Here is our 3rd place EMEND World Environment Day 2020 Essay Competition. It is written by 300 Level Student Idowu Olajumoke Grace of the University of Ibadan.

Her scores were as follows;

Stage 1: 66

Stage 2: 88

Final Stage: 3rd position

Ayotunde Adeyemi

Program Officer

Idowu Olajumoke Grace

Introduction

Today, more than ever, the need for national development is desirable in Nigeria. And like every other nation, the Nigerian developmental landscape depends mainly on its economic performance. However, while Nigeria desires maximum economic performance, it continues to struggle. Although possessing one of the largest economies in Africa, Nigeria remains stuck with a middle-income economy status, absence of adequate infrastructure, high unemployment rate, poverty, and low human capital development index – 152 out of 157.[1]

Similarly, although Nigeria recorded an average growth of its gross domestic product (GDP) at 7% per year between 2000 and 2014, its local growth contracted following the 2016 recession.[2] Worse, following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resultant drop in oil prices, it is expected that Nigeria’s economy will suffer another recession in the coming months.[3] Without a doubt, it has become necessary that Nigeria explore other viable options in a bid to chart a way forward for its economy and, consequently, achieve national development.

Luckily, Nigeria has multiple resources of national and international tourist relevance,[4] one which could be promoted and utilized to fuel national development. In light of this, this essay examines biodiversity conservation – prospect and challenges – as a veritable means towards national development in Nigeria.

Prospect Analysis of Biodiversity Conservation as a Means to National Development

Nigeria has a wide variety of life forms – biodiversity – such that there is hardly a community in Nigeria without a unique ecological character.[5] Although these mirror the ecotourism potentials in Nigeria, the prospects of biodiversity conservation come into play as it enables Nigeria to maