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A recent forest resources study carried out by the Federal Department of Forestry, revealed that the forest estate of Nigeria has been very highly depleted. It was estimated that only about 974,674 hectares of the forest reserves is productive while another 2,342,147 hectares of free areas is partially productive.

The total growing stock in terms of timber volumes is as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. High forest gross timber volumes, excluding bark by forest designation and forest types

Forest Land Designation

Forest Type

Area (ha)

Gross Volume (m3)

Forest Reserve

Lowland Rainforest

Freshwater swamp








Free Area

Lowland Rain Forest

Freshwater swamp

Mangrove Forest

Sub Total









Sum total

Gross Total



Source FDF (1988): Forest Resources Study, Nigeria

In view of this dismal trend in the forest resources of the country, the need to manage the forests of Nigeria on a sustained yield basis has never been more felt in recent times. The growth rate of the natural forest is quite low; about 1 to 1.5 m3 of round wood per hectare per annum and this is a serious constraint. Afforestation in the past has not responded with the required vigour as the area under forest plantations of all types by 1998 was only 184,611 hectares with a growing stock of 78,600,160 m3.


Forest Industries of Nigeria

The Nigerian Forests supports a wide range of forest industries, which include both the formal and informal sub-sectors. A vast majority of the Nigerian populace depend on these industries thus placing a lot of pressure on the forest resources of the nation. The formal sector is essentially wood based and is fairly well developed and comprise mechanical wood industries, including sawmills, veneer and plywood manufactures, particle board, paper and paper board manufactures. Furniture manufacturing is also carried out at a secondary level.

The informal forest sector comprises an informal wood based sector which is the country’s largest user of wood, (most of which are burnt as fuel) and the non wood forest products sector. Forest industry is essentially controlled by the private sector in Nigeria.


Industrial Round wood

Round wood production in Nigeria comes mostly from the natural high forest zone of the country, in particular from the Southern states of Cross River, Edo, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo states of Nigeria. Round wood is no longer exported from Nigeria since this has been placed on ban since 1976. Round wood includes industrial round wood, fuel wood and poles. Harvesting of industrial woods is carried out by mill operators, by independent registered loggers and by poachers. The mill operators are generally awarded five or twenty year concessions by the States and they either operate directly or subcontract to independent loggers. Illegal felling of logs remains a serious problem. The States are the custodians of the forest reserves and records of exploitation are not faithfully kept which makes sustainable management pretty difficult. Generally all round wood produced in Nigeria by 1997 is estimated at 117.694 million m3 (Aruofor, 2000).

There is a general shortage of round wood and face veneers. The recent forest resource study puts the volume of industrial wood in 1998 at 268.7 million m3 for all forest types. The continued and sustained levels of round wood consumption in Nigeria is indeed a threat to the forest estate and a source of deforestation which is now a serious problem. This also stresses the need to embark on an aggressive afforestation programme.


Sawn wood

Sawn wood is produced by sawmills in Nigeria whose capacity is estimated at 11,684,000 m3 per year in log equivalent (Alviar, 1980). The estimated capacity and production in 1993 is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Sawmills estimated capacity and production in 1993





CDs & Carriages








Pit Sawing








Source: FDF(1988) Forest Resource Study

The industry has a few large integrated mills among which are the African Timber and Plywood Ltd. Sapele, Piedmont at Ologbo, Premier Timber Industry Akure, Seromwood Industry Calabar, Iyayi Brothers, Benin City and others.

Most of the sawmills have been fully depreciated and are suffering from obsolescence. The estimated total output of sawnwood by 1997 was 2,000,000 m3 (Aruofor, 2000). Most of the production occurs in the coastal states and Cross River state. The major challenge facing the industry is that it lacks the capacity to process small diameter logs from forest plantations. Plantation wood will become more important as the large diameter trees become increasingly scarce. At present, the recovery rate of the sawmills is put at less than 53%. The major immediate problems facing the sawmill industry include:

Old equipment and severe shortage of spare parts

Frequent disruption of electricity supply

A timber supply declining in volume, size of logs and quality

Illegal felling and insecurity of tenure with respect to timber concession.

It should be noted that even though production is declining, it remains still substantial and thus a source of deforestation.


