By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of Nigeria Conservation Fund (NCF) has raised alarm that zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, SARS, MERS, avian influenza, Ebola and HIV threaten global health and economies.
The DG stated this in a webinar to commemorate the World Environment Day with the theme “Celebrate Biodiversity”.
A press statement from NCF signed by Oladapo Soneye, Head Communications said the webnair was a collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF).
Aminu-Kano in his presentation titled ‘Biodiversity and Pandemics’ revealed that approximately 60%-76% of all Emerging Infectious Diseases are zoonotic including recent outbreaks and pandemics that threaten global health and economies.
“He advised that people should ensure that the distance between wildlife & biodiversity and man is appropriate because people who carry the wildlife bring the exposure that leads to pandemic. He identified pangolin as one of the vectors of pandemic which people illegally trade in Nigeria. He urged conservationists in their campaign to target behavioural change and create public awareness on preference for consumption of wildlife meat which is posing threat of pandemic. He added that fighting corona virus disease is like the first round of the fight and if all concerned don’t tackle conservation challenges, climate change and other issues are waiting for everyone.
“He added that government and other stakeholders must tackle deforestation and other land-use changes, illegal and poorly regulated wildlife trade, climate change and so on.
“He emphasised the need for reforestation. He said “The objective of this reforestation is to increase the carbon sink and also respond to the urgent need for reforestation in a country that has lost about 96% of its forest cover.”
The statement said the Minister of State for Environment, Chief (Mrs.) Sharon Ikeazor, in her opening remarks reminded everyone of Nigeria’s rich biodiversity which include rainforests and mangrove forests on the Atlantic coast in the South; and the Savannah, bordering the Sahara in the North.
She said: “Biodiversity plays vital and diverse roles in our economy, ecology and social lives. It is our source of food, fibre, commercial products, medicine, agriculture and industrial processes.”
“She observed that biodiversity in Nigeria is seriously threatened by factors such as land use, agriculture; over-exploitation of natural resources; environmental pollution; climate change and poaching.
“She revealed that these threats have caused biodiversity loss which has led the nation into loss of livelihoods, making poor people become even more impoverished; spread of diseases (zoonosis); reduced food production; migration and human conflict.
“Therefore, immediate attention should be focused on saving what remains of our biodiversity in the country, so as to bring sustained benefits to Nigerians.” She concluded.
“The keynote speaker, Dr Muhammad Mahmood, the Honourable Minister of the Environment, stated that studies have shown that flora and fauna species are going extinct at an alarming rate which is being compounded by climate change. Speaking further, he said, a considerable number of environmental goods and services that were taken for granted are undergoing serious threats with a significant damaging consequence for ecosystems, economies and livelihoods.
“He opined that the conservation of biodiversity and its services is immensely important for human well-being, global economic development and poverty alleviation. To halt biodiversity loss is not only an environmental issue but happens to be a social development, equity and human survival issue.
“Transformational change is required to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, including changes in behaviour and decision-making at all levels and in all sectors,” he said.
“Chief Ede Dafinone, Chairman, National Executive Council, NCF remarked that NCF believes that systematic and structural changes are necessary for biodiversity conservation. NCF has been in the forefront of biodiversity conservation through advocacy, environmental education and conservation projects such as the Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN) initiative that seeks to restore Nigeria’s loss forest. He added that we all have responsibility to live by example and clean up the environment.
“Some of the participants are Ms. Katherine Kaetzer-Hodson, Environment, Science, Technology and Health Officer, US Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Adekola Rasaq, Deputy Director, Department of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment among others.
“The webinar was moderated by Mr. Demola Ajagbe, Regional Director, BirdLife Africa.”