By Rita Iliya
The Niger Government on Wednesday said it would strengthen its environmental laws to curb tree felling and penalise anyone engaged in sale of charcoal in the state.
Gov. Abubakar Bello of Niger said this at the flag off ceremony to promote cultivation of cashew by the state government in collaboration with National Cashew Association (NCAN) in Bida Local Government Area of the state.
He said that an expanded security meeting would be held to strengthen the law, to discourage felling of economic trees by some undisciplined and unpatriotic persons.
“We must take this seriously to penalise whoever is caught selling charcoal.
“A report reaching me is that in the next five to ten years, there won’t be any Shea nut tree in the state as a result of activities of some undisciplined persons.
“This charcoal is not being used by the people in the state, but it’s being transported and exported to other countries,” he said.
Bello disclosed that the state government had resolved to plant 10,000 cashew trees, and directed each Local Government to provide 50 hectares of land for the plantation.
He solicited the support of traditional rulers and political appointees to sensitise their people to desist from felling of economic trees for charcoal.
In his address, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril, Minister of State for Environment, said Niger state with over 76,000 square kilometers of land mass, the biggest in the country, needs to adequately harness the resource for agriculture purposes to feed the nation.
He said that there was more than 400,000 hectares of land for cashew cultivation across the country which could be turned into wealth, if properly harnessed.
The minister said that statistics showed that cashew could earn N24 billion in terms of foreign exchange and could be turned to juice just as its shell could be used in paint making.
Jibril disclosed that the ministry was partnering with state government and Nigeria Erosion and Water Ship Management Project to use additional funding of N400 million dollars from the World Bank to address gully erosion in the state.
In his remarks, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, said that the choice of Edu-Soko Farm Nigeria Limited, as one of the sites for the project was a welcome development.
He said that the farm was established to promote and protect green environment for economic purpose as well as the empowerment of youth and women.
Abubakar said that about 2,500 youths from the local government areas of the state would be trained on leadership skills, while 250,000 cashew seedlings would be distributed for planting before the year ends.