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Nigeria, Cameroon sign agreement to promote ecosystem conservation

Nigeria and Cameroon have signed what looks like a historic cooperation framework agreement to enhance transboundary ecosystem conservation and sustainable management of forest and wildlife resources.

Nigeria and Cameroon
Ministers of the environment of Nigeria, Balarabe Lawal, and Cameroon, Mr. Jules Ndongo, signing the agreement

The agreement, which was signed on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, by the ministers of the environment of Nigeria, Balarabe Lawal, and Cameroon, Mr. Jules Ndongo, represents a significant turning point and provides a platform for the creation of a cooperative transboundary management framework that will promote coordination and cooperation between the two countries on issues about the preservation and sustainable use of their natural resources.

Nigeria and Cameroon share a boundary of over 1,975 km. Aside from the global phenomenon of climate change and environmental issues, transboundary criminality along this path, such as illegal logging, poaching, and wildlife trafficking, has continued to have a detrimental effect and pushed these resources to extinction. As a result, the two countries believe that halting and reversing this worrisome trend cannot be accomplished solely through in-country political will and commitment but that the adoption of bilateral and multilateral approaches is more promising, particularly given the continuum and migratory nature of these resources, as well as the complexities of their transboundary management and conservation.

According to Nigeria’s minister of environment, the endorsement is important as it does not only underscore the commitment of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the present government of President Bola Tinubu to collaborate with Cameroon to manage and conserve the two nations’ shared natural resources but also demonstrates the significance of bilateral cooperation in tackling global challenges.

Therefore, in his view, signing the agreement is just the start; much work needs to be done, and Nigeria would do its fair share to ensure that the treaty is effectively carried out.

“We must continue to engage in constructive dialogue and remain steadfast in ensuring that our natural resources are sustainably managed and conserved for the benefit of present and future generations,” Lawal said.

In a similar spirit, Mr. Ndongo bemoaned the increased exploitation of forest reserves, including poaching, which he mentioned as one of the primary drivers of climate change.

He noted that Nigeria and Cameroon have a history of doing business together, such as marketing timber and other forest products like bush meat, particularly to people who reside on opposite sides of the shared border.

Many of these activities, he argued, cannot be proven to be legal, which is why signing the pact is critical to ensuring the collaborative mobilisation of resources to implement selected transboundary initiatives of mutual interest.

“Given its importance, I hereby urge parties involved in this process to be more committed to the implementation of this instrument,” says Cameroon’s minister for environment.

Ndongo called on the various technical and financial partners who helped foster the agreement to see it as the start of the process and ensure its successful completion, assuring that the Cameroonian government will do everything possible to ensure the agreement’s smooth implementation.

Several other international partners at the event praised Nigeria and Cameroon for their landmark agreement, underscoring the importance of stronger border cooperation in combating wildlife trafficking and ecosystem protection.

According to Tunde Morakinyo, executive director of the Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation, this pact will allow national parks in Nigeria, such as Gashaka-Gumti and Cross River, to collaborate closely with counterparts in Cameroon to protect the incredible biodiversity that the two countries share, including chimpanzees, gorillas, and elephants, for future generations.

He revealed that his organisation has been advocating for transboundary cooperation between the two countries, including the Nigeria Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Ministry of Environment, the National Park Service, and their Cameroonian counterparts.

“It is hard to explain how excited I am by this historic agreement. The idea of transboundary collaboration on conservation was proposed as far back as 2008, recognising the spectacular national parks on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border,” he said.

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency of the United Kingdom (UK), stated that this is not a problem that one country can solve on its own because wildlife trafficked from Africa to Asia invariably crosses several land borders before being exported, so international cooperation to enforce those borders is essential.

“This agreement should make that easier, enabling better investigations and more robust criminal justice responses,” she said.

The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Wildlife Africa Fund, Peter Knights OBE, said that from being the epicentre of wildlife smuggling in Africa, “Nigeria is now making great strides, such as this agreement and the pending new wildlife law, to show leadership in protecting biodiversity.”

By Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja

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