By Ademola Orunbon
IN assessing a political and economic leader, the primary qualities to consider include the theoretical ideals of vision, commitment and political will to tackle the situation. Then, of course, we take stock of the leader’s capacity to deliver in terms of concrete achievements. A leader is adjudged to be a success if his contributions are visibly evident, but a failure if there are little or no achievements to show for the period he was in office. Rarely, do we take into consideration the impossible State of affairs – that is, an imagination of the extent to which things would have been worse without the services of the leader.
It follows, therefore, that a meaningful assessment of any leader must always take into consideration the special circumstances into which fate has thrust him and how much efforts and energy he has invested to make a change. This is where history will be kind to Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
In August, 2004 precisely, the Ogun State government created the Ministry of Forestry to fully exploit the potentials of the state’s forest resources, though, it’s primary responsibility is to ensure rapid development of the state’s forest resources in all ramifications. The Ministry is to coordinate all forestry activities in the state with a view to ensuring controlled and orderly exploitation of timber and non-timber forest resources so as to prevent soil degradation and provide mitigation against other disasters such as erosion, flood, global warming etc, which could result from deforestation. After all, Ogun State forestry has an advantage of close proximity to forestry and agricultural institutions which provide technical and human resources supports.
Though, Nigerian economy is known around the world for being an oil economy and has made headlines over the year for environmental degradation in the oil producing region of the country, but this project has the potential to create greater awareness of the opportunities for environmentally responsible business in the State. This could potentially catalyse similar initiatives in other states within the Federation that have similar potential and birth a new wave of environmentally responsible, commercially viable, socially inclusive business within the Nigerian economy.
Even during the 2016 budget presentation, Governor Amosun stated that the State Raw Materials Centre, which was established to provide information on the basic raw materials available in the state as well as those in other states of the Federation, will be upgraded to “Ogun Standard” to enable it to fully serve the intended purpose. Though, the State, no doubt, is endowed with many mineral resources and the governor will ensure optimal commercial exploitation of these resources to the benefit of the good people of the state.
The reviving of Forest Landscape Restoration Project becomes imperative and a welcome idea as the restoration of 108, 000 hectares of forest in Ogun State; South-West Nigeria, which has been depleted to seven percent of original size and is facing extinction within a decade, this was due to the criminal negligence of the past administration to look inward and repackage the agricultural and forest landscape restoration project to an enviable height in the State.
According to the State Commissioner for Forestry, Chief Kolawole Lawal, Ogun State Forestry Landscape Restoration Project will help the state to bring about economic revival to forest dependent rural communities. It will also support the co-existence of both traditional\nomadic cattle herding communities and larger scale agro industry. And successful execution of this project could materially increase Ogun Sstate’s capacity in important cash crops like oil palm, rubber and cocoa that continue to experience growing demand globally.
The State is now keen to match it’s drive for industrial growth with encouraging environmental best practices amongst the industrial community. Lafarge Africa, a partner in this project is positioned in the energy intensive business of cement production. It has a group target of meeting 30 percent of its energy requirements through renewable energy/biomass by 2020. Currently, at around 15 percent for their Nigerian operations, this project would enable significant progress towards meeting it’s target in Nigeria.
This could transform the economy of the state and create much needed employment driven by rural communities which are at risk of being left behind. This would expect Human Development Indicators within these communities to improve as a consequence of greater economic participation. This will also scale up food security with the effective development of staple annual crops such as maize and cassava, which would support food security in the state, region and in the country as a whole. This is critical in the context of a very young population and annual population growth rates of around 2.5 percent per annum.
Now, the State is collaborating with a NGO named, Nigerian Conservative Foundation (NCF) to promote forest conservation in the State forest reserves, particularly in Omo Forest Reserve. This collaboration, tagged “ Omo-Oluwa Shasha Conservation Project” cuts across the three states of Ogun, Ondo and Osun. A total of 30, 000 hectres within Omo Forest Reserve had been conserved for the project (as Ogun State contribution to the project).
The project entails three primary issues; hasting of logging and other human activities such as farming and hunting; regeneration of the remaining natural forest and establishment of protected area in the reserve. It was bankroled by the British Gas Limited (BGL).
Though, Ogun State has nine forest reserves, covering a total land area of 273, 162 hectares, which is about 16 percent of the land mass of of the state and of which about 30 percent are still forested. The low land rain forest is the dominant forest type with forest reserves and occupies 93.9 percent of the forested area. The fresh water swamp forest occupies 4.5 perecnt and the riparian forest covers 1.6 percent of the state’s forest reserves. The forest reserves are planted with local species of forest trees like Afara, Opepe, Apa, Mahogany etc and exotic species like Teak and Gmelina.
•Orunbon writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State.