By Frank Meke
Nigerian National Park service was established by Military Decree 36 of 1991, with five unit Parks , kanji lake, Gashaka Gumti, Old OYO , Chad Basin and Cross River National Parks, at the forefront of what can be described as Nigeria practical effort to protect and manage its natural flora and fauna ecosystem.
For the sake of those who may be “lost” to the meaning of a “National Park”, the concept is rooted in the united states’ of America where the congress declared Yellow stones as a national park in 1872, effectively driving a global attention to set aside a number of unique areas of a country for conservation. Indeed, defined across board as ” one or several ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation; where plants and animal species, geomorphologic sites and habitats are of special scientific educational and recreative interest; which contains a natural landscape of beauty and to which visitors are allowed entry under special conditions, for educational, inspirational, cultural and recreational purposes.
We must state that progressively since the Yellow stone iconic legislative process, the international union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has broadened the scope of knowledge in these areas and the recreational sidelines of conservation, nearly distorting the primary purpose of National Parks, particularly in Nigeria.
Specifically, the Nigerian attempt, which began as a modest action plan thirty one years ago to secure special areas in the country and preserve such places for critical intervention to check deforestation and fauna ecology, struggled in the minds of Nigerians, clearly exposed to green and safari tourism of East and south Africa.
No doubt, global broadcasting networks dwelling on geographic insights, and primarily, championing the recreational gains of conservation within these climes, drove an incomparable pressure on the Nigerian concept, bedeviled by poor budget allocation, and absence legislative back up and public buy-in.
Ours indeed, is a labour room experience, but fully determined to accept global changes and models, without subjecting the system to imperial or colonial intervention.
Within the thirty one years strides by Nigerian conservation professionals and for the exclusively branded Nigerian protected areas manifestation, the succession plan has evolved full cycle without the usual business as usual game plan distruptive to very sensitive national sociopolitical institutions such as national parks
Significantly, these catholic creed in management mantra of Nigeria Park system, separates and drive it to sustainable threshold to continually evolve and enthrone certain land marks on conservation.
From its founding father, Lawan marguba, to Late Tanko “technical” Abubakar, and new generation pathfinders, led by Ibrahim Goni, PHD, certain measures of visible achievements have been recorded.
There’s no denying that new parameters of expectations and developmental benchmarks are clearly drawn and redrawn by critical stakeholders, thereby challenging to fullest the professional competence of today’s natural resources managers.
From pressures of community developmental needs, unbridled herders attacks, urbanization, deforestation, poaching and illegal logging, the additional and most challenging national security situation posed by kidnappers and insurgents, using the covers of the thick vegetations covers of protected areas, puts to flight the gains of the system in the past five years.
I write and know that the Nigerian protected areas trajectory has left landmarks in view of limited resources available to it but most interesting, is the determined and focal efforts in manpower training and retraining to brace for the sociocultural challenges, octane criminal remapping of the parks as frontiers of insurgency instead of conservation, with arrogant presence heavily armed poachers and loggers daring the most intrepid Ranger(s)
Ibrahim Goni, PHD, our focal assessment of leadership scorelines, remain the most tested conservation general in the history of Nigerian conservation superhighway.
With a history of detailed rank to rise history, Ibrahim Goni, has opened the Park to futuristic collaborative end post, and inside the bowels of the Parks system, are visible but untold stories of achievements.
In our series, beginning from this outing, we shall attempt to tell these stories and off course, the politics of poor funding which seem to cripple and open the Parks as frontiers and wombs providing covers to troublers of Nigerian nation.
Just last week, President Muhammadu Buhari under whose watch Ibrahim Goni through unprecedented legislative support, birthed ten additional National Parks in one swoop in 2020, brought our national quest to addressing climate change at the 50th celebration of United Nations Environmental Programme( UNIP), to global attention, reinforcing the truth that Goni Ibrahim was born to turn difficulties and hardships to success.
Next week, we shall look at this life and times of this conservation enigma, his scorecard and his dream for national park service. Does he deserve another chance on the beat and as Conservation General, in Nigeria’s most trying times?, can Nigeria make green tourism destination ranking?
Keep eyes on this column.