Nigeria Has Tree Cover Crisis – Lawal


The Federal Minister of Environment, Balarabe Abbas Lawal, has said that Nigeria is experiencing a severe environmental crisis due to a significant reduction in tree cover amid large use for logging and charcoal production.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Lawal revealed that Nigeria’s tree cover has plummeted to just 3.7 per cent, far below the 25 per cent minimum recommended for ecological balance.

“This is a serious crisis,” Lawal stated during an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja yesterday adding that “we are facing a shortage of tree cover that exacerbates issues like lack of oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels in our communities. Immediate action is required to reverse this trend.”

The minister attributed the dramatic loss of tree cover to illegal logging and charcoal production. “In the last 20 years, we’ve lost almost all our tree cover due to these activities,” he said. “People from other countries, including China, come to export our trees, depleting our natural resources while they maintain higher tree cover in their own nations.”

To combat this deforestation, Lawal proposed a new policy requiring the planting of three trees for every one cut down. He emphasized the need for broad participation, involving youth, women’s groups, and other community stakeholders, to achieve the ministry’s goal of planting at least 100 million trees.

“We can do much more,” Lawal asserted. “Ethiopia has planted over 2 billion trees. If they can do it, we can too.”

Lawal also highlighted new innovations in tree planting, including species that require minimal water and can grow in harsh climates, as part of efforts to boost reforestation.

The minister acknowledged that this year’s prolonged heat season, starting in February, has intensified the urgency of the situation. “The heat has been severe, exacerbated by the lack of tree cover,” he noted.
In a bid to address deforestation, he said the Federal Executive Council recently approved a national cooking policy aimed at reducing reliance on charcoal. “This policy promotes the use of gas and other alternatives to prevent further tree felling,” Lawal explained.

Lawal also called for stronger legal measures to combat environmental crimes. “Current penalties for illegal logging and wildlife poaching are insufficient,” he said, pointing to recent incidents of elephant poaching in Borno State. “We need stricter laws and specialized environmental tribunals to handle such cases.”

Training programmes for judges and lawyers, as well as university courses on environmental law, are part of the ministry’s strategy to enhance legal enforcement and protection of Nigeria’s natural resources, he said.

“This crisis is severe,” he said. “We must act now to protect our environment for future generations.”

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