By Ignatius Okorocha
Alarmed the conversion of National Parks into criminal hideout in parts of the county, the Senate on Thursday urged the federal government to include National Park Service in the mainstream of national security architecture in line with the resolution of the 12th National Council on Environment.
The upper legislative chamber also emphasized the need to give special training in firearms and ballistics as well as surveillance and intelligence information gathering to park rangers.
It further resolved to conclude tripartite consultation by the Ministries of Environment; Agriculture; and Interior, on the presidential intervention as well as involve other security agencies in park protection and surveillance.
These resolutions, which also includes involving the host communities in surveillance and security of the parks, were sequel to a motion to that effect by Senator Sadiq Umar (APC Kwara North) and co-sponsored by 10 other lawmakers during plenary.
Presenting the motion, Umar noted that there are seven National Parks in Nigeria, covering 20,156sqkm, which is about three percent of the country’s total area, adding that the parks portray the success or failure of government environmental policies while they are especially critical in mitigating environmental threats.
According to him, the parks in Nigeria, serve to protect the country’s diverse flora and fauna thereby ensuring that the natural ecosystem remains intact, but lamented that they are becoming safe haven for criminals within the society, who often use them as hideouts.
Umar, who alleged that the criminals at the parks “come out to attack and return there for safety”, noted that the security agencies routine patrols did not cover the parks, adding that the Park Rangers are only trained to guide and protect the parks.
He expressed worry that the National Park Service has no sufficient resources, personnel and training to cope with the current security challenges the nation is facing.
The lawmaker added that “what is at the disposal of Park Rangers are obsolete and low caliber firearms and ammunition such as double barrel short gun, DBSG, pump action, and dane guns.”
He particularly regretted that the parks are now home to organised crime like banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling, with resultant killing of Rangers and commuters by poachers/herdsmen.
In their contributions, Senators Ibikunle Amosun (APC Ogun Central), Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North) and Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central) stressed the need for government to mainstream the parks into the national security architecture, noting that instead of been sources of revenue for the country, the parks have become haven for criminals.