Wood Based Panels

There are eight veneer and plywood plants in the country using approximately 170,000 m3 of logs per annum. Veneer slicing operations are all integrated within plywood mills. Plywood requirements for the country were estimated at 179,000 m3 in 1990 and this was expected to increase to 285,000 m3 in 2000 and 450,000 m3 in 2010 (Gen. Wood, 1994). At the same time wood availability is expected to decrease from 170,000 m3 in 1990 to an expected 119,000 m3 in 2010. It is evident that demand for veneer logs outstrips supply. The total capacity of eight mills is 126,000 m3/year and capacity utilisation by 1993 was 57.3%. Production in 1992 was 111,7400 m3 and this has dropped to about 94,625 m3 by 1997 (Aruofor, 2000). Veneer mills are already experiencing difficulties in acquiring log supplies.


Particle Board

Particle board requirements for the country are estimated at 108,000 m3 in 1990, 199,000 m3 in 2000 (Gen. Wood 1994). Existing capacity is estimated at 70,000 m3 comprising four mills. Production in 1993 was approximately 39,500 m3 which is 44% of capacity utilisation. Production had remained about 39,500 m3 in 1997. Current production is hampered by high cost of foreign exchange for new equipment, spare parts and glue acquisition. The particle board production lines in Nigeria are integrated with sawmills and plywood mills, the residues of which they recycle.


Pulp and Paper

These products have been the largest traditional forest products import in Nigeria. In the peak years of 1980 – 81, over 160,000 M.T. were imported which represented nearly 95% of total consumption of printing and writing papers as well as kraft paper and board at that time. Today importation is still relatively as high as 45,000 M.T. of printing and writing paper alone was imported into the country in 1994 (Aruofor, 2000). The two pulp and paper mills operating in Nigeria are the Nigerian Paper Mill Limited (NPM) at Jebba with a pulp capacity of 32,000 M.T./year and a paper production capacity of 70,000 M.T./year, and the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC) at Oku Iboku. This mill has a pulp capacity of 70,000 M.T./year and a newsprint capacity of 100,000 M.T./year. However, a third mill, Nigerian National Paper Manufacturing Company with a capacity of 100,000 M.T./year of pulp and writing paper is only partially completed and barely operating on imported pulp. In 1990 the total domestic production of paper was 43,498 M.T. which declined to barely 5,314 tons in 1993 due to long fibre shortages which constrained domestic production. There are in addition eight operative small size tissue-paper mills with a capacity of around 40 M.T./day. The total existing paper capacity in the country is estimated at 50,000 M.T./year for both newsprint and printing and writing paper and 70,000 M.T./year for other papers.


Other forestry products

Fuel wood and Charcoal

The predominantly rural population depends mainly on fuel wood to meet basic energy needs for cooking and heating. Recent studies revealed that Nigeria produces about 1 million tons of charcoal annually of which 80% is consumed in the cities (FDF, 1986). Fuel wood and charcoal account for about 50% of the national primary energy consumption. Fuel wood is demanded by both household and industrial sectors in all ecological zones of the country. It is estimated that about 90% of the rural households in Southern Nigeria and up-to 98% in the Northern Nigeria depend on fuel wood as their source of domestic energy. Industrial uses include those by institutions, food and craft industries. Fuel wood is very important in local restaurant, bakeries, local breweries, pottery, blacksmith and burnt brick factories. Institutions such as hospitals, prisons and schools also demand fuel wood for cooking. The per capita consumption of fuel wood in rural area is 393.43 kg/annum while the urban households consume 255.75 kg/ annum.


Non Timber Products:

These are all other material other than round wood and derived sawn timber, wood chips, wood-based panels and pulp, that may be extracted from forest ecosystems and are utilised within household or are marketed or have social, religious and cultural significance. The list of non timber forest products in Nigeria is inexhaustible and include such broad classes as leaves, fruits, barks, nuts, resins, honey, mushrooms, wildlife, cane, chewing sticks, medicinal plants to mention a few. The collection, processing and marketing of these products is realised informally by members of the family in various communities. They constitute a major source of household income in Nigeria. Studies carried out by the Federal Department of Forestry revealed that the estimated annual income accruing to these products is about N 177.63 billion on a conservative note. The department of Forestry is placing emphasis on non-timber forestry products as part of a national campaign to mobilise the public. Such programmes include Rural and Communal Forestry, Bee Keeping, Indigenous Forest Fruit trees Production, Fruit Orchards establishments and wildlife multiplication and domestication.


