Stakeholders worried as insecurity takes toll on national parks, tourism business
Following the 10 years of insurgency, stakeholders in tourism industry have expressed concern over gradual dwindling in patronage of nation’s parks and games reserved in Northern part of the country.
They argued that business activities at Chad Basin, Kamulu, Okomu, and Gashaka national parks, in the region are at low ebb, attributing it to insecurity that made visitors and tourists to stay away.
According to them, most national parks have been abandoned, deserted, important animals are extinct, and there are illegal grazing, farming, hunting and mining during the period under review.
An expert, Kwame Awere-Gyekye of USAID, noted that issues of insecurity and illegal wildlife trade in our parks and game reserves have affected the industry in Nigeria, and other West African countries.
He, therefore, urged governments to give necessary tools and equipment to park operators to enable them address the issues urgently because the illicit trade has not been recognised as crime in our law books.
Explaining further, Awere-Gyekye said they found it difficult to pin-down illegal wildlife business because of lacuna in statute and Acts, so there is no sufficient enforcement in the sub region.
On her part, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Ibukun Udusote, told The Guardian that in the last one decade, Nigeria last 27 park rangers to assault by park violators.
She also explained that park operators face challenges like trekking long distances on rugged terrain under harsh weather conditions, as well as attacks by wild animals, which sometimes lead to loss of lives.
“Parkers are underequipped, underpaid and because they work in remote areas. The current staff strength of national park service is far below. It should be a person per five square kilometers of rain forest.”
Udusote added they are not often appreciated, and there is need for governments at all levels, donor organisations, NGOs and individuals to support national parks to service citizens better.
Also speaking, Conservator-General of National Park Service, Ibrahim Goni, during 2019 World Ranger Day in Abuja, said that they planned to deploy the use of drones to check insecurity in the nation’s parks.
He said when the technology is acquired, it would greatly improve monitoring of the national assets, noting that in Nigeria, a lot of park rangers have died or injured in the line of duty.
“Records show that a total of 1027 rangers lost their lives in the past 10 years across the globe and out of the figure. They are confronted with terrorism, and poaching among others.”
Goni, however, observed that issue of insecurity, which started in 2009, has affected tourism in North East and other zones, decline in patronage of national parks and game reserves.