Members of the Timbers Traders Organisation (OSTTO) in Ondo State yesterday urged Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to reverse the order that closed forest reserves and banned logging activities.
The traders blocked the entrance to the governor’s office in Alagbaka, Akure and prevented government officials from entering or going out of the premises.
Led by Tobi Akinlalu and other executives of the organisation, they marched along Ondo Road, the hub of sawmills in Akure, through NEPA Road to the Government Reservation Area (GRA), chanting different anti-government songs.
They also displayed different placards: “Akeredolu reopen our forest,” “It is too early for industrial crisis,” “Arakunrin, we are hungry,” “It is not proper for indigenes to suffer while foreigners enjoy.”
According to them, the closure of the forest reserves has caused them untold hardship, adding that they were not informed before the sudden closure of the forest reserves
The traders rebuffed the appeal by the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the governor, Mr. Samuel Waare, and other security agencies that appealed to them for calm. The governor was said to have travelled out of the state.
Akinlalu explained that the timber industry is the largest employer of labour after government and is contributing immensely to the state’s internally generated revenue.
He stressed that most of the timber traders obtained loan from banks to carry out the business, stating that the closure had caused them so much anguish.
The Chairman of the union in Akure South, Mr. Kunle Omotosho, urged the governor to address their plight, as many of them could no longer feed their families.
But the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, appealed to them for calm, explaining that the decision was taken in the interest of the people.
Ajayi added that the forest reserves policy was not driven to cause them pain and promised that the governor would look into their grievances as soon as he returned from his trip outside the state.