Worried by the various challenges facing the National Park as a result of heavy poaching, habitat degradation, infrastructure decay as well as managerial and
administrative constraints including weak human and technical capacity and poor funding among others, some nature conservationists and tourist investors have resolved to facilitate private partnership involvement in the Nigerian National Parks .
To kick start the processes that will lead to the Private sector participation in National Parks in Nigeria, a two- day workshop was organized for stakeholders on 5th and 6th of February, 2014 in Lagos.
Facilitated by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation with the support of T.Y Holdings, the workshop involved the management of the National Parks, representatives of African Parks and Wilderness Safari and other Nigerian based non-governmental organizations with the aim of: Reviewing the challenges and opportunities for private sector involvement in National Parks planning, management and development, Identification of best practices and institutional arrangements for private sector participation in National Parks and, developing action plans for private sector participation in National Parks, using some National Parks as entry points for action.
The sponsor of the two-day workshop, General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd) in his opening remarks said that his interest is to see how Nigerian national parks will be compared with other park in developed countries in terms of infrastructures, protection and attraction to tourists. It is becoming an urgent thing to do, we must deploy every resources needed and other intervention required to ensure that we maintain and sustain our nation heritages.
The President of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Philip Asiodu said, we are all aware of the critical value of national parks in protecting biodiversity, and for education and research. We are becoming aware of the great potentials for eco-tourism of Gashaka Gumti, Kainji and Cross River National Parks. However, very significant investments are required in order to exploit these potentials and realize the income flows which wisely will improve the welfare of the communities around these parks, and also help in protecting the parks and financing education and research.
"Environmental conservation is still abstract to many of the current leaders in all tiers of government. It is even more so amongst the newly emerging groups of moneyed men, who would rather spend on something else than donating to the course of nature conservation. Again, unlike South Africa, there are not yet many private sector companies with the resources and enlightened board policies to commit sufficient funding to conservation".
The Conservator-General of Nigeria, Alhaji Haruna Thanko Abubakar said that, though the Nigerian National Parks are under the exclusive legislative list and managed by the Federal Government through the National Parks Service, the law governing the National Parks service is open to private sector participation to boost eco-tourism in National Parks.
Some of the action plans drawn at the end of the workshop to be implemented between February, 2014 and June 2015 included: the review of the law establishing the National Parks Service ensure possibilities of a working relationship between the National Parks Service and potential investors in Gashaka - Gumti, Kainji and Cross River National Parks, collection of data and information on the state of the parks, production of report findings, Broad Stakeholders engagement and development of mechanism for funding raising among others.