Dear Mr. President, I must congratulate you, sir, for bringing a refreshing dimension to issues of climate change as affects Nigeria at the just concluded United Nations General Assembly in New York. Certainly, the issues in natural resources management and strategies to mitigate the challenges capture certain need to further call your attention to avoidable disaster staring our dear nation in the face.
Our situation in this quest is beyond the red list and deserves urgent practical attention. Mr. President, the private sector and government environmental position seems very confusing for now and for which your presentation at the word body should serve as wake-up call to save Nigeria from massive and potent hazards of climate change.
To further this cause, one was pained to the reality that our nutritional needs, the feeding our people are also in jeopardy despite your determined and highly successful attention on agriculture in the past five years. Indeed, sir, land resources, quantity and quality call for further retreat on issues at stake. There is no denying the fact that Nigeria has the land mass to make hay in agriculture but one is in doubt as to the true position of the quality of our land mass.
Mr. President, the near pin-drop silence in the local discussion and policy reappraisal of your call to revisit the issues of climate change possibly confirms the ignorance of our people on the natural disasters looming and threatening to swallow us. As earlier stated, how we can revert back to natural resources management, particularly in assessment and evaluation of environmental health status, calls for an immediate action plan.
In this quest sir, with the right desire to implement and respond holistically to your UNGA presentations, the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Water Resources, Transportation (waterways management) and the National Assembly should immediately wake up and position the right vehicle in addressing the issues in focus.
From our forests, watershed management, waterways and the entire architecture of our environment, key and complex issues, particularly using legislative intervention, need to be addressed. The fact that our population conservatively is about 200 million people and growing at uncontrolled rate further puts pressure not only on our land resources but also present a challenge on how we must feed our people.
Mr. President, there is no doubt that the most sensible climate change response in Nigeria today is the need to mitigate environmental disasters, which are direct consequences of human alteration of the ecosystem that leads to loss of lives, animals and plants or disruption of human life, all leading to migration. Significantly, we do not need to wait for the services of meteorologists to feel and acknowledge the huge, painful impact of flooding across Nigeria, which may not only cause internal dislocations but surely would affect our farmers and how we may feed our people.
Mr. President, ravaging floods are washing away wild animals into our peoples homes, thereby causing us to lose our most precious and red-listed aquatic and terrestrial resources. This calls for more than watershed management and certain business-as-usual strategies that have brought us to this sorry pass. However, having touched the elementary aspects of this looming climate change, one would rather appeal that our protected areas in Nigeria provide us the basic launch pad to quickly move into action.
Dear Mr. President, our national parks or protected areas remain the only visible vehicle to arrest climate change in Nigeria and, in evaluating this obvious advantage, we must not be pulled in the wrong direction of “federating” this window to addressing our challenges. Indeed, the economic value of ecosystem services is estimated at tens of trillions of dollars, far higher than the global gross domestic product. Unfortunately sir, 60 per cent of these services are being degraded or used unsustainably and 70 per cent of our environmental ecosystem for regulating services in mitigating flooding, climate change, water quality are on the decline.
Today in Nigeria, our national parks remain the true face of our catchment protection programme, as other tiers captured under the federating arrangement have collapsed or are non-existent. Historically, Nigeria has about 1,129 forest reserves, 31 games reserves and four sanctuaries controlled by the 36 states of the federation, with about 18 forests reserves in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). But, sadly, none of these ecosystems are in a healthy state to mitigate the impact of climate change, except our national parks.
Mr. President, without the obvious need to call for more acreage under protection in Nigeria, which certainly is the way to go, if we must balance our natural resource services, our desire to manage our watershed programme can only be effectively driven through the National Parks management system. So far, protected areas under the watch of NPS have managed to survive very damaging human disruptions, except for the painful destruction of our ecosystems in the Chad Basin through Boko Haram activities. That dislocation has disrupted the effective chain of protection of Hadja Nguru wetlands in Yobe State and the Chad Basin watershed management in Borno State.
Significantly also, Mr. President, conservation education in Nigeria finds cheering location within the support zones’ communities, where National Parks are located across the six geopolitical zones. These “conservation cells”, some with over a thousand students in rural secondary schools in Nigeria, should also serve as the practical influencer of your key agenda to involve young persons to plant trees and sustainably participate in activities to mitigate the impact of climate change, apart from being the bedrock of our future desire to feed our nation through nutritional agricultural endeavors.
Mr. President, time has come to properly fund our National Parks and empower its effectiveness through acts of the National Assembly that can influence change in land area(s) covered by forests, and protected to maintain biological diversity, gross domestic product (GDP) per unit of every use and carbon dioxide omissions (per capita). About four years ago (2015) Nigeria was expected to reverse its environmental problems by 50 per cent but, from all indications, we are bleeding and in avoidable danger, and only your prompt declaration of emergency in this sector can truly bring about effective change to the alarming challenge of global warming.
Just as you have inaugurated a new economic team, the Nigerian National Parks should lead in the mission to mitigate our red list environmental status, possibly backed by notable benevolent Nigerians such as Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Akinwunmi Adeshina, oil services companies, agricultural institutions and foundations within and outside Africa. We cannot solve poverty or hunger in Nigeria without addressing our PA status.
Thank you Mr. President and congratulation on the good works you are doing for our people and nation.