A 17-year-old, Francis James, who hails from Plateau State, has won the second edition of the Mangrove Marathon Race 2023 held on Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Lekki, Lagos.
James won N1 million in the 10km eco-friendly race to beat other contestants including a former presidential candidate in the 2023 General Elections and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omowole Sowore.
James, who expressed delight in coming out first among the males that took part in the competition, said it took him six months to prepare for the race.
He urged his fellow contestants to work harder next time.
A staff of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), David Abiye-Joyce, came first among the females in the competition.
Abiye-Joyce expressed gratitude to God for making it possible for her to come tops.
She said that she had been winning athletic competitions for the NSCDC.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Lekki LCDA Chairman. Rasak Kasali, expressed gratitude to organisers and participants of the Mangrove Marathon Race for identifying with the LCDA.
Kasali said that there was no denying the fact that mangroves were extremely important to the ecosystem.
According to him, mangroves serve as a buffer between marine and terrestrial communities and protect shorelines from damaging winds, waves, and floods.
Kasali said mangrove thickets improve water quality by filtering pollutants and trapping sediments from the land.
He, however, said that in spite of the wide ranging benefits, they were being destroyed.
Kasali added that mangroves suffer from land based pollution.
The chairman noted that the benefits of mangroves were fast being eroded.
“We as a government have continued to play our part.
“I call on captains of industries working within the Lekki LCDA to be environmentally responsive,” Kasali said.
Mrs Tolulope Adeyo, Director, Ecology & Conservation, Ministry of Environment & Water Resources, said mangroves were very important to the Lagos State Government.
Adeyo said that Lekki has the longest stretch of mangroves in the state..
According to her, mangroves are assets to the community serving as protection for fauna and floral in the ecosystem.
“We should keep our mangroves intact bearing in mind that they are assets,” Adeyo said.
She enjoined the local community to help in preserving the mangrove because of its ecosystem services.
The Director-General, Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr Joseph Onoja, in his remarks, said Nigeria has the largest mangroves in Africa.
Onoja noted that Nigeria has one-third of the entire mangrove in Africa and the third most extensive mangrove ecosystems in the world after India and Indonesia.
He said that mangroves, spanning 60 per cent of the fishing area in West Africa, act as carbon sink.
“Mangroves determine the livelihood of the coastal dwellers, and covers 40 per cent of the remaining forest in Nigeria, that is 10,500 kilometres square.
“Mangroves provide natural infrastructure to help protect nearby populated areas by reducing erosion and absorbing high tides impacts.
“Their dense roots help bind and build soils. The complex mangrove root systems filter nitrates, phosphates, and other pollutants from the water, improving the water quality.
“Mangrove forests capture massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and then trap and store them in their carbon-rich flooded soils for millennia.
“This is an important ecosystem service as we face climate change,” Onoja said.
He, however, said that mangrove degradation was being caused by oil pollution, fuel wood cutting, over exploitation, sand filling, and unsustainable urban development, among other anthropogenic factors.
Onoja said the NCF was pleased to associate itself with this initiative; Mangrove Marathon, a platform for the promotion of the awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystem and thereby promoting their restoration and conservation.
“Prior to this time, NCF and other environmental NGOs have embarked on mangrove restoration projects to restore Nigeria’s mangroves in some degraded areas.
“There is a dire need for urgent rehabilitation for the mangrove to continue to render nature-laden services to the ecosystem.
“Series of mangrove restoration projects have been implemented by the NCF and partners in Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, and Delta states.
“There are ongoing mangrove restoration projects across the coastal areas of Nigeria and new ones are being initiated.
“We are keen on this because of the importance of mangrove to ecosystem and biodiversity conservation,” Onoja said.
The director-general said mangrove restoration aligns with one of the key goals of the NCF’s Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN) programme.
He said that the GRN programme aims to increase the forest cover in Nigeria to at least 25 per cent of the total land mass through management and expansion of protected areas as well as forest landscape restoration.
He said the GRN initiative is a 30-year forest restoration programme of the NCF, borne out of the growing concerns about the plight of Nigeria’s forests and the drastic consequences of continuing degradation and loss.
He added that the GRN which started in 2017 and seeks to restore the Nigeria’s forest cover to at least 25 per cent by 2047.
The Convener of the Mangrove Marathon Race, Mr Jerry Chidi, described the race was a huge success.
Chidi said the youth of Ibeju-Lekki LCDA were excited to take part in the race, not just for the fun, but to create awareness for the conservation of mangrove.
According to him, the Local Organising Committee of the Marathon Race plans to make it bigger in the coming years; 21km in 2024 and 42 Km in 2025.
The traditional ruler of Ise Land, Oba Ganiu Adebowale Adegbesan (Onise of Ise Land), pledged the support of the palace in the preservation and restoration of mangroves.
Highlights of the event were the presentation of prizes to various categories of contesters and planting of mangroves at the Ecopark Mangrove Sanctuary and Research Centre, Akodo Ise, by the dignitaries.
The Ecopark Sanctuary and Research Centre is managed by Eco Restoration Foundation.
The Executive Director of the foundation, Prince David Omaghomi, said the park would be opened to the public by 2024 during the next race.
By Fabian Ekeruche