Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State on Tuesday said that about 138,000 hectares of government forest reserves had been encroached upon for farming in the state.
Akeredolu, represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Adegboye Adefarati, made this known while inaugurating the newly reconstituted State Task Force on farmers in government forest reserve in the state.
He said, “We have about 307,000 hectares of forest reserves in Ondo State but 138,000 hectares have been encroached upon by farmers. That is about 47 per cent of the reserve. So, we can not fold our arms and allow that to continue. There is a need to regulate the activities of the farmers because it will get to a stage where we will not be able to access our forest reserves again.
“Some of the farmers have been there for 10 to 15 years. Some of them planted cash crops such as cocoa, while some are even paying money to illegal persons.
“Although we will not drive them away, we are going to checkmate their activities in the areas.”
According to him, the major assignments of the task force are to register farmers and check illegal occupation and encroachment on the forest reserves as well as ensure regular payment of appropriate rents to the government.
Akeredolu explained that the task force was introduced in 2019 and later disbanded due to some challenges in the operation which necessitated the need to restructure and reposition it for better performance and effective service delivery.
“Despite the challenges we had in 2019, we still realised about N200 million into the government purse where there used to be no revenue in the past.
“This was made possible through the enforcement by the task force and we are targeting about N400 million to N500 million this year,” he said.
He further admonished members of the task force to justify the confidence government reposed in them by working relentlessly for the regeneration of the reserves and protection of the resources for future generations.