Our new environment minister needs to ringfence what remains of our tropical rainforest

By Ayo Akinfe 

(1) As we await the appointment of President Buhari’s ministers, I for one am eagerly waiting to see who gets named as environment minister. Unfortunately, we are sitting on an ecological time bomb as one of the things that made Nigeria so attractive to the British, the tropical rainforest isdisappearing before our very eyes. Do you know that Lagos was once a massive rainforest?

(2) It will be up to the new environment minister to declare a state of emergency in the sector and halt this decline in our tropical rainforest area. Now, this is not just green politics, it is economic too as certain crops like cocoa and palm oil need the canopy of the tropical rain forest to grow. We are shooting ourselves in the foot with this indiscriminate and irresponsible logging 

(3) Most of Nigeria's rainforests are concentrated in Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba states. Together these eight states account for nearly 95% of Nigeria's tropical rain forest that has more than 50% tree cover

(4) In the southeast geo-political zone, I fear the battle may be already lost as the limited landmass, high population density, massive urbanisation and need for housing has led to the unprecedented decimation of the forest. This is why the area has suffered more erosion than any other part of Nigeria. Those trees are there for a reason and it is naive to think we can decimate them without any consequences 

(5) Do you know that Nigeria is home to at least 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians and 4,715 species of higher plants. With the way we are eradicating the rain forest, we will soon have nothing left but domestic animals. As we speak, other countries are importing African lizards to serve as pest controls

(6) If you think this is just all big, big grammar of “bellefull talk” beware that the impact of deforestation on ecosystems and animal habitat could also have other far-reaching effects. For example, France’s environment Minister, Ségolène Royal, said researchers believe deforestation in West Africa increased the likelihood of the Ebola epidemic in 2014. Apparently, the destruction of the natural habitat of fruit-eating bats, which carried the Ebola virus, likely drove them towards human settlements to find food.

(7) At the turn of the 20th century, Nigeria was the world’s largest palm oil producer, with most of it coming from the southeast. Lush forests as depicted the village of Umuofia in Things Fall Apart were the geese that lay the golden eggs. I cannot get my head round how we just destroyed them. Africa’s rainforests have unique characteristics. In particular, they store more carbon than those in the Amazon, so are vital to human existence 

(8) Nigeria lost nearly 80% of her old-growth forests between 1990 and 2005, giving the country the dubious distinction of having the highest deforestation rate of natural forest on the planet during that period. Yes, another unwanted number one to add to poverty capital, out-of-school capital, polio capital and open defection capital of the world 

(9) Although they cover less than 7% of the earth’s land surface, tropical forests are home to approximately 50% of all living things on earth. Yet these forests are being cleared at a rate of 18m hectares a year. Described as the lungs of the earth, without them, animals like gorillas, chimpanzees, orang outangs, etc will become extinct. Seven African governments from Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone have agreed to protect more than 70% of Africa’s tropical forests from unsustainable palm oil production. We need to force the new Nigerian environment minister to sign it 

(10) We naively think we can go around cannibalising our environment without consequences. Let me just give you an example of how illiterate this thinking is. Agama lizards need the forest to thrive. Agama lizards are the largest source of bug control in Nigeria, which is why we have few famines caused by massive pest devastation. If we keep cutting down the forest, we will lose the lizard and in turn suffer crop damage