By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor has identified Biodiversity as the cradle of life on earth.
She said this covers millions of species, from plants, animals, fungi and bacteria and the Ecosystem is the baseline that holds all of this together.
The Minister stated this in her presentation on a World Environment Day (WED) Webinar hosted by the European Union in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society on Friday.
The theme of the discussion was “Biodiversity: 77me for Nature: Up-scaling Conservation and Protection of Biodiversity in an Era of COVID-19”.
Ikeazor said that human interaction with the Ecosystem must remain balanced or else we risk disrupting nature and face the consequence as seen with the COVID 19 Pandemic.
“Therefore, to prevent future pandemics, we must Restore, Conserve and Protect our Biodiversity. This pandemic has shown us more than ever the importance of our biodiversity and the need to upscale our conservation strategies.
“The Theme of this year for World Environment Day is very Apt as we recover from COVID 19 and realize that our solutions are staring us in the face which is to Restore, Conserve and Protect our Biodiversity especially in a COVID 19 era.
“As I have said in several fora, Biodiversity is the foundation for life and there are a mirage of benefits amongst which are: livelihoods and sustainable development, improvement and delivery of food security, increase in job opportunities for local communities.
“With the COVID 19, we have learned:
That COVID-19 is not the first zoonotic disease to threaten human health and survival and it may not be the last. In the past, there have been SARS, MERS, Ebola, Avian flu, HIV/AIDS, HINI influenza etc.
She said conservation of biodiversity must be high on national agendas as it is the most effective, and the most cost-effective way to prevent future outbreaks that endanger human lives and threaten livelihoods.
She said the Government of Nigeria has taken steps in conservation and protection of biodiversity especially in the era of COVID.
Some of these are intervention programme by the Department of Forestry in collaboration with Guinness Nigeria PLC on afforestation/reforestation of 5000 hectares of land for a period of five (5) years is six states of the federation and FCT. (On-going); Intervention programmes by the Ministry through the Great Green Wall Agency (NAGGW) which include implementation of the 25 million trees pledge made by Mr. President (On-going); Implementation of the National Ivory action Plan (NIAP) which aims to curb illegal trafficking of elephant and manage stockpiling of the seized tusk (On-going); Survey on the existing elephants in the Nigerian territory (Ongoing); Awareness and sensitization campaigns in the communities where the existing elephants in Nigeria are found (Completed); Capacity building of the Judiciary and Law enforcement agencies on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) and speedy disposal of cases of violators (Completed).
Other steps taken by Nigeria according to the Minister is collaboration with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on accessing data on Illicit Wildlife Trade in the Country with the use of modern technology. Fingerprints machines have been distributed to Nigerian Custom Service officials at the exit points (Completed); Collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in educating the populace on need to conserve endangered species e.g Vulture, Pangolin, Manatee etc. (On-going); Collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on implementing conservation of primates in Cross-River state (Completed); Awareness and sensitization of forest communities in protecting and preventing biodiversity loss. (On-going); African Rosewood (Pterocarpus erinaceous) tree programme between Nigeria, Benin and Togo which aims to ensure sustainable management and that utilization (trade) of the specie is not detrimental to its survival in the wild is on-going; Establishment of animal rescue centres in FCT, Kano and Lagos states (Completed); and Establishment of Sustainable Management of selected critical wetland ecosystem and strengthening of community livelihood in Hadejia, Jigawa State and Nguru, Yobe State.
She said next steps include sustenance of the ongoing campaign against the spread of COVID19 and other outbreaks and engaging in more aggressive awareness creation at the national, sub-national and community levels; Valuation of our biodiversity resources as its contributes to our GDP; Encouraging farmers in forest-based communities to practice climate smart agriculture (CSA) through the REDD+ programme; Need for stricter enforcement of policy, laws and regulations on Illegal Wildlife Trade, deforestation and over-exploitation of biodiversity; Leveraging on knowledge of indigenous people and communities living in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA); Provision of alternative livelihoods to the communities so as to reduce human activities impact on biodiversity and its resources; and Promotion of Eco-tourism as a viable source of revenue generation.