Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Criminality: Illegal Logging of Woods in Nigeria's South-West Forest Belt

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Criminality: Illegal Logging of Woods in Nigeria's South-West Forest Belt

Article excerpt

Introduction

The forest reserve in Nigeria is estimated to cover about 10 million hectares, which accounts for more than 10% of land area, of approximately 96.2 million hectares; 923,768 km square with a population of about 170,790 in 2006 (National Directorate of Employment, 2012). Nevertheless, in recent times the area marked as forest lands have been decreasing steadily due to the indiscriminate felling of trees and activities of illegal loggers which have continued in virtually every part of the country. For instance, the Federal Department of Forestry (2010) estimated that Nigerian forests are being depleted at an annual rate of 3.5%. Nigeria used to have about 20% of its area covered with natural forests but, this has been reduced to about 10%. It lost about 60% of its natural forests to agricultural encroachment, excessive logging and urbanization between the 1960s and the year 2000 (FAO 2001; SFM Tropics. 2005). Overtly, industrial and social development which competes for the same pieces of land upon which the forest stands has not been commendable. As a result of its large land area, the country covers different and favorable climatic and ecological zones. The size and its diverse population coupled with the socio-political and economic challenges have put much pressure on the forest belts as increasing number of unemployed youths have come to realize that there are opportunities in looting forest products for survival (Ola-Adams, 1983; Patterson et al., 2006). Thus unemployment as one of the developmental challenges in Nigeria has wideranging negative impacts, on environmental crime, which is often treated as a low-priority crime in most developing countries, with the belief that the forest belongs to everyone in the community (Mason et al., 2012; South and Wyatt 2011). In Nigeria the over dependence on crude oil has also led the government to place less emphasis on what is being lost yearly to theft of forest produce.

International statistics portray that rural and urban youths living in developing regions account for about two-thirds of the unemployed (Patterson et al, 2006). Unemployment has been a problem in Nigeria, especially since the 1980s, when the nation's economy took a turn for the worse as world petroleum prices tumbled, the Nigerian currency became devalued, corruption became rampant, and the population of the country ballooned at a breathtaking pace (Akintoye, 2008). Its effect on food production and deforestation also became issues to contend with. In areas that are rural or semi urban with abundance of forest trees and produce (agricultural zones), the forest was readily available to be explored and exploited not only by locals but also by foreign syndicates (Martin and Vigne 2011). Most worrisome is the activities of illegal traders of forest produce, through the aid of foreigners who are in need of rare and hard species of woods for European and American markets, thus the wanton destruction and felling of trees on communal and individual farmlands (Egbewole et al., 2011; Rademeyer, 2012).

Scientifically speaking the destruction of these trees has a very powerful effect on the carbon cycle and boosts the greenhouse effect as a result of the depletion of carbon (Alamu and Agbaje, 2011). But the socio-economic loss to the nation is quite unquantifiable especially on some endangered species in the South-west and Mid-west forest zones in Nigeria, comprising states of Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, and Edo and Delta states. The impressively fast urbanization process experienced in Nigeria together with the increasing rate of unemployment, persistent poverty, inequality, inadequacy of social services, the consolidation of trans-national crime organizations, the wide spread drug use and drug trafficking, ill equipped security officials and forest guards to combat illegal logging and lumbering cartel cum clandestine markets and saw mails for rare forest products, have led a lot of youths to seeking for opportunities in forest businesses (Pretty et al. …

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