The Sun News

Government must pay attention to national parks (2)

Honestly, it is unexplainable why Ms Amina Mohammed would go for an open contest for the position of NPS when there are capable hands in the system. Indeed, for the hawks to canvass that the minister who never paid a visit to NPS facilities throughout her two year stay in office, was interested in a defined role for host communities around these enclaves beats my imagination.

From inception, NPS enthroned workable and thoughtful managerial process known as “support zone” mechanism, a strategic partnership model with host communities as key beneficiaries in health, education, welfare and job creation windows. It is therefore not a fluke or make believe that through this process, host communities plays crucial roles in natural resources protection and growth.

There are records that NPS host communities are never restive and had never engaged in open confrontation with NPS management in the quest to conserve and protect our natural genetic pool and ecosystem for generations get unborn.

At no time to the best of my knowledge as a travel and nature journalist, has any NPS management ever canvassed compensation be paid to communities to give up their “habitation” or forest land. Till date, host communities provide over 70% of the work force of National Parks located within their areas, with the Rangers Corp populated by their “reformed” game hunters and poachers.

Like I said earlier, peace reigns in NPS host communities and the strategy in this approach suggested to stakeholders in the restive oil and mineral resources bearing communities in the Niger Delta. If the truth must be told, there would never have been any Ogoni oil spill clean-up if the model of NPS host communities mechanism were adopted by relevant national resources protection agencies.

On BPE commercial policy for NPS, I recall that Lawan Marguba administration made it clear to BPE that conservation of natural resources should not be seen only from the tourism gains but from a more holistic baseline of its impactful contribution to hydrological, medical and agricultural research and development.

On that score, while BPE took to looking for ways to commercialize and privatize visitor facilities in the Parks such as lodges, restaurants, swimming pools, air strips, game viewings and other tourists offerings or products, the idea is to have core and frontal conservation modalities to thrive in the running of the Parks while the interested private sector players in tourism can take over the soft side of conservation gains.

It is sad that these called “dedicated conservationists and marketing communication professionals” did not take advantage of this opening to privately bring change to the tourism fortunes in NPS but sadly are now emboldened by the open contest to NPS leadership by the former minister to have what they would not get through the front door.

To leverage on the support of ignorant and innocent simplistic stakeholders in the media to have a head start for the NPS vacant leadership position could be likened to Judas Iscariots at play. Indeed, Amina Mohammed failings in not boldly giving the NPS the leadership it deserves from within the system have brought baggage of confusion and bad blood, particularly from the rampaging outsiders.

Yankari Saga

The Yankari National Park saga is a clear case of how state governments should not interfere in most natural resources aspirations. Adamu Muazu former governor of Bauchi state played King Herod with this timeless pride of Nigeria Park Protection system.

As a game reserve, it was handed over to the federal government and gazetted as National Park. There is no denying that NPS upped the game of protection at Yankari and the African elephant and other flora and fauna resources were left in peace. In fact, Yankari was no go area for poachers and that fact accounted for the huge population of elephants, baboons and other mammals which made the enclave the most sought after nature tourism destination in West Africa.

To the credit of the often lampooned and misunderstood management of NPS, Yankari became the face of Nigeria National Park system and the federal government through the management connected Yankari including most the host communities to the national grid. Apart from helping to boast local trade and commerce, the connection of Yankari to the national grid ensured that there is power inside this “forest ecosystem” to the benefit and growth of domestic tourism.

Again to build a bridge of understanding between conservation and tourism, NPS hosted several celebrations of World Tourism (WTD) activities in Yankari and instituted a yearly workshop for Conservation and tourism for journalists in Nigeria to which this writer initiated and participated with top Nigerian Journalists. These activities by NPS and including the support to the first ever tourism exposition which the private tourism sector facilitators could not sustain, are all strong indicators of the futuristic attempt by NPS management to encourage nature tourism as usually seen and noted elsewhere in Africa.

Though funding is very critical to the sustainable management and protection of these large expanses of land spaces across the country and to which would be addressed in our next report, the truth is that little or nothing in terms of funds was allocated to drive tourism within the protected enclaves in Nigeria. It must be noted that NPS offices all over the country were built by the management from the little funds allocated to it, a position that have placed the organization above its peers who are still operating from rented offices.

•Continue next week 

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