Gov. Obaseki Approves Special Operation to Rid Okomu Forest, National Park of Criminal Elements within 90 Days
By John Ewah
Edo State Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has approved a special security operation, to rid the Okomu Forest and the Okomu National Park of criminal elements within 90 days. This was disclosed in a meeting held on Monday May 8th, 2023, by the Governor with Members of the African Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation, the CP, National Reserve, Okomu, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chief Security Officer to the Governor, acting Chairman of Edo State Forestry Commission, and other stakeholders, at the Edo State Government House, Benin City.
Governor Obaseki noted that the operation which is going to be a night and day exercise, will also involve the Nigerian Military and other security agencies. According to the Governor, “I have just given approval for a special operation to security agencies, to go and flush out all criminal gangs from Okomu Forest and Okomu National Park. This is going to be a night and day exercise.
We are going to be sourcing for the support and help of the Chief of Army Staff, to make sure that the new rangers we have just trained and that are going to be policing that park, are protected and safe”.
Governor Obaseki decried the rate and cost of indiscriminate logging at the Forest and Park on the environment, describing it as unquantifiable. Obaseki said: “This is critical because the rate at which logging is being undertaken in that park; the cost to our environment cannot be quantified. This is an issue that is of great concern to the people and government of Edo State.
I am now mandating a special night and day operation. Nobody who should not be in that game reserve or in that forest should be found wanting or found there. And anybody caught logging in that forest will be meant to face the law swiftly and squarely”.
Speaking in an interview with journalists, the Director, Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation, Bragadier General (Rtd.) Olajide Leyele, noted that 35 rangers have been successfully trained and well equipped to ensure that criminals operating within the Okomu National Park and the Okomu Forest Reserve are dislodged, as some successful operations and arrests have so far been made.
He however noted that the meeting with the Governor became expedient due to intelligence reports on the rise of criminal elements within the Forest. According to Leyele, “We obtained enough intelligence reports indicating that the number of criminals within these forests is high, and we needed His Excellency’s authority to conduct a bigger operation within these forests, because we are limited by manpower and equipment. To that effect, we came to see His Excellency today and he has graciously authorized the operation to flush out these criminals within 90 days”.
He has also given his authority that this operation be conducted in conjunction with the military, police and other security agents. To that effect, we will expeditiously and quickly come up with a plan. Once approved, the operation will commence, making sure that those ungoverned areas within the forest are devoid of criminal elements”.
Just like the Governor opined, Leyele noted that the illegal logging in those areas, if not checked, will affect the entire ecosystem.