In this country, poised to become the first African economy thanks to the oil industry, logging is an important source of employment in the informal sector.
In southern Nigeria, in the Niger Delta, the last remnants of rainforest are conveyed in the form of huge rafts to the major river ports in the region, most often illegally.
It took nearly two weeks to Anthony, the leader of the conveyors to combine the orders from the different buyers. 800 wooden logs, 5 to 10 meters each, from various species. The most valuable are intended mainly for the international market (20 %).
After two weeks of a gigantic work to assemble the logs in one single raft, it’s time to go toward Sapele, one of the largest ports in the country. To the strength of arms and legs, Anthony and his three men maneuver the raft.
They each win an average of 28 US dollars cents per trunk carried, a good salary here. 200 logs are hidden under the raft, masked by water hyacinths strategically placed. Purpose of the maneuver : to avoid giving too much money to the small local mafias that levy a tax on each item shipped.
During the day, we must signal ourselves to the cargo with T-shirts hung on sticks. At night, avoid collisions with the numerous speed boats, which are discreetly trafficking stolen crude oil. The river carries the sad traces of all this activity, pollution is everywhere.
After nine days, conveyors reach Sapele. Tens of thousands of logs are already there, waiting to go to the sawmill before being delivered. In the image of what happens throughout the delta, more than 50% are illegal. The establishment of national parks and reserves has no effect, financial interests and corruption are too high.
If deforestation continues at this rate, about 400 000 ha per year, experts estimate that there would be no more forest in Nigeria in 2025.
Text & photos : Stéphane de Rouville