The Minister of State for the Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, announced that Finima Nature Park will be known globally as a Ramsar Site of International importance.
The Minister who was represented by Mr. Sikiru Oladele Tiamiyu, Director of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment made this known as Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in collaboration with Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) commemorated the 2020 World Wetlands Day (WWD) in Bonny Island, River State on Monday, 3rd February, 2020.
She said, “I am deeply honoured to inform you that the Honourable Minister of Environment has endorsed the instrument for designation of Finima Nature Park as Ramsar Site of International Importance.”
This endorsement will make Finima Nature Park the 12th Ramsar Site in Nigeria and 3rd in the Niger Delta.
This year’s theme “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, was used to highlight the need to protect wetlands and biodiversity they inhabit. Estimates show that biodiversity is declining globally, with wetlands disappearing three times faster than forests. Consequently, this year underlines the need to protect wetlands biodiversity and urgently address its loss.
In her welcome address, Mrs. Eyono Fatai-Williams, General Manager, External Relations & Sustainable Development, NLNG explains that the company earnestly identifies with the global aspiration to promote a healthy ecosystem where humans and other living things can co-exist with our operations. This sinks into the vision of NCF of ‘where people prosper while living in harmony with nature.’
She stated further that Finima Nature Park, 1000 hectares in size was established in 1999 as a good representation of the Niger Delta ecology, for conservation, recreational activities, research and study purposes.
She said, “Beyond being home to numerous wildlife species including dwarf crocodiles, troops of the Mona Monkey, African Fish Eagles and African Grey parrots, to mention a few; the Nature Park is part of company’s contribution to national and global conservation goals in line with Rio Agenda 21, Ramsar Convention, and Convention on Biological Diversity”
In his speech, Chief Ede Dafinone, Chairman, NCF National Executive Council, revealed that Nigeria’s wetlands are important to the wellbeing of the people and the environment. They provide critical safeguards from natural disasters including droughts and floods, in addition to providing a home to an array of biodiversity. It provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands, and how the decline of wetlands and biodiversity can be addressed. Nigeria has numerous wetlands, including the Niger Delta, which is Africa’s largest wetland. These wetlands are important for water supply, agriculture and recreation and other ecosystem services. However, in recent times, these wetlands have come under intense pressure due to human activities.
In his speech, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF, said that NCF is commemorating WWD at many centres by creating awareness among the community people, school pupils and other stakeholders.
He added that the government and the people are not attaching much importance to wetlands again and we are fast losing them to unsustainable developments in the form of housing and infrastructure. This is revealed in the way they sand fill wetlands areas. He said, “Instead of us leaving wetlands to perform its ecological, economic and hydrological functions, we are channelling, canalising and damming all the available wetlands around”. He reiterated that wetlands are not waste lands but wealth lands.
Meanwhile, in his speech, Mr. Goke Korede, Manager of Operations, NLNG, stated that Industry records show that our operations have helped reduce the nation’s flare status from 65% when we started operations in 1999 to less than 20% today. This is a huge contribution towards ensuring a healthy environment in the Niger Delta region, the nation and world at large. Today, the Finima Nature Park stands not only as a natural habitat to some of the exceptional flora and fauna that are endemic only to Bonny Island; but also as an ecotourism hotspot with over 23,000 visitors to the park in 2019.
The commemoration continued with a tour of the park being led by the Project Manager of the Park, Mr. Gogo Brown, accompanied by other tour guides to give nature interpretation as they journey along.
A huge whale bone was sighted and other animal species being conserved. The event ended with tree planting exercise within the park. The species planted was Cleistopholis patens, commonly called salt and oil tree.
Finima Nature Park (FNP) is a 1000 hectares swamp forest area managed on behalf of NLNG by Nigerian Conservation Foundation in the last one decade. In 2019, NCF profiled the Nature Park towards State and international recognition- as the only Rivers State Natural Conservation Environment and International Wetlands of Education Centre by Wetlands Link International respectively.
Also in attendance were Chief (Mrs.) Cordelia Agboti, NCF Council Member; Dr. Joseph Onoja, NCF Director of Technical Programmes; Mr. Solomon Adefolu, FNP Project Coordinator; Mr. Ogheneochuko Odibo, Special Assistant to the Minister of State; Mrs. Sikeade Egbuwalo, CBD National Focal Point; Professor Sodienye Abere, Brand Ambassador of Finima Nature Park; Mrs. Eucharia Ezeani, General Manager, Human Resources, NLNG; Mr. Gbenga Oluwaniyi, General Manager, Finance; Comrade Jude Ozenua, PENGASSAN Chairman, NLNG Chapter among others.