Indiscriminate felling of trees for charcoal production has continued to thrive in some states in the North-Central in spite of government's campaigns against the practice.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Taraba states revealed that loggers and charcoal dealers are making brisk business in defiance of government's order.
In Makurdi, the loggers and charcoal sellers said they were enjoying a trade boom owing to the high demand for charcoal in the city.
Iorvihi Asema, a logger, said he made good sales from the trade.
"I sell a bag of charcoal for N700 and sometimes N800, depending on the season and I sell quite a good number in a day.
"During wet season charcoal is very difficult to come by, thereby making the price to go up," Mr Asema said.
He said during the wet season, logs of wood took longer time to dry unlike during the dry season.
Another logger, Tyonongo Kpenyam, said that they were carrying out logging activities in spite of the Federal Government's directive against it.
"This is what we do to feed our families. Some of us try to plant after felling each tree to enable future generations to also use them.
"For some of us, this is our major source of income, so heeding to the Federal Government's directive will be disastrous because we will be out of business and our families will suffer," Mr Kpenyam said.
A charcoal dealer, Daniel Yaaku, said that he bought a bag of charcoal for N700 and sometimes N800, especially during the wet season.
"I, then, retail at the rate of N1,600 to consumers in order to cover the cost of transportation and make little profit," Mr Yaaku said.
A consumer, Dorcas Terna said that she used to buy a bag of charcoal for N1, 800 and sometimes even N2,000.
"I also buy in small quantity for N50 and N100, according to need and as my economy warrants," she said.
For another charcoal user, Ladi Azembe, charcoal was a good source of domestic fuel because "it is cost-effective and does not blacken pots like firewood; it is almost the same with gas in that regard.
"I enjoy cooking with charcoal because it does not produce smoke and it makes cooking very easy," Mrs Azembe said.
Also, in Nasrawa State, a Lafia-based charcoal dealer, Hannah Emeka, said she enjoyed high patronage from her customers, saying that the business had sustained her and family.
Another dealer of the commodity, Ayoku Adigizi, a widow said she used the proceeds from sales of charcoal to train her children in school as well as meet other needs of her family.
And a charcoal user in the city, Gambo Musa, said he resorted to the use of charcoal because it was cheaper and affordable for low-income earners.
Mr Musa also said the usage was risk-free in terms of explosion.
However, a medical practitioner in the city, Ogungbemi Olalekan, said that charcoal was classified under biomass fuel, and warned that its use could cause adult asthma at old age, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and eye problems such as cataract because of the effects of biogas smoke.
Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State government is partnering with the state's Timber Association to checkmate indiscriminate felling of trees in order reduce deforestation.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Abdullahi Ciroma, said the partnership became necessary to checkmate indiscriminate felling of trees to produce charcoal in the state.
According to Ciroma, the activities of loggers in the state among other things, is causing serious damage to the environment.
He said the collaboration had so far helped in checking the excesses of loggers, and also increased internally generated revenue for the state.
He said the state's environmental law prohibited felling of trees in the forests reserve and plantations, adding that punishment of offenders largely depended on the gravity of the offence.
The permanent secretary, then, disclosed that the State Government planned to plant one million trees to replace the trees that were felled by loggers in some of the forest reserves in the state.
In Plateau, a housewife, Abigail Dung, said she was using charcoal for cooking because it was cheaper, faster and a cleaner than kerosene.
Similarly, Adaobi Eze, a food vendor in Jos, also said charcoal was faster, more economical and neater to use than firewood.
A charcoal dealer in Jos, Kande Waride, said a bag of charcoal sold for N 1,900 and in a day she would sell between one and three bags with N300 profit on each bag.
Mrs Waride said she had been in the business for the past 50 years and that the commodity was usually sourced from trees that were cut and burnt in the forest.
She said she was not aware of the dangers of tree felling to the environment, saying that trees were nature's gift to man.
Similarly, a cross-section of Taraba residents attributed the adoption of charcoal as an alternative source of cooking energy to high cost of kerosene and cooking gas.
The residents said that charcoal was much more available and cheaper within their immediate environment than kerosene.
One of them, Jeremiah Atoshi, said he was using charcoal because it was more accessible than any other source of cooking energy.
Also, Vivian Bala, a maize roaster in Jalingo said that the use of charcoal had minimal risk of toxins on foods.
Mrs Bala noted that kerosene and other sources of cooking energy had high risk of contaminating foods which charcoal did not have.
Auwalu Isa, Manager, Alheri Bakery, Jalingo also said that the use of charcoal had less risk of contaminating the foods it was being used to cook.
Mr Bala said that charcoal was easier to access and cheaper than gas, electronic cooker or petrol.
However, an environmentalist and Deputy Counselor, Waste Management Society of Nigeria, FCT council, Femi Kinrin, said tree felling to produce charcoals was a leading cause of global warming and climate change.
Mr Kinrin told NAN in Jos that tree felling reduced the number of agents that were capable of absorbing carbon emission.
He explained that humans emitted carbon monoxide and inhaled oxygen, while plants emitted oxygen and inhaled carbon monoxide.
He said that humans needed the by-product of trees and plants for their survival.
The expert said that when by-products carbon monoxide were not consumed because of the indiscriminate tree felling, there would be fewer trees and plants to absorb the carbon monoxide.
He said the carbon monoxide would then saturate the atmosphere which leads to global warming and climate change.
According to the environmentalist, the number of trees is decreasing in population and there are also fewer plants to give humans the oxygen they need to breathe in.
"So the entire cycle falls at risk and survival becomes very difficult."