The immediate past Chairman of Ijebu East Central Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Hon. Adebayo Osikomaya, has condemned the decision of the Ogun State Ministry of Forestry to demolish a N20million worth of bridge said to be built by some unknown persons in Ogun forest reserve.
DAILY POST recalls that the Commissioner for Forestry, Hon. Tunji Akinosi, had ordered that the bridge being built to link an area called Laagan to a village in Ondo State be pulled down before January 21.
According to Akinosi, those behind the bridge construction were illegal settlers and loggers, who wanted to create an easy means for the transportation of stolen government trees and resources.
He had told DAILY POST in a chat that the bridge must be demolished to put an end to illegal and criminal activities in the forest reserves.
But, while speaking on the issue, Osikomaya, described as worrisome, the directive given by the Commissioner for Forestry, Akinosi.
Osikomaya expressed dismay that the Commissioner described residents of Laagan as illegal residents.
According to him, “Laagan is a community/settlement of over 5,000 people whose major business is farming, adding that the area also falls under J4, Ajebandele ward, having existed over the last 30-40 years under the Owu-Ijebu Kingdom.
He said that, “government cannot point to any project, not even the grading of roads in and around that community, yet the people levied themselves and an appointee believes the best directive to give the people is to pull down such a bridge.”
Speaking about the bridge, he stated that, “I have read several reports about this bridge and I honestly think the reportage is unfair to the inhabitants of that community. For us, this is a clear case of oppression of people who lack power.
“I know of a fact that this bridge has been under construction for over three years and it is primarily to ease movement of people in an out of the community. Several lives have been lost over the years in that settlement because the people do not have roads.
“It would also amaze all who don’t have access to information that the government has officials like cocoa examiners, forest guards, independent revenue collectors located in the community and they have had them for several years.
“It’s a community the government has been making so much from without anything in return.
“Though the people don’t have any approval from the government for the construction of the bridge, but that shouldn’t warrant the commissioner to go to Laagan and burn down the building materials, direct the people to go and pull down the bridge or he would return their on the 21st of January to eject everyone and also burn down the community.
“I am making a special plea to the commissioner to calm down particularly, when the government has not given the people any alternative road or means of movement. The least the government would have done is to support such a community.
“Where government does not have projects and the people take on projects themselves, the people should be encouraged and not threatened,” he stressed.
Contrary to Akinosi’s assertion, Osikomaya hinted that “the financiers of the bridge are the people themselves who levied themselves over N40,000 to support the government in carrying out her responsibility.”
Reacting during a discussion on a Whatsapp platform on Tuesday, the Commissioner retorted that, “The bridge in question is one that tries to link Ogun and Ondo states together from the forest reserve. The area in question is a forest reserve! No human activity is allowed in there. The people there are illegal occupants; 95% of them are from states other than Ogun.
“I am sure you know there have been some illegal activities going on there before this government came on board. Just last month, the police team on patrol of the reserve were attacked and injured by the these same people.
“The place in question is about 6 hours by road from J4. It is in the heart of the forest! Why would they not use the approved routes if they are legal and the business they do is legal?
“We have met with them severally, asked them to leave since February 2020.
“May I say again for emphasis that no human activity is expected in that part of the forest in the first place. There is not supposed to be a farm in the area in question.
“We will not be asking government to do things right and at the same time asking us to close our eyes and ears to illegalities!
“This is how Sambisa Forest reserve became something else. There are designated agricultural lands that these people can apply for,” Akinosi insisted.
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