Posted by News Express | 16 March 2020 | 1,641 times
By CHIMA NWAFO
The motivational grandmaster Myles Munroe of blessed memory, in his book - Understanding The Purpose And Power Of Woman - said “When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable.” Perhaps, that is the only reason to adduce for the perpetual neglect and abandoned state of national parks in Nigeria. The neglect of the few parks in the country also defines the attitude of the average Nigerian government and members of the public towards the environment.
On Friday February 14, it was widely reported in the media that the Nigerian Senate was miffed by reports of the infiltration of national parks by bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers, resulting in the killing of rangers. The Jeremiad was sequel to the consideration of a motion on the need “to mainstream the National Parks Service into the Nigeria security architecture,” sponsored by Senator Suleiman Umar, who noted:
“These national parks are becoming safe haven for criminal elements within the society who often use them as hideout. They come out to attack, and return there for safety. The National Park Service has no sufficient resources, personnel and training to cope with the current security challenges the nation is facing. What is at the disposal of Park Rangers are obsolete and low-calibre firearms and ammunitions, such as double-barrel short-gun, pump action, and dane-guns. Parks are now home to organised crime, banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling, with resultant killing of rangers and commuters by poachers and herdsmen.”
First, let’s get a definition of a national park or nature reserve, to see how such institutions fit into the nation’s priority in terms of funding. According to Wikipedia,
“A nature reserve is an area of land that is protected and managed for various ecological reasons. It could be designated to protect and preserve wildlife, flora, fauna, geological features or other special interest that plays a part in our ecosystem and Earth's biodiversity. A National Reserve is a land designated for protecting conservation values.”
In the developed world where the economies are functional, providing citizens with a robust standard of living and leisure, people often go to national parks and reserves to enjoy the secluded beaches, bush-walking and biking trails, picnic grounds, camping grounds, rowboats on the river, and various swimming holes.
And in sister country, Kenya, the national park system is maintained by the Kenya Wildlife Service which manages the national parks, national and marine reserves, namely: 25, National Parks, 18 National Reserves and 6 Marine Parks and reserves. It is common knowledge that the existence and administration of such parks drive tourism which is a major contributor to Kenya’s GDP. This has little to do with technology.
Not surprisingly, Nigeria’s first national park - Kainji Lake - was set up by the most-achieving military/civilian Head of State,Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979; just as American Civil War-hero-turned politician, Ulysses S Grant, 18th President of the United States, established the Yellowstone National Park in 1872, which for long was erroneously regarded as the world’s oldest.
Yellowstone, a large protected area spanning about 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 square kilometres or 2,219,789 acres), is known for its wildlife and unique geographical features. But, available records show that Bogd Khan Uul is the oldest national park in the world as it was established by the Mongolian Government in 1778 – that is, it predates Yellowstone National Park by more than 100 years. Unfortunately, the country does not possess anything close to the enormous information machinery that America wields. In 1995, Bogd Khan Uul was officially designated a “Strictly Protected Area” in accordance with current Mongolian law. In 1997, the park received UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, after more than 250 years of its existence and maintenance by the state.
In his motion, Senator Umar talked about “mainstreaming the National Parks Service into the Nigeria security architecture.” Whatever that means! The problem transcends the existential challenge of security, which is currently a national concern. There is a Nigeria National Park Service (NNPS) said to be responsible for “preserving, enhancing, protecting and managing vegetation and wild animals in the national parks of Nigeria.” The NNPS is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of the Environment, and is headed by a Conservator-General. Earlier, there was a National Parks Governing Board set up in 1991.
The Senate is well-positioned to tell the public how much is budgeted annually for the NNPS, including specific appropriation for equipment, salaries and allowances of the Rangers. Elsewhere in the world, such institutions are taken from states or provinces to the central government for better funding and adequate care; but not so in Nigeria. The popular Yankari Games Reserve, which origin dates back to 1962, was upgraded to a National Park in 1992, and in 2006 it was handed over to the Bauchi State Government. Certainly, such a gesture could have been to minimise neglect due to inadequate funding and eventual atrophy.
On the contrary, Australia’s oldest 58 square-mile Royal National Park, was set up in 1879 by the New South Wales Premier, Sir John Robertson. It was recorded as the first in the world to have “National Park” as part of its nomenclature, just as the original name was National Park until 1955, “after Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, passed by the park in a train during her 1954 tour.” Also, before the creation of the US National Park Service in 1916, Yellowstone was run by the United States Army from 1886-1918. That had nothing to do with “mainstreaming into national security architecture.” It was a case of institutional efficiency and understanding of the nation’s conservation objectives.
So, the questions for the Senate to address are: As a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of the Environment, does the Nigeria National Park Service receive adequate budgetary provisions annually? What is the physical state of the parks? Do they attract tourists with a view to earning some revenue?
Nigeria’s eight parks - Chad Basin, Cross River, Gashaka Gumpti (the largest), Kainji, Kamuku, Okomu, Old Oyo and Yankari with approximately 20,156 square kilometers or about 3 per cent of Nigeria's total land area – do not in any way match Kenya’s 49 reserves embracing wildlife, forest and marine resources spread across the length and breadth of the East African nation. Yet, they are efficiently and strategically administered to attract tourists and yield revenue for the government, because the Kenyan Wildlife knows the purpose for which they were established.
Besides, globally, marine reserves are important for preserving the biological diversity of marine areas, and protect rare and threatened species, important natural habitats and provide benefits for fisheries species. In Nigeria today, no area is as ecologically threatened as the oil-producing Niger Delta region. But one is not aware of any marine reserve there for the preservation of its biodiversity and marine life.
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