DESPITE THE ACTIVITIES OF BOKO HARAM OUR WILDLIFE ARE STILL TRIUMPHING WITH 250 ELEPHANTS DISCOVERED THIS YEAR – DR. IBRAHIM MUSA GONI - Living Environment

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Monday, January 25, 2021

DESPITE THE ACTIVITIES OF BOKO HARAM OUR WILDLIFE ARE STILL TRIUMPHING WITH 250 ELEPHANTS DISCOVERED THIS YEAR – DR. IBRAHIM MUSA GONI



 In an interview, Ada Achanya from Living Environment Magazine talks with the Conservator General of National Park Service, Dr. Ibrahim Musa Goni. The Agency is solely responsible for managing the protected areas of the country’s resources.

Excerpts:

Q1: Good Morning Sir, please tell us about National Park Service and the job you do to protect Wildlife and Ecosystems?

National Park is a compound word, it is the highest level of managing protected areas and under the protected areas we have the Green Reserves, Grazing reserve, Strict Native Reserve and the Sanctuaries. These are the protected areas under our management.

In the case of National Park, it is managed by the country’s highest legal authority in Nigeria, it’s an area designated by the government for the protection and conservation of the national resources therein.

National Park is an area where entry is not allowed except with permission, which may be for tourists, research fellows, poachers, loggers, grazers etc. It is illegal for any of the above to enter the national park without proper permission. It is an area set aside for recreation, that is where the ecotourism aspect comes into the National Park. With permission you can establish tourist facilities with an approved Environmental Impact Assessment. 

The job of any National Park Manager is to ensure that the plants, animals, water resources, soil, the rocks and whatever it is whether living or non-living, biotic or abiotic found in the National Park are preserved, protected and conserved.

When you preserve, you don’t touch and that’s why we have National Park Oyo, where we preserve the old ancient town of Oyo in the National Park. Also, in the process of preservation, we allow people utilize what we have, where tourists and historians come around to look and interpret what they saw before and what it looks like now.

Q2: How do you protect the National Parks? 

We have rangers who need to be kitted and equipped with ammunitions, whistles, Jack Knife, camping facilities and anything you think they need to aid their job. On a daily basis they ensure they monitor the activities of the park by moving on foot and vehicles. We also engage the services of the Airforce for arial surveillance, using modern biotechnology as a support tool such as drones, GPS, Smart Phones and any other technology to monitor the activities of the park.

We also engage the services of the Airforce for arial surveillance, using modern biotechnology as a support tool such as drones, GPS, Smart Phones and any other technology to monitor the activities of the park.

In the process of monitoring and you encounter any confrontation or any illegal activities in the park, the Act establishing the service gives us power to arrest and take the person to any court with the necessary jurisdiction to prosecute the offender. 

 Q3: How many National Park do we have in the country, which is the largest and which is the busiest?

Currently Nigeria has seven National Parks and the Journey to establishing National Parks started in 1979 when the Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo established the first National Park which is Kainji Lake after Nigeria signed the International Convention of Biodiversity. The Convention was documented when the first National park was established and two game reserves were handed over by two state governments, Kwara and Niger State. Kwara handed over Borgu Game Reserve, while Niger State handed over Zugurma Game Reserve. The Federal Government took them over and named them after the famous Lake Kainji now, Kainji Lake National Park and in 1991 General Ibrahim Babagida also added the five National Parks namely: Old Oyo National Park in South West, Cross River National Park in the South-South, Chad Basin National Park in North-East, Gashaka Gumti National Park in the North-East, and later as time progressed, Yankari Game Reserve was also handed by the Bauchi State Governor to the Federal Government. Between 1991-1999 we had six National Parks.

In 1999, shortly before General Abdulsalam Abubakar handed over power to the civil democratic elected cabinet, he also established two National Parks which was Kamuku National Park in Bini Kwari in Kaduna State in the North West and Okomu National park in Edo State still part of the South-South.

The smallest National Park is the Okomu National Parks with a land area of 200sqkm and the largest National Park is the Gashaka Gumti which cover the land area of 6,700sqkm and the busiest has to do with function. The busiest in terms of tourism is Kainji Lake National Park, while Yankari used to be but in 2004 there was a legislation from the National Assembly where the President handed over Yankari back to the Bauchi State Government.

Q4: With security challenges and activities of poachers, what is the situation with the wildlife and indigenous species of animals in Nigeria.

As far as security in concerned, it has become a general issue in this country and all sectors is concerned. the National Park has also recorded some vibes of insecurity. The security challenges facing us are surmountable, recently we had an infiltration of Chad Basin National Park by Boko Haram, Kamuku National Park in Bini Kwasi by Bandits and Kidnappers, where havoc was recorded in Kainji between Rangers and bandits. You can see we also have a bit of our own insecurity challenges.

The situation in Chad Basin National Park where Boko Haram has gradually taken over but it has been surmounted with collaboration with the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Air Force, DFA, Police and the National Park Service.

Recently, in one of the sectors of Chad Basin National Park where Boko Haram had infiltrated, that is the Chigorumi Dogoma sector and in a village called Rani in Calabido Local Government of Borno State where 250 elephants where sighted as far back as February 2020, the same elephants resurfaced in November. The BBC Hausa Service reported that the elephants had invaded the place, meaning that despite the activities of Boko Haram our Wildlife are still triumphing. They are being sighted from time to time and the regulation of course is fast regenerating and recovering because of the minimal interference of human activities. 

The same thing ins Kumuku National Park was also infiltrated by Bandits and kidnappers, with the help of the military in conjunction with the National Park Ranger, they were dislodged.

We right now have the OPERATION CROCODILE SMILE that’s working with us and the Vigilante in Kainji Lake National Park to be able to get those bandits that hit recently in Zamfara Forest Reserve that is adjacent to National Park Wamama Forest Reserve and Halawa Forest Reserve in Niger State, were they keep their victims and daily field reports shows that wild animals are still roaming the field, plants are also doing well and suspects who trespass into the park are being arrested at Zoroma for illegal logging for timber. 

In all, despite the security challenges, we are still carrying out our duties and the animals are observed as they roam the field.

Q5: How can we ensure the sustainability of our Parks and Wildlife and how best can this be funded?

Sustainability is beyond you and me and to achieve this, all hands must be on deck.

All stakeholders must come together. We need the tourism industry, security services and financial department to support of our legislation. The National Assembly must ensure that the resources needed are provided and sustained because without all the stakeholders coming together, our effort will not yield good results.

In addition to the above mentioned, we also need the communities that are living close to the Park, for without the corporation and support, much cannot be achieved no matter what the government does.

The Government of President Buhari has environment as one of the issues on the front burner, since he came, the resources of the service have increased and efforts are being made for more resources to be provided for to add to our staff strength and acquire the necessary equipment we need for our work. All these put together is my view – it’s possible to sustain our resources and the media should also create awareness, sensitize the people as to the Do’s and Don’ts of the environment, when this is achieved, somebody will be aware that he does not need a particular plant for medicine so there’s no need going for it. You go for it when you need it, that is sustainable to use. And Also, when you want to pick any leaf, pluck it in such a way that it will regenerate not to destroy it. 

Q6: Finally, sir, are there private investment opportunities in the Park and Wildlife sector for interested investors?

This is one sector with great opportunities for private sector investment because in the potentials of tourism which is mostly private sector driven. National Park has an aspect of ecotourism which should be sublet to private investors. Again Mr. President has laid a foundation by initiating a partial commercialization for 3 National Parks to sublet the ecotourism to private individuals and the three parks are Cross River, Kainji Lake and Gashaka Gumti National Parks. 


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