Travel & Tourism

ECOTOURISM IN NIGERIA: Untapped goldmine on spotlight (1)

Ecotourism, otherwise known as the ‘new world’ has over the years become one of the most sought after tourist offerings in tourism with many tourists, especially Europeans seeking for the best and most attractive natural enclave to explore.

Africa is one of the top rated destinations in this regard, with countries of Southern and Eastern Africa regions attracting the most global attention while West Africa countries, with its rich blend of pristine natural enclaves, Nigeria especially, hardly gain attention of the world.

This lack of attraction is due to the abysmal lack of interest in developing and promoting it by the government and people of the region. Nigeria is a typical example, with seven national parks and hundreds of games reserves, not much is known of the huge resources both in terms of tourism and conservation, embedded within its landscape by foreign and domestic tourists.

It is in the light of this development that the Naija7 Wonders’ team during its recently held 14th edition of tourism webinar conferences focused on the Nigeria Park Service, the custodian of the seven national parks spread across the country. Below are samples of some of the presentations during the conference:

Franklin Adejuwon: Nigeria’s Biodiversity Bears No Comparison

Our national parks are indeed vital products, which indeed run parallel to our national/natural cultural values. These two form the impeccable pillars of our domestic tourism development for now. Nigeria is well endowed with enriched fauna and flora; our biodiversity is none compared to any country in the world.

This is depicted in our multi vegetational belts, which hardly can be found elsewhere. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not only lack sensitivity to all these values but has not been able to inculcate the optimal advantages to our economy through development of ecotourism, rural tourism, safari tourism and even agro tourism. As I earlier put it, our national parks present very vital products for our domestic tourism development at this time and I wish government should view this with critical importance.

I happen to have been involved in propelling Yankari and Kainji Lake National Parks (Yankari is now under Bauchi State government) as the major arrow of our national tourism development as far back as 1978 when I was in charge of Nigeria Tourism Board (NTB). I extended this interest and efforts to when all the national parks were under my control as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture in the late 1990s.

I was able to put these two under the national grid successfully and created accessible roads to them. We were able to put poaching under considerable check and these two parks were open to not only extensive domestic tourism but also intensive international tourism.

Today, I will not know the status of these parks. Other parks such as Old Oyo National Park have their values and potential, which should be harnessed. Old Oyo should not work in isolation of culture at the Ministry of Information and Culture, as they have some values in common, which must be cinctured and promoted together .

Is Nigeria aware of the place of Queen of Sheba and her fortunes in Nigeria under our very nose? What is wrong with us in Nigeria? All these were highlighted in the National Tourism Master Plan, which is now in the home of cobwebs somewhere. I salute you all my officers leading the fight to bathe our parks in good light.

You should not be despondent, however, difficult. You are managing nature and definitely nature will fight its way to survival because it is God’s own creation. Translating nature to human use is the essence and cash in hand. The handlers of this initiative are on the right track. I wish us all good luck. *Dr. Franklin Adejuwon is former minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and first commissioner of Tourism and Home Affairs, Lagos State.

Ibrahim Goni: Ecotourism In Nigeria

Introduction The National Park Service is the foremost organisation charged with the responsibility of conserving biodiversity in Nigeria. There are seven National Parks in Nigeria, covering a total land area of 22,000square kilometers, representing about 3% of the country’s total landmass. National Parks play immense roles in medicine, research, education, agriculture, tourism, spiritualism and are critical components in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Attractions

The seven national parks in the country have beautiful landscapes and diverse scenic ecosystems that provide unique opportunities for local and international tourists to experience active outdoor recreation, inspiration and tranquility. Apart from generating revenue to the federation, the tourism direction of the park service also provides meaningful and realistic opportunities for the local communities to engage in and benefit from ecotourism. Modest accommodation and recreational facilities exist in most of the national parks for visitors to engage in wilderness experience and game viewing as well as sport fishing, boating, and bird watching, etc. Accessibility Most of the national parks are accessible by road and air. Except for Chad Basin and Kamuku National Parks all the parks are open to activities.

Tourist influx from 2017 – 2019
2017: 8,111
2018: 10,371
2019: 11,487

Efforts in enhancing tourism in the parks

Security (Joint operations and intelligence sharing with sister agencies) Tourist facilities (accommodation, park viewing vehicles, catering services, and sick bays, etc). Media advocacy (inter-personal and mass media marketing and promotion efforts, involvement of mass media for public enlightenment). Partial commercialization: Three national parks, namely Cross River, Gashaka Gumti and Kainji Lake chosen as pilot scheme with a transaction advisor appointed to guide the process.

Challenges

Insecurity (in most parts of the country); Poor Park infrastructure (accessibility to and within the Parks); Lack of private sector involvement; Poor domestic tourism by Nigerians; Poor communication facilities in parks; Low manpower development; Lack of disposable income to embark on leisure travel; and Lack of political will to enhance conservation and foster ecotourism development as alternative source of government revenue.

Way Forward

The present effort to improve security should be enhanced in terms of insurgency and banditry downgrading and good road network development both inside and outside the parks; Government should make deliberate concerted effort to develop national parks in Nigeria to bring ecotourism on stream as an additional source of government revenue especially now that so many nations are gradually disengaging from the use of fossil fuel; The national parks are open for private sector participation especially through the partial commercialisation programme of the federal government; Spirited individuals and organisations can also come to the aid of the National Park Service by donating projects and programmes that will foster conservation and ecotourism in our national parks. All of these distil to improve funding. *Presented by the Conservator General of the National Park Service, Dr. Ibrahim M. Goni, who was represented by the Assistant Conservator General, Yakubu Kolo.

Gashaka Gumti National Park: A piece of Nigeria’s most scenic natural enclave Introduction

Gashaka Gumti is one of the seven national parks in Nigeria, located in the mountainous region in North Eastern Nigeria, across Adamawa and Taraba states, with a landmass spanning 6,731 square kilometers (Largest and the most scenic national park in Nigeria). Ecological zones of the park are: Scrub Savannah, Sudan/Guinea Savannah, lowland rainforest, montane forest and grassland.

Tourist attractions

Chimpanzee, Water Buck, Western Hartebeest Faunal and Floral Species Birds: 400 species; Mammals: 103 species; Pisces: 55 species; Reptiles: 22 species Amphibians: Seven species; Plants: Over 1000 species. Mayo (River)-Kam: Excellent for swimming and sport-fishing. Historical sites: The ruin of the German, French and English Forts.

Tourist facilities

20 chalets with sporting facilities at the transit camp in Serti. 20 chalets at Gashaka village camp.

10 well furnished chalets at Toungo sector.

Tourist influx to the park from 2015 – 2019

Challenges

Insecurity; Poor road network to the park; Limited access tracks, bridges and culverts across the numerous rivers and streams in the park; Inadequate tourism infrastructure; Lack of electricity (Facilities are not connected to National Grid); Inadequate manpower; Inadequate modern and operational equipment; Presence of enclave communities; and Low patronage.

Achievements

Integration of the park into the security architecture of Taraba State; Public – Private Partnership; Resuscitation of the Local Advisory Committee (LAC); and Strategic collaboration with sister agencies for intelligence sharing and joint operations.

Way forward

Improved funding; Strengthening of Public – Private Partnership; Resuscitation of degraded grazing reserves and establishment of ways to avoid conflict; Manpower development; and Socio-economic empowerment of host communities. * Mohammed A. Kabir, conservator of Gashaka Gumti National Park.

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