Months after Zachariah Yaduma’s resumption as second Director-General of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) in 2023, several members of staff have benefited from his benevolence in the areas of advancement, conversion, promotion and reinstatement. He spoke about environmental issues and his experience in the saddle so far in this exclusive interview with PAUL OMOROGBE.
How has it been these months as a DG?
We thank God. For the past few months, it was not easy, but I give glory to God. Anything that you are doing prayerfully and you put God before you it will be a success.
During the COVID era, there was a reduction in environmental activities generally all through the country because of the lockdown. Also, in FRIN, we saw a halt in activities basically because of the strike due to union activities. Now, is FRIN fully back on stream?
I learnt that there was a strike and it lasted one year. Also, the period of lockdown affected all activities. But in the forests, especially the wildlife, the animals were safe in the bush. There was no poaching, no hunting. The lockdown and strike period though I was not here, affected the work. I give God the glory, because everything is stable now. Every person is back to work and everything is moving fine. FRIN is moving to a higher level than before. Despite the fuel increase and all that, the staff are up and doing, because they come to office early, they leave late. So, I give kudos to FRIN staff for this attitude. Sincerely, they are doing well.
So there’s been much talk about carbon credits of late. What will FRIN be doing in line with this?
On the issue of carbon credits, FRIN is getting prepared. Activities are ongoing. I don’t want to delve much into it, because there are some reports that I am receiving. So, until when they are all combined, then I can talk boldly on it.
What’s your vision for FRIN at this time?
In those days, people from Federal College of Forestry Ibadan would go to Shere Hills for training. We know there is insecurity, but we can move out. The students can move out for practical sessions in most of these plantations.
My vision for FRIN is that in the near future, FRIN will reach a level that people don’t expect. Despite the fact that the resources are so meagre, as of now, we have a lot of people that have travelled abroad for workshop and for courses.
And we thank Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which partnered with us. There are projects that are on now, and most of our staff are participating. Gradually, we have repaired our vehicles which the staff now use. So FRIN is moving forward, and we are praying that in the near future, FRIN will be even more than this.
We have some man and biosphere reserves like the one in Ondo State. One of our staff was sent abroad; he was trained and we have sent him back to that place. He is managing it well. And this is our proposal that in 2024, we will send others overseas also so that they will go for training. This is because when you are trained, the output and the productivity will be higher.
What you would like to see at the end of your tenure as the DG?
When I reported here, I told them that I came in peace. I need peace in FRIN. When you are peaceful, God will bless you even more than the way you think. So, the moment we are at peace in FRIN, every person will come and do their work and at the end you will receive the reward – not a reward from the DG, but you can also receive reward from God and He will bless you. It is my desire that the staff of FRIN will move to another level. I was telling somebody that before I leave, they will enjoy their welfare; that within these years that I will spend they must change level, they will be promoted. Those that are stagnant will be converted. The artisans that sometimes you look at as juniors are the people that we are supposed to train so that their productivity will be high. It is my desire when opportunities open, our daily-rated staff, instead of looking for people outside, will be given appointment because they are already in the system and they know the work better.
For our researchers, we want them to change levels. Let them write papers. When they write papers, they will be promoted. Those that were not able to do their degrees, let them go for a degree – we have colleges. For the daily-rated, I told them to go to our colleges and obtain a diploma. When they go to university and graduate we will give them appointment.
For our researchers, I always advise them always to look for opportunities. I think about three or five of them have gone abroad because they looked for opportunities; I approved their trips. When they return, you will see that zeal in the work, and their work will be different. For admin staff, I always encourage them to do short courses. There is on the job training, so most of the time, we send them for these short courses. The moment you follow due process, it is approved, and when there are resources, you are paid.
What would be your advice to the public concerning issues of the environment especially as it concerns forestry resources?
I am from the north precisely Adamawa State. People from Yobe, specifically around the Gashua area, have high sanctum around that area. When you talk of Sahara, that is the real place where you will see about kilometres away. I could remember 40 years back; all these places were covered with trees. But now all the trees have disappeared. You will see only beautiful houses with air conditioners. There is not even a flower in the frontage. This is deforestation – you cut trees in order to erect buildings.
Research has proved that the cooling that comes from a single tree is equivalent to what 10 air conditioners will give you.
So there is a lot of deforestation. Even within Ibadan, if you look at most of our forest reserves, they clear them.
Sometimes the agriculturalists say they clear for farming. Which type of farming? We have agroforestry. We have Tonga system whereby you plant trees with crops. Why can’t you do it? And it yields better because there are some nutrients from the roots of the tree that help the crops.
So the wise ones will plant in between some trees. But the unwise ones clear the forest. There are (climatic) changes; these changes are caused by our activities on the environment. We continue to clear without planting. We continue to harvest the trees for our own benefit, either for furniture or other uses. But we know that these trees are natural; they need the assistance of humans to replace them. So, replace them, even in our houses.
That is the reason we are advising the town planners that before they approve any plan, let there be green spots within that plan. We should embark on planting trees.