Mr Gilbert Nnah, Permanent Secretary, who is also the acting Commissioner Ministry of Environment, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Owerri.
Nnah said that the invaders destroyed some facilities in the zoo adding that the perpetrators would face the wrath of the law because the area was a government conservative area.
NAN recalled that members of the community invaded Imo Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park on Saturday and laid claim to a forest in the facility.
The Perm Sec condemned the earlier claim by the community that the Attorney General of the state had ceded the forest to the community adding that the land still belonged to government.
According to him, no judgment can undermine the Land Use Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the legal protection status of the zoo as contained in the Eastern Nigeria No. 1350 Forest Law (Cap 55) of the 1966 section 7, sub section 2.
“This law set aside all wildlife and forest facilities as protected areas by law,” he said.
He said the invaders vandalised the zoo facilities which included the canteen, animal water supplying pipes, borehole and the facility fence.
Mr Kemmas Nkemakolam, Community Spokesman told NAN that state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice had ceded the forest to them for expansion, which he said warranted their action.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ndukwu Nnawuchi (SAN), in a telephone interview with NAN, denied issuing any authority to the community.
He said, “I did not issue any authority for any community to invade government property, but all I can say is that the community has an understanding with government over the land”.
The General Manager of the zoo, Mr Francis Abioye said there was no evidence of court judgment or authority given to the community to take over the zoo forest.
NAN however, gathered that the action of the community is generating wide criticism from stakeholders in Imo and lovers of nature.