Wildlife and Tourism

The wildlife of Nigeria is particularly varied because of the country’s location, size and the ecological zones. The lowland Rain Forest Ecological Zone is the richest zone in Nigeria in terms of biodiversity and the most valuable forest resources (FDF, 1998).There are about 129 large mammal species in the rainforest and include African Elephants (Loxodonta africana), African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). Other large species include the large duikers (for example, cephabphus nigger) the Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), and the red river-hog (Potamachoerus porcus). In the savannas, they include the hartebeest (Alcephalus buselaphus) and warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus). In areas of derived savannah, forest species such as elephants and chimpanzees may be observed foraging on food crops adjacent to the forest. There are also a wide variety of small mammals including the grass cutter (Thryonomys swinderiannus), giant rats (Cricetomys spp.), tree squirrels (Funisciurus spp.) and a range of primates. Indeed there are 123 species in the Guinea savannas while 35 species of bats, 23 species of rodents and 20 species of carnivores among others are represented in the country. The lowland rain forest zone also provides habitat for about 200 species of birds. The effect of population pressures on these wildlife is very profound as they are indiscriminately hunted for food and trophy. Over 22 species are on the endangered list of animals in Nigeria.

The main problems facing wildlife conservation in Nigeria include poaching, over exploitation, lack of accurate data, bush burning which destroys wildlife habitat especially in the savannah, overgrazing, poor funding of management and research and low managerial capability. The Federal Government has responded with the creation of 8 National Parks distributed across the major ecological zones viz

National Park Area(ha) Year

Chad Basin 45,696 1991

Cross River 422,688 1991

Gashaka/Gumti 636,300 1991

Kainji Lake 534,082 1975

Old Oyo 251,230 1991

Yankari 224,400 1991

Kamuku 112,700 1999

Okomu 11,200 1999

Total 2,238,296

Thus the Local Governments in Nigeria are responsible for the administration of Communal Forest Areas (CFA), the State Governments control and manage Forest Reserves, Game Reserves and Game Sanctuaries. The Federal Government under the exclusive legislation li st is responsible for the control, protection and management of National Parks. There are about 1,129 forest reserves, 29 game reserves and 4 game sanctuaries and 8 National Parks.


Forestry policy, legislation and institutions

Institutional Structure

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (FMA & NR) had hitherto played a very important role in land use planning and forestry development through the Federal Department of Forestry which was one of its departments until recently. The Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) has been created and the Federal Department of Forestry has now been transferred to this new Ministry as a Presidential directive. Under the present arrangement, the FME operates through several Departments whose activities are coordinated at the National Council on Environment (NCE). The National Council on Environment (NCE) is the highest environmental policy formulating organ in the country and is chaired by the Honourable Minister of Environment. At Forestry level however, the National Forestry Development Committee (NFDC) is the highest organ and is responsible for policy initiation and co-ordination in the forestry sector of Nigeria. The membership comprises the Federal Director of Forestry who is the Chairman, the State Directors of Forestry and Heads of Research Organisations in both Governments and Universities with Forestry Departments. The Forestry Association of Nigeria (FAN) is the forum where forestry professionals and practitioner both in the public and private sector all over the country meet yearly to discuss forestry issues. It must be noted that under the current dispensation separate department exist in the ministry of Environment for conservation as well as drought and desertification control.


The Federal Department of Forestry

The Federal Department of Forestry (FDF) was created in 1970 and co-ordinates forestry activities throughout the country. Its functions are to initiate and to formulate national forest policy and land use planning, foster forestry and environmental development, promote and fund projects of national interest, co-ordinate and monitor State Forestry activities of Federal – foreign-funded projects and institutional development. Specifically, the main functions of FDF include:

Advising the Federal Government on forestry development as well as liasing with the States’ forestry services of the country.

Ensuring the application of sound and efficient management of the forest for sustainable production of goods and services throughout the country.

Co-ordination of all matters pertaining to conservation, protection, utilisation and renewal of the forest resources of Nigeria.

Co-ordinating Nigerian collaboration with International Organisations.

Disseminating technical and professional information and organising national and international technical assistance.

Directing the formulation of National Forestry Policy.

Promoting and enhancing the development of forestry management capability .

Providing extension and advisory services to the States for the improvement and promotion of forestry ideals.

