Hundreds of timber traders in Ondo State on Wednesday took to the streets of Akure to protest against the closure of forest reserves in the state by the state government.
The traders under the auspices of Timber Traders Organisation had earlier appealed to the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to lift the ban on timber forests.
It was gathered that Akeredolu ordered the closure of the forests to check the illegal activities of some encroachers in the forests.
The protesters bore placards with inscriptions such as “Arakunrin, we are hungry”, “Open our forests, we are suffering”, “Akeredolu, reopen our forests”, “It is too early for an industrial crisis”, among others.
Chanting various anti-government songs, the timber traders took off from their office along Ondo Road and trekked to the Governor’s Office in Alagbaka, where they demanded to see the governor but they were prevented from entering the Governor’s Office by the security agents at the gate.
They lamented that since the forests were closed, their business had been negatively affected and consequently life had been difficult for them and the members of their families.
After some minutes of shouting at the entrance of the Governor’s Office, the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, came out to address the protesters.
He appealed to them to be patient with the government. He also told them that the governor was not around and the matter would be addressed when the governor returned.
He said, “The forests were closed because we understand that some people were coming from neighbouring states to encroach on our forests but we shall address the matter when the governor comes around.”
He also asked the protesters to nominate four people to hold a meeting in his office on the matter.
One of the leaders of the protesters, Tobi Akinlalu, told the deputy governor that the members of the association were suffering for the offence of forest encroachers, insisting that his colleagues engaged in legitimate business.
“We want to appeal to the government to listen to our appeal and save us from the present situation. We are losing money every day while the present economy is biting harder,” Akinlalu stated.