The Gombe State Government is waging war against indiscriminate tree felling and booming sales of firewood which is threatening the environment and depleting forest in the state.
An investigation by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that more than 20 truck-load of firewood are unloaded daily at Tashan Dukku Junction in Gombe between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.
The investigation also showed other countless roadside dealers of firewood across major streets of Gombe metropolis and suburbs of Tumfure and Yelenguruza quarters.
A cross section of the dealers told NAN that the cost of kerosene and cooking gas was responsible for the high demand for firewood in the state.
A major dealer who spoke with NAN on condition of anonymity, said that firewood business was a good business with huge patronage, saying that he had been in the business for more than six years.
“I built my house in the village and I am now building another one here in Tumfure. I am taking up my responsibilities as a man.
“The business is offering me more than what some civil servants in the state get. So I am comfortable as long as I am doing my business without hitches,’’ he said.
He noted that the state government task force had made supplies of firewood from various villages difficult as they often arrest some trucks but said he was never deterred by their activities since he had evolved ways of evading arrest.
Another firewood seller, Hajiya Zainab Abubakar, said: “The business is booming because many of us are farmers and there is no money to get gas and even kerosene.
“If money is available, we will be using gas like every other person too. It is with the proceeds I get from here that I use in feeding and supporting my family.’’
Malam Yahaya Usman of Tumfure, said he was aware of the negative impact of tree felling to the forest in Gombe but noted he had no means of feeding his household than selling firewood and charcoal.
“ Many residents in the area prefer firewood to kerosene because it is cheaper. With N200 one can cook for the day and still have woods to cook by the next day.
“For a man that has a large household, how many litres of kerosene do you think will be enough to cook in a day? This is the major reason most of us go for firewood.
“It’s a matter of what is available based on the situation on ground and not what they really want,’’ Usman said.
He said the act of tree felling could affect the environment negatively, saying that if massive tree-planting exercises were carried out, the dangers would be averted.
Reacting to the development, Alhaji Sa’ad Hashidu, Director of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Gombe State Ministry of Environment, said deforestation was a serious challenge in the state.
Hashidu explained that the government was aware of the activities of firewood merchants and had taken steps to curb the menace to avoid desertification.
He said the governor of the state, Ibrahim Dankwambo, inaugurated a task force to handle cases of deforestation within the state.
“We are aware of the activities of wood dealers that can lead to deforestation in the state. The government has taken series of measures to arrest the menace in the state.
“The task force has impounded over 40 trucks of firewood and charcoal so far. In addition, the government also distributed over 50,000 tree seedlings, free of charge to the public.
“We are also building our capacities to reverse the trend of deforestation in the state by re-stocking our tree nurseries,’’ the commissioner said.
He, however, attributed the increasing acts of deforestation to the inadequacies of the existing forest laws, saying that the law was being reviewed and when signed, would assist in addressing the menace.
NAN reports that Mr Bala-Dozen Nayaya, the State Project Coordinator of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), had on June 6, 2018, decried the increasing wave of indiscriminate tree felling in the state.
Nayaya had warned that over 80 per cent of 25 gazetted forests in Gombe had been depleted, adding that a research by NEWMAP showed that over 200 truckloads of firewood were being transported from Gombe forests daily.
He warned that if urgent steps were not taken to address the growing firewood and charcoal business, it could have dire consequences in the nearest future.
Nayaya said that deforestation had resulted to increase in desertification.