Assisting to monitor, evaluate and appraise forestry projects throughout the country.

The Department has 3 tiers of administration, at the Headquarters, Zonal Office and State-based Field Office level. In order to facilitate the execution of the programmes of the Department as enunciated in the National Forestry Policy, the Department is structured along the line stipulated by the new Civil Service Reform Guidelines of 1988. Three professional Divisions were approved for the Department namely: Forestry Management, Forest Resource Survey and Utilisation, and Agro-forestry, Support Services and Extension .

The Forest Management Division deals with internal, that is, ad-hoc departmental planning, co-ordinates field activities and oversees orderly development and execution of departmental projects. The Forest Resources Survey and Utilisation Division is broadly concerned with ensuring and promoting improved and efficient use of wood products and non-wood products. The Division also deals with forest inventories and the development and management of forestry data bank. The Agro-forestry, Support Services and Extension Division carry out forestry extension and supervise manpower development.

In order to facilitate field operations under forest projects either by the Department or in collaboration with the State Forestry Services, a field office exists in all the 36 States including the FCT. The field offices liase with the State Forestry Services on behalf of the Department and ensure judicious use of funds and other inputs for the successful implementation of departmental programmes. In order to further facilitate communication between headquarters and the field officers, six zones were created, each comprising a number of group of the State field offices. The Zonal officers coordinate the activities of the various field officers under them and ensure speedy communication between the field and headquarters. FDF has a specialised unit, Forestry Management, Evaluating and Coordinating Unit (FORMECU). FORMECU was created in response to a need for implementation of World Bank Assisted Forestry Project in Nigeria but now it virtually coordinates all Federal foreign assisted forestry projects in Nigeria. Under the present arrangement FORMECU is now subsumed under the Agro-forestry, Support Services and Extension Division.


State Forestry Departments

The Federal Republic of Nigeria consists of 36 states and Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Each of the states and the FCT has an established forestry services as division under the appropriate Ministry. Each State Forest Service (SFS) is responsible for setting and administering policies for its forests. Each SFS Department is headed by a Director reporting to the Permanent Secretary, who reports to the Commissioner i.e. the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry in the state.


Other Organisations

There are several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which contribute to the elaboration of the general land use plan and the sustainable management of forestry resources. Amongst some of the notable ones are Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), NEST, NRCC, etc.


Forestry Policy

Nigeria is at present a wood deficit nation. In order to ameliorate the situation, the policy on forest resources management and sustainable use is aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in all aspects of forest production through the use of sound forest management techniques as well as the mobilization of human and material resources. The overall objectives of forest policy are to prevent further deforestation and to recreate forest cover, either for productive or for protective purposes, on already deforested fragile land. Specifically, the National Agricultural Policy of 1988 in which the Forestry Policy is subsumed, provides for:

Consolidation and expansion of the forest estate in Nigeria and its management for sustained yield.

Regeneration of the forests at rates higher than exploitation.

Conservation and protection of the environment viz: Forest, soil, water, flora, fauna and the protection of the forest resources from fires, cattle grazers and illegal encroachment.

Development of Forestry industry through the harvesting and utilisation of timber its derivatives and the reduction of wastes.

Wildlife conservation, management and development through the creation and effective management of national parks, game reserves, tourist and recreational facilities, etc.

These policy objectives have been well enunciated and appear well meant and the means for achieving them have been well articulated. Indeed one of the strategies for achieving the consolidation and expansion of the forest estate was the expansion of the forest estate from 10% to 20%. This so far has remained elusive. For the above policy or objectives to be achieved, significant legal and policy changes are needed. In addition the institutional framework and may be the constitutional changes in respect of forest ownership and development planning, as well as programme implementation must need be revisited and strengthened. The challenges call for private sector and public participation, the evolution of an appropriate national forestry legislation, aggressive and scientific forest management, capacity building and adequate financing of forestry development in Nigeria. Indeed the creation of the Federal Ministry of Environment and the transfer of the FDF to it is a start in the right direction.


Legislative Changes

Among some of the legislative changes that have so far occurred but do not seem to have a profound effect of enhancing forestry development in Nigeria are:

The Land Use Decree No. 6 of 1978 which vests all land in each state of Nigeria in the Governor of the State. The impact is mixed and there have been abuses.

