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Funds in short supply in environment agencies, says minister

From left, The DG NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, Minister of Enviroment, Hassan Suleiman Zarma and the Conservator General of National Parks, Ibrahim Goni during the minister’s familiarization visit to the agencies recently
  • … visits National Parks, Biosafety agency

The Minister of Environment, Hassan Suleiman Zarma, has said that funds are in short supply in the various environment agencies and departments, noting that individually, the funds will not solve big problems, but by pooling resources together, a lot can be achieved.

Zarma, who noted this during a familiarisation visit to environment agencies, said intra agencies’ synergy is non-negotiable to move the ministry to greater heights.

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The minister, who visited the National Park Service (NPS) and was briefed by the Conservator-General of the Park, Ibrahim Goni, recently in Abuja, noted that his visit was to inspect facilities at the park and discuss ways of improving them.

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“I want a synergy to be built for all of us to know that we are serving the same purpose and we have common grounds that we need to cover. We have to do that, it’s not an option, and we need collaboration among the units of the agencies under the ministry,” he said.

He however called for the involvement of the local communities in the area of sustainable conservation of biodiversity instead of relocating them.

“We should involve them in our activities, relocating them is not the best way to go about it, but to have them as partners because if you are relocating them you are going to cause a dislocation in their lives,” he said.

While noting that removing communities from an environment that they were used to and resettling them in an area that they are not used to may cause problems, he said, “I want us to engage them, build a community that can co-exist with that environment, with wildlife and also tell them how they can contribute to preserving that environment.”

The minister said: “Bring them on board, give them some basic services, give them a role; that’s citizen’s science, and let them be part of the project that you are implementing.”

According to him, they can even stop poachers from coming into the parks if properly trained. “I am sure they will grow to like the place they are living in and protect what is happening around them,” he added.

Earlier, Goni had reiterated that the preservation of wildlife should be the responsibility of everyone.

“Governments at all levels and indeed the public should be encouraged to create awareness on the need to stop the destruction of biodiversity in Nigeria,” he said.

He maintained that working with the local communities to conserve nature will address threats such as wildlife poaching, wildfires and environmental degradation in the country.

“The best community conservation practices will offer powerful insights that could help save wildlife and inform the process of establishing new conservation areas in Nigeria.

Goni said the service had a programme called `Support Zone Development Programme’ aimed at supporting the communities surrounding the National Parks.

“The people of the communities sometimes assist the service in the protection of the biodiversity and in most cases we get information about loggers, herdsmen and fishers from them,” he said.

“So we created this package to look at schools, clinics and roads established for them in the areas to see how we can assist them improve their living standards,” he added.

Also, the minister visited the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and commended it on its ability to properly implement its mandate.

The minister, however, urged the agency not to relent in sensitizing the public to distinguish between its role of regulating for safety and the promotion of the technology.

Zarma promised that the Ministry of Environment will continue to ensure that NBMA executes its responsibilities as contained in the act that set up the agency.

In his presentation, the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Dr, Rufus Ebegba, briefed the minister on the milestones of the agency since inception, noting that one of the greatest challenges facing it is the opinion that it was established to stop Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Dr Ebegba however stated that contrary to that view, the agency is rather established to ensure safety of products and making sure that they did not cause harm to the environment and humans.

He also noted that funding is a major drawback for the agency as its budgetary allocation is grossly inadequate to take care of its needs, adding however that it is blessed with capable professionals and dedicated staff.

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