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Minister seeks private sector partnership in biodiversity conservation

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The Federal Government has appealed to the private sector for support and collaboration with its agencies to achieve 25 per cent forest cover in the country.

Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, who made the plea during a visit to Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Lagos, stated that lack of biodiversity conservation has been plaguing the world, causing a lot of climate change issues.

Dr. Abubakar, who performed a commemorative tree planting exercise at the foremost conservation site, said Nigeria unfortunately was rated number 34 globally in terms of biodiversity loss, partly because its forestry cover was far below the world minimal.

He noted that instead of 25 per cent world minimum, Nigeria is at six per cent, which just increased from the five years of president Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration.

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According to the minister, the issue of climate change, if left unaddressed, would make the coronavirus disease looks like a child play, adding that COVID-19 will kill people, but a climate change would kill everything, including the land, trees and others.

He warned that climate change was more serious, and devastating, and that everybody, including the private sector has responsibility to ensure that necessary actions are taken for a safe environment for the present, and future generations.

He said: “Our ambition is to go beyond the 25 million indigenous tree policy. The ministry is saddled with that responsibility, and we are doing it with our partners, supporting the NCF to also do the same in this budgetary year.

On Ogoni land cleanup, he said, seven sites had been successfully cleared, certified, and ready for commissioning by the government while some non-performing contractors have been disengaged.

He disclosed that the ministry had designed an environmental master plan, which is being continuously reviewed, and will ensure that the next administration go on with.

Dr. Abubakar also said the government had designed a national policy on pollution, proposing a ban on first time use of plastic for the next five years, and was determined to build plastic recycling plants across the country. He encouraged reduction in plastic wastes, recycling, and reuse to preserve natural resources.

He commended NCF leadership for sustaining the centre in the midst of urbanisation, civilisation in a place like Lagos, adding that the Federal Government would continue to support its initiatives and other private sector interest.

NCF Director General, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, who said that the foundation has three conservation centres in the country to preserve biodiversity, revealed plans to establish five additional ones as well as centres in each state for young people to have a feel of nature.

He lauded the minister for pursuing policies and programmes that would help preserve the environment in a sustainable way for the future generations.

On his part, Chairman of NCF National Executive Council (NEC), Chief Ede Dafinone, reiterated their determination to plant 100 million trees over the next 30 years as part of an initiative to restore Nigeria to its green status.

MEANWHILE, in order to prevent another pandemic through zoonotic disease, international and local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have embarked on vulture conservation awareness campaign in Africa.

This was disclosed by the NCF Director of Technical programmes, Dr. Joseph Onoja, during event to commemorate the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) across the nation through webinars. He revealed that nature bestowed vultures on Nigerians as environmental sanitary officers with a cleanup service worth $11,000 in a year.

He emphasized that without vultures, humans are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, because, in the absence of vultures, dogs and rats become the clean-up crew.”

In his presentation, Mr. Aniekan-Abasi Emmah Uwatt, a conservation biologist and ornithologist, observed that human activities are the major drivers to the vultures’ threatened status.

He added that the world could suffer from negligence if something drastic is not done to preserve the remaining vulture species in Nigeria.

Another facilitator and lecturer, Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, Mr. Apeverga Paul Tersoo said vultures might not be very appealing by their looks, but the birds, also known as scavengers, do the dirty jobs of cleaning our environment by taking care of carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases which in turn keeps the ecosystem healthy.

The Head of Forest Centre, IITA Ibadan, Mr. Adewale Awoyemi, observed that the vanishing vultures have critical implications on human health and existence. The destruction of their habitats by deforestation is a threat to vulture conservation.

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