By Michael Olugbode
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the establishment of 10 additional national parks, bringing the number nationwide to 17.
Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, listed the parks to include Allawa Game Reserve, Apoi Forest Reserve and Edumenum Forest Reserve.
Others are Falgore Game Reserve, Hadeja Wetland Game Reserve, Kampe Forest Reserve, Kogo Forest Reserve, Marhai Forest Reserve, Oba Hill Forest Reserve and Pandam Forest Reserve.
He added that to give credence and legal backing to the establishment of the 10 national parks, an executive bill will soon be presented to the National Assembly for passage into law.
According to him, the creation of the additional national parks has become imperative in view of the prevailing effects of climate change across the globe.
He said: “This action is geared towards the United Nations policy of placing 25% of its member countries’ landmass under permanent vegetation cover for carbon sequestration to mitigate the effects of climate change and ameliorate other ecological challenges.
“It may interest you to note that Nigeria currently has 6.7% of her total landmass under vegetation cover which is grossly inadequate in line with global best practices. The creation of these parks will no doubt further create more employment opportunities, alleviate poverty in rural areas and ultimately enhance the country’s revenue profile, especially now that Nigeria is seeking to diversify her economy.”
Abubakar explained that the 17 national parks cut across the ecological zones of the country except the marine ecosystem.
He said the national parks are areas reserved and managed for conservation of wildlife and natural resources, adding that they contain rich and diverse varieties of rare endangered species like elephants, gorillas, giraffes, monkeys, golden cats, hippopotami, crocodiles, among other animals and some plant species.
The minister stated that the functions of the National Park Service involve surveillance, patrolling, checking illegal activities of poachers in the parks, enforcement of relevant international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory, public enlightenment on the protection and conservation of plants and animals, assisting researchers and searching, arresting and prosecuting offenders.
“It is also regrettable that most state-owned forest reserves today have become dens of criminal activities.
“In a bid to further add impetus to the current fight against insurgency as well as other organised crimes such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry amongst others, the creation of these national parks will provide the much needed apparatus to ward off criminal elements living or looking for hideouts in those areas,” he added.