By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
The Conservator-General, National Park Service, Dr. Ibrahim Goni has expressed hope that Nigeria will be a major tourist destination.
Goni said the National Parks in the country provides Eco-System Service and are endowed with rich variety of natural resources.
The CG stated this in an end of year press conference at the NPS Headquarters, Abuja.
He noted that the potentials for recreation in all the parks are exceedingly high, but these are not being properly harnessed to achieve this objective.
He therefore emphasized the need for Infrastructural upgrade and Incremental inclusion of indigenous People participation in park resources management.
He said “Therefore, all the key actors in the conservation and tourism sector need to synergise and synthesize for the sector to perform optimally and contribute substantially to the national economy in order to achieve the vision and mission of the service.
Goni said the NPS will support private partnership initiative on the partial commercialization of the National Parks by the Federal Government subject to Improvement of Tourist Infrastructure (Eco-chalets, tracks etc ); Improvement on Marketing and publicity on the Park; Improve on guide and Interpretative Services; Allow communities to participate in provision of services such as guide, souvenirs etc; Link other tourist destination to park visits (Package tour); this can be done with the involvement of tour operators; Promote domestic tourism and ensure safety of tourist and visitors to the Park and Production of professionally designed promotional tools of high standard for use.
These tools include erection of bill boards mounting of posters, production of brochures, calendars etc.
He said that all the national parks in the country have been repositioned to serve Nigerians better.
He identified the training of 1,200 officers on basic combat readiness paramilitary by the Nigeria Army as one of the repositioning.
“Training and re-training of officers is key to achieving success in the implementation of the service mandate.
“Therefore, manpower development as a human capital function is responsible for developing the skills, knowledge and competence of the service,” he said.
He said that in spite of its limited resources, the agency would work with relevant stakeholders to put in motion a process through which officers, including Park Support Zone Communities (SZCs) be trained.
“The programme will focuses on the provision of education and training opportunities for all ages and genders of SZC members such as computer training, adult literacy and education, and alternative livelihood technologies.
“This strategy requires the involvement of the park’s SZCs in the co-management of the park resources and initiating a non-violence conflict resolution mechanism central to this strategy are enclaves communities.
“This is to enhance the capacity of the service and community, so as to efficiently and effectively deliver on the mandate of the service.
“The partnership is also for strong capacity building through workshops, seminars and conferences to improve tourist infrastructure such as Eco-chalets, tracks among others,’’ he said.
The conservator-general said that the agency was also partnering with other relevant stakeholders to promote ecotourism in the country.
Goni said that the agency was planning that the officers undergo a study tour to review more structures of other countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Cameroon, Rwanda, Gabon among others.
He said that the training and the tour would help the officials actualise vision and mission of the service.
The conservator-general also urged the communities to see the park resources in their domain as theirs, rather than to view it as government property.
“Local and traditional institutions that harbor strangers in their communities threaten the security of life; properties and that of the park resources should be monitored.
“The issue of rangers, herdsmen and farmer’s conflict, Illegal settlements or enclaves within the parks, were major challenges negating conservation efforts,” he said.
According to him, the service is planning to constitute a functional local advisory committee in each of the unit parks, the effort will improve the service.
One of the highpoints of the NPS in 2020 is the approval by President Muhammadu Buhari for the establishment of ten new National Parks across the country.
The new parks include Allawa Game Reserve, Allawa National Park 310km 2 Niger, Apoi Forest Reserve, Apoi National Park 64.77km 2 Bayelsa, and Edumenum Forest Reserve Edumenum National Park 86.76km 2 Bayelsa.
Others, according to him, are Falgore Game Reserve Falgore National Park 920km 2 Kano, Hadeja Wetland Game Reserve Hadeja Wetland National Park 320km 2 Jigawa and Kampe Forest Kampe National 652.86km 2 Kwara 2 Reserve Park.The new parks also included Kogo Forest Reserve, Kogo National Park 212.66km 2 Katsina and Marhai Forest Reserve Marhai National Park 54.00km 2 Nasarawa.Oba Hill Forest Reserve Oba Hills National Park 52.5km 2 Osun and Pandam Forest Reserve Pandam National Park 244km 2 Plateau were also part of the new parks.