How Buhari Will Turn Tourism Into Major Revenue Earner For Nigeria—NPS CEO
Tourism and wildlife viewing will soon become major revenue streams for Nigeria, according to the Conservator General and CEO of the National Park Service (NPS), Ibrahim Goni.
Goni revealed in an exclusive interview with THE WHISTLER that the Bureau for Public Enterprises is set to commercialize three of the eight National Parks in the country.
The parks are operated by the NPS which is responsible for preserving, protecting and managing vegetation and wild animals in the parks.
Goni disclosed that the BPE had penciled down three of the national parks for partial commercialization which would see the investors build the necessary infrastructure and market them to tourist around the world.
National Parks in the country include the Kainji National Park, Cross River National Park, Gashaka National Park, Old Oyo National Park and the Kamuku National Park, among others.
Goni said Nigeria’s national parks would compete with other world class parks in terms of attraction for tourists if the general infrastructure in the country is improved.
He said good roads, railways and electricity are some of the infrastructure that could turn tourism into a big earner for the country.
He said: “We’re not making money because we need a complete overhaul of our infrastructure. I am not referring to infrastructure in the parks; I’m referring to infrastructure generally in the country. That is why this government is focusing on infrastructure.
“This is because if the roads are good, people will be able to travel fast and secured. With air transport, people will travel faster. If you provide electricity, people would carry out their activities with ease and comfort. Electricity will power other infrastructure. This is what the government is doing by fixing roads.. By the time we fix the railways, it will take off the pressure from the roads.
“Government is also thinking of overhauling the aviation industry. If travel can be faster and safer, people will visit the national parks.”
He said there is no reason why national parks in the country cannot compete with others across the world because “there is nothing those national parks have that we don’t have. In some cases, even our Act is more sophisticated than the Acts of some national parks.
“I was in Botswana, by the time we compared notes with the director of wildlife there, he realized that the provisions in our Act are more robust than those in their own Acts. For instance, our Act provides for a local advisory committee (I.e. park management involving the communities) while their Act does not have that.”
Explaining the reason why national park viewing is earning more in countries like Kenya and Botswana, Goni said lack of adequate infrastructure, security and vegetation were largely responsible.
“What people don’t understand is that the vegetation of those countries is different from our vegetation here. There, what you have is the Sahel type of vegetation, what we have here is the Savanna and Forest types of vegetation. So, the animal composition will differ. Whereas the animals in those countries are more diverse, here you have animals that are less diverse. They only see animals in their numbers there but few species, whereas here you’d see them in few herds and colonies.
“Nigeria has more species of animals than many other countries in Africa like Kenya. The vegetation is different. In Kenya, they have more of fewer species. You have animals that are more diverse here. Our vegetation will not even allow you to sight some animals, you only hear their movements. Before you sight it, it has dodged,” he stated.
He however stressed that national park viewing is not just for the fun of seeing the animals but also to sight some rare species of animals or just to enjoy the air and the environment.
He said Nigeria has some rare species of animals, especially in Oyo, Edo and Plateau States which could encourage park viewing by tourists.
The CG condemned the habit of killing bush animals for food in parts of the country, stressing that it is one of the ways of killing tourism.
“Go to Niger Republic nearby and ask for bush meat, they don’t know what it is. But here we kill and eat. When you do that you’re depleting it,” he said, adding however that the NPS had embarked on “aggressive public enlightenment” to discourage the habit.
On alleged grumbling by some staff of the organization over unpaid allowances, Goni said the NPS was only owing Parking allowance which are already being paid gradually.
He said they are owing allowances because monthly overhead budget for his office was slashed from N15 million to N2.8 million in 2020, making it difficult to meet all expenses which include running of the office, vehicle repairs and others.
He said the NPS was working to change the ranking of officers and the type of weapon carried by its officers to make the parks more secured.