The Nigeria Forestry Act, 1937:

Most land use, forestry and natural resources conservation laws were established early in this century. The act gave each Governor or Local Government Authority, the authority to constitute its own forest reserves. Some states have enacted specific regulations to monitor and control the reserves, but overall control is not effective.

Dereservation instead is frequent and penalties under most laws are uniformly low and seldomly enforced.

National Park Decree:

This has led to the creation of the National Parks Governing Board and the creation of the Department of National Parks. Other laws which have provision for affecting nature conservation include: The Wild Animals Preservation Act of 1916; the Endangered Species Decree of 1985; the Public Lands Act of 1970 and the various National parks Decree, for example Kainji Lake National Park Decree,1979.

Each National Park is administered by a Park Management Committee chaired by an eminent professional who is appointed by the Minister, under the recommendation of State Government and managed by a General Manager.

A variety of deficiencies exists in the existing State laws and legislation. There are the growing economic, social and legal complexities of the contemporary setting on the one hand and the increasing demand for diverse forestry goods and services on the other. It will appear that there is need to review and modify existing forest laws as well as evolve new legislation to harmonise the overlapping responsibilities of the Federal and State Government, Local Councils and the various multi-purpose parastatals for forest resources.


Forest Management

Forest Management in Nigeria started with the establishment of regional forestry authorities whose main function was the constitution of forest reserves. The total area of forest reserve today is put at 96,000 km2. The term ‘forest reserve’ today is only a nomenclature used generally to indicate a land use designation and does not indicate that they actually contain forests or vegetation. A lot of it has been highly deforested. Generally the forest reserves are managed for the production of forest resources, which include timber and non-timber forest products.

Initially the forest resources in the high forest zone were managed for timber production on a felling cycle of 100 years. Minimum girth limits were set between the equivalent of 60 – 90 d.b.h depending on the species (FDF, 1996). Forests in the Southern and South Central were sub-divided into numbered miles-square compartments and forest under exploitation were managed under working plans prepared by the Forestry Department. In response to exploitation pressures the felling cycle for natural forests was reduced to 50 years and even less.

Natural regeneration of the exploited forests was stimulated by the Tropical Shelterwood System (TSS). Owing to the increased demand for forest land, slow and low growth rates of the natural forest and the consequent conversion of forests reserves to other land use, the TSS was abandoned in favour of artificial regeneration via Taungya System. The Taungya plantations while forming protective belts around the accessible parts of forest reserves, also provided the pilot phase for subsequent major plantation schemes in the high forest zone.

The management and control of forest reserves is vested in the State Governments. The Federal Department of Forestry has only monitoring functions and holds no executive authority in the management of forest reserves and other forest lands. The creation of the National Parks Board gave the Federal Government some measure of executive powers over the protection of the constituted National Parks.

Generally management of the forest reserves has been inadequate and forest management seem to have been replaced by the project syndrome. The paradigm shift was the conversion of a large portion of the forest reserves particularly in the Guinea Savannah and the High Forest Zone to forest plantations of exotic and indigenous species.

The level to which this has been successful is debatable. Indeed State Forestry Departments have been unable to protect the forest estate adequately, even the usual boundary maintenance was impossible (may be due to poor funding of forestry development), thus leading to a period of extensive encroachment in the form of vast farm lands, settlements and excision for other purposes. The private sector is not particularly involved in the management of forest reserves in the country. Their major interest has been in the conversion of forest resources; an approach that have proved singularly inappropriate so far. In recent times, international initiatives to assist some State Governments in the management of forest reserves have been taken by NCF, WWF and DFID.

The main obstacles to forestry development and sustainable management in Nigeria may be summarised to include:

Forest ownership that inhibits Federal intervention for sustainability.

Unlimited powers of State Chief Executives to de-reserve or exploit the forests.

Forest policy lacks legal backing and so cannot be enforced.

Poor State funding of forestry programmes and forest management

Inadequate financing by Federal Government for forestry development.

Poor funding of forestry research and training.

Proliferation of agencies and duplication of duties resulting in cross-sectoral policies and lack of sectoral dialogue.

Absence of a reliable data base on which to base forestry planning and development.

Obsolete and unenforceable State Forestry legislation.

Forest tariffs, which are ridiculously low and are not revised frequently.

These problems are further compounded by natural disasters such as drought and flooding; forest fires due to bush burning, extensive arable farming and over grazing of forest lands.




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