajiboye, said he would not answer questions yet.