By Ebere Chibuzor
In this piece, Janefrances Chibuzor reports that the federal government is set to join nation other developed economies in experiencing a good deal of eco-tourism through the development of National Parks, Daily Times gathered.
With a firm belief that national parks across Nigerian states would provide favourable time for inbound and outbound tourists to explore different landscape, the federal government is planning seriously to develop that sector of the economy.
This is more so, considering the growing insistent for remote rural areas to play a role in easing pressures mainly experienced by urban residents.
To achieve this, the federal government is aiming at adopting national parks platform in advancing eco-tourism.
In his views, Conservator General, National Parks Service,NPS, Ibrahim Goni who made the disclosure at 14th Seven Wonders of Nigeria webinar recently, while making making a presentation on the national parks in Nigeria said, three parks, which include National Parks Cross River, Gashaka Gumti and Kainji Lake have been set aside for profit-oriented businesses.
In addition, these parks have been chosen as pilot scheme with a transaction advisor appointed to guide the process.
Goni who was ably represented by Assistant Conservator General, NPS Yakubu Kolo at a stakeholders’ forum recently, stated that parks in the country generated over 41 million from tourism activists from 2017 to 2019 and received 29, 969 influx of tourists in the same period.
He said “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”.
To this end, he stated that the parks in the country could do more with increased government funding to improve on its infrastructures across the country.
In buttressing the claims, he noted that these 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, 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, bird watching among others.
NPS is the foremost organization charged with the responsibility of conserving biodiversity in Nigeria.
So far, the national parks in Nigeria covering a total land area of 22,000km2 representing about 3% of the country’s total land mass.
Talking on accessibility; Goni noted that the outstanding parks are accessible by road, air and; open to activities except for Chad Basin and Kamuku National Parks, though tourist influx are not really impressive. For example, between 2017 through 2019 Nigeria which has more than 200 million received a total number of 29,530 into her national parks.
Speaking on efforts in enhancing tourism in the parks, he stated NPS will completely implore use security as in joint operations and Intelligence sharing with sister agencies, tourist facilities, media advocacy.
Goni further explained that insecurity in most parts of the country, poor park Infrastructure, lack of private sector involvement, poor domestic tourism by Nigerians, development, lack of disposable income to embark on leisure travel, lack of political will to enhance conservation and foster ecotourism development as alternative source of government revenue among other challenges.
The tourism expert added that 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.
According to him, government should make deliberate concerted effort to develop the 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.
He maintained that parks are open for private sector participation especially through the partial commercialization programme of the Federal Government.
He equally charged spirited individuals and organisations to also come to the aid of the NPS by donating projects and programmes that will foster conservation and ecotourism in our national parks.