Ondo State Government has reaffirmed that its decision on the closure of the State's Forest Reserves stands and would sanction encroachers into the Forest Reserves as security operatives have been dispatched to enforce the closure order.
The Deputy Governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi gave this warning while addressing members of the State Timber Trade Organization, (OSTO), in a close door meeting after they staged a peaceful protest against the forest closure at the Governor's office in Akure, the state capital.
He emphasised that anyone caught flouting this order will not be exonerated, saying the present administration has zero tolerance for wrong doing, adding that it is high time the government dealt with the matter.
Ajayi stressed that the closure of the forest was not to witch-hunt anybody, but to take proper records of government activities across the state, deal with issue of encroachment, and ensure that the government, traders and the people benefit from the Reserves.
He assured OSTO members that government would look into their plights and address the problem of encroachment by other people from neighbouring states as alleged by the aggrieved members.
The Deputy Governor implored them to maintain peace, assuring them that the Akeredolu -led administration is traders friendly and would implement people oriented programmes to better the lives of the populace.
Earlier, the Public Relations Officer of OSTO, Chief Oloruntobi Akinlalu who spoke on behalf of the chairman, Chief Samuel Olukayode said they embarked on the protest in order not to be rendered useless during the raining season and to appeal to the government to curb encroachment on the reserve.
Also, Adeleye Fayehun assured the government that members of OSTO are willing to cooperate with the government, saying the protest was a fora to appeal to the government and express their grievance.
Meanwhile, the President of Timber Traders Organisation in the state, Chief Sam Olukayode has appealed to the State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to reopen the forest reserves closed by state government about two weeks ago.
The state government had announced the closure of the state forest and stopped all activities and operations in the forest reserves and free areas to give room for a regime of orderliness.
Speaking with The Hope in Akure, the State capital, after a peaceful protest by the members of the organisaiton, Chief Olukayode disclosed that the closure has negatively affected their economy.
"We depend mainly on the forest because that is where we get our money to feed our families and train our children. Most of those working in the state ministries still depend on us because their salaries are not being paid.
"So, we want the government to reopen the forest so that we can go in and start our operation. Now, people from neighbouring states such as Edo and Delta are taking the advantage of the closure to cut our trees.
"We are now entering the raining season, and once the rainy season starts we cannot enter the forest any more. And most of us have invested a lot of money in the business.
So, we appeal to the state government to help us reopen the forest, that is our appeal," the President pleaded.
The group had staged a peaceful protest to draw government's attention to their plights.