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Delegate, Mayor Bicker Over Tree Planting Exercise 

By Bouddih Adams

Buea Mayor, Charles Mbella Moki, and the Southwest Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Grace Mbah, are bikering over a tree-planting exercise in the Buea municipality.
While the Delegation of Forestry asserts that 12 000 trees were planted, the Mayor avers that the Council was not aware of them.

MINFOF official inspecting prunus plants

At a Follow-up meeting on Execution Committee of the Public Investment Budget in the Southwest, on January 12, when it was read from a log book, that 12 000 trees were planted in Buea in August 2010, Mbella retorted: "We were not involved and we did not know about it … We think the number is so large and if the council was involved, we could have helped to show where the trees should be planted. In fact, we do not know how much it cost.

This is an abuse of the authority of the municipality, especially as we are talking about decentralisation." Mbella told The Post, Tuesday, January 25: "We are complaining to the right quarters, that the beneficiaries of such a programme are the community, represented by the local council, which I am privileged to head. Unfortunately for us, we did not know about the exercise. When you talk about the planting of trees, it should not be cypress."

He went further: "A programme like that that carries along a huge financial package, should plant trees that can be very useful, conspicuous and relevant to the urgency of the moment. If 12 000 trees were planted, it should not be spotted plants that are put here and there without consideration for the need for trees in certain places.

Cypress plants that are picked for FCFA 10 each from Mile 17 should not represent a tree-planting exercise for government in a community," Mbella averred adding, "We think that such mistakes should not be made again." Asked why he doubted the number, Mbella maintained: "We don’t know if they were planted. There is a claim that they can take us round and show us where the trees were planted. The said areas are in the Buea municipality which is headed by the Mayor of Buea. We needed to be part of that programme."

To the assertion that trees planted before were slashed down while clearing streets, Mbella retorted: "Those are excuses to exclude the council. In an age of decentralisation, I don’t know how people responsible enough can resort to such an argument; except we don’t believe in decentralisation. The project owner should be the local community which is represented by their local council."

Asked about reports that the Ministry of Forestry gave funds to some councils including FCFA 5 million to the Buea Council, Mbella stated: "We have not received a dime from the ministry as far as our council is concerned and many other councils in the Southwest Region. We have questioned the Regional Delegate who is the representative of the Minister on the matter; but we are still awaiting a response from her."

About the trees earlier planted by the council, Mbella said: "They are doing well. It is true that some were destroyed by some irresponsible persons within the municipality. But that should not deter our determination to plant more." Mbella maintained: "We should not wait and resort to unproductive and irrelevant approach to the tree-planting exercise that we are talking about."

He, however, averred: "We trust the competence of the authorities of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. We rely on the Regional Delegation and its officials. We think that there is a need for a synergy to ensure that the exercise is properly carried out. They are good technicians that we have always depended on. So, we are not like running them down. But we think that with the changing times, a need assessment should be conducted and, if a need assessment has to be conducted, there is no way you can avoid the local council.

"About  Buea citizens in front of whose structures the council planted trees, the Mayor said: "We gave them instructions on how to protect the trees and they did. You can see them yourself: from the Police Roundabout to Molyko and from Bokwaongo to Buea Town. The trees are doing well." Mbella summed up: "Let me tell you; the culture of poor planning or the culture of neglect is responsible for the problems that we have in this country. I think that an error has been made; that we were kept away."

Regional Delegation Reacts

Reacting to the Mayor’s assertion in the press that the Council was not aware of 12 000 trees planted in the municipality, the Regional Delegate for Forestry and Wildlife, Grace Mbah stated: "The contract for both the supply of the trees and the planting was awarded by the Governor. We (Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife) simply supervised the exercise." She said they planted the trees in educational and regional institutions in the municipality. Mbah explained: "We wrote letters to service heads informing them of the exercise. I personally went to the council with my collaborators and informed the Mayor of the exercise. How can he now claim that he did not know?"

Talking about the relevance of the trees, Mbah said; of the 12 000 planted, 5 000 are Pigeum or Prunus Africana, which is a medicinal plant whose back is the main constituent in the drug for the treatment of cancer. "You can visit the Prunus plantation [above the Nigerian Consul General’s residence} and see for yourself," she stated. The other trees, she said, were planted according to the demand and landscape of the area.

Reacting to the Mayor’s assertion that the trees were cypress, Mbah said only 993 of them were cypress, while the rest were medicinal and ornamental trees. Forestry authorities indicated to The Post the various trees, in a tour of the municipality. They said, besides an additional 1400 Prunus and the 993 cypress planted are Polyata, Callystemon, Bauhinia, Euphobia, Rystonia, Magidea, Largeastromia, Coloncoba.

"The Mayor can say that he was not part of the exercise; but to say that he is not aware of the 12 000 trees planted is rather outrageous," Mbah stated. "We even received reactions, including letters of appreciation, from the heads of some of the institutions where the trees were planted, thanking us, like the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea. We were also controlled by the Supreme State Control and they appreciated the activity," Mbah intimated.   

The Regional Chief for Forestry, Jean Pierre Kebou, said: "Some service heads came and requested for the planting of the trees on their premises, like the Principal of Government Technical College Bova. Kebou named the premises of institutions where the trees were planted including Urban Affairs, GTHS Buea, IVTC, the Courts, Sasse, Bishop Rogan, BHS, Kingston, university of Buea, among others. 

Kebou said the Governor had earmarked 8 000 trees for the exercise, but his service advised that for the FCFA 16 million, they could get up to 12 000 trees by varying the species according to the various landscapes of Buea. At the site where the 5 000 Prunus Africana trees were planted, the young trees had taken root and were growing; but for the fact that some farmers had set up fires which got some burnt.

Kebou said, the other trees planted in 2008, when the Minister and the Mayor himself participated, were slashed in the course of clearing the streets: "That is why we decided to work with institutions this time so that they can take care."

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