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Environmentalists lament Nigeria’s dwindling forest reserves

Environment stakeholders have lamented the dwindling forest reserves in the country, saying it is leading to climate change.

R-L: Mr. Paddy Ezeala, Publisher, Development Agenda Magazine; Conservator General, National Parks Service, Dr. Ibrahim Goni; Emir of Nasarawa and former Minister of Environment, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril; Terseer Ugbor, Deputy Chairman, Committee on Environment, House of Representatives; and Dr. Priscilla Achakpa, Founder and Global President of the Women Environment Programme (WEP), at the one-day seminar with theme: “Climate Change and COP28: The Way Forward For Nigeria” organised by the Development Agenda Magazine and Environmental Media Correspondents Association of Nigeria (EMCAN), in Abuja

They made the observation on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at a one-day seminar organised by the Development Agenda in collaboration with Environmental Media Correspondents Association of Nigeria (EMCAN), in Abuja.

The seminar had “Climate Change and COP28: The Way Forward for Nigeria” as its theme.

Royal Father of the Day at the seminar, the Emir of Nasarawa, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril, hinted that the rising sea level at the coastal areas, climate change, deforestation, drought and desertification are some of the environmental challenges wrecking Nigeria.

The former Minister of Environment said though charcoal has been banned that the government cannot stop households from cooking with charcoal without providing alternative means of fuel.

The Publisher and Editor-in-chief of Development Agenda Magazine, Mr Paddy Ezeala, in his welcome address, lamented that people are cutting down trees in Cross River, Ondo, Ogun, as well as in some North Central states recklessly.

He said Nigeria is experiencing four percent forest loss annually, which is considered as the highest globally.

Ezeala lamented that the citing of a foreign privately-owned charcoal producing factory in Nsukka, Enugu State, worsened the destruction caused by the foreigners, adding that the adjoining states were affected by the massive logging.

Ezeala hinted that, between 1981 and 2000, Nigeria lost 3.7 million hectares of forests which implied colossal loss of biodiversity.

While about 484 plant species are threatened with extinction, the publisher lamented the absence of measures aimed at encouraging forest regeneration.

“Related to this is the absence of a valuation system to place a value on forest resources so that when forests are destroyed through individual or corporate negligence, adequate compensation will be paid,” he said.

He stated that there is a need to develop more environmentally and socially equitable approaches to forest management in Nigeria, noting that the wanton destruction of forests across the country must be checked.

Ezeala added: “Forests perform a broad range of critical environmental and climatic functions, including the maintenance of constant supply of water. Forests harbour species and at the same time have very deep economic, aesthetic, industrial and religious significance for humans.

“However, economic development pressures often lead to the conversion of forest ecosystems without consideration for both the long-term economic costs and the implications of the immediate loss of biodiversity, ecosystem structure and function.”

He sought the need to harness the potential of the forests toward the development of eco-tourism and scientific research rather than continued illegal logging and wildlife trafficking.

The publisher maintained that Nigeria’s remaining rainforests harbour about 4,000 different species of plants, including those effective in the development of alternative medicine.

“There are also animals, including birds that can be found only in Nigeria. These include the Ibadan malimbe, Anambra waxbill, Jos indigo bird, white-throated monkey (Cercopithecus erythrogaster pococki), Niger Delta pigmy hippo and Niger Delta red colobus monkey.

“The question is what has been done to protect, harness and develop these natural endowments? In other words, we should be able to fashion a sustainable development strategy that ensures the prosperity of humans while living in a way that synchronises with the natural environment,” he said.

Ezeala harped on the need to prioritise tree planting and secure protected areas, noting that the National Park Service and others managing the protected areas should be supported.

The Conservator-General of National Parks Service (NPS), Dr Ibrahim Goni, noted that national parks are contributing immensely in mitigating climate change, just as he charged the media to publish more stories on climate change.

He recalled that the Federal Government had in 2020 approved the establishment of 10 new national parks to complement the existing parks across the country.

Three years down the line, the parks are yet to take-off, a situation that Goni attributed to delay in the release of gazette by the Ministry of Justice.

The CG hinted that, as soon as the gazette is released, the parks would take-off immediately, saying that the NPS has received approval from the Federal Government.

The Chairman of EMCAN, Mr Chuks Oyema, said that the essence of the seminar was to showcase how Nigeria is tackling climate change and how the government is prepared for COP28.

He urged the media to publish more stories on climate change and embark on collective actions towards mitigating the impact of climate change on the environment.

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