I am delighted to address this array of personalities on this auspicious round table for Donor individuals and organizations put together by the Management of the National Park Service.
This forum is informed by the need to drum up support and partnerships from both local and international organizations to fast-track the development of the National Park Service for higher service delivery.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Park Service was established in 1991 to amongst other things, conserve Nigeria’s biological diversity, promote ecotourism, research and education. Since then the Service has made giant strides in discharging her mandate.
Nigeria covers a total land area of 923,768 sq. km out of which 22,164 sq.km or 2.4% is placed under permanent vegetation cover by the National Park Service in 7 National Parks. Plans are also under way to create additional National Parks in an effort to attain the standard set by the United Nations (UN).
The contributions of National Parks to human livelihood and development cannot be over-emphasised as they provide the most natural and cost-effective means of climate change amelioration and other environmental catastrophes such as soil erosion, desertification, oceans surge etc, through ecological stabilization and watershed protection. They also provide essential goods and services for human livelihood and well-being such as food, fibre and medicine.
National Parks equally, provide invaluable services to agriculture as they provide conducive habitats for bees, bats and other pollinators of agricultural crops and serve as gene-pool for the improvement of agriculture for national food security.
Furthermore, the vast tourism potentials in National Parks provide golden opportunity for investments in tourism. When fully developed and harnessed they have the capacity of turning Nigeria into a tourists’ haven and facilitating the achievement of her vision of economic diversification.
However, Nigerian National Parks are faced with numerous challenges which militate against their accelerated development. Prominent among these are; insecurity, inadequate funds for developmental projects, trans-boundary conservation activities and sustainable livelihood options, deterioration of infrastructure, lack of capacity, dearth of manpower and equipment and above all absence of strategic partnerships.
It is in a bid to reverse the trend and raise the standards of National Parks to global best practices that the Federal Government recently unbundled National Parks to encourage private participation in their development and management. Already the National Council on Privatization (NCP) has approved the partial commercialization of the Service. The council has also approved the immediate commercialization of the eco-tourism components of 3 National Parks namely; Gashaka Gumti; Cross River and Kainji Lake National Parks as a pilot scheme. In this regard, the management of the National Park Service is working with relevant Government Agencies to ensure a securer and investment-friendly environment in and around the National Parks. I therefore urge potential investors to take advantage of this window and invest in National Parks.
In the same vein, it is our conviction that with the support of development partners like you, the National Park Service would surmount these problems and contribute significantly to both national and global economies and security, hence this interface.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me on this note, urge you to partner with the National Park Service. I particularly seek your support in the areas of funding development projects, technical assistance and direct foreign investments into National Parks.
Thank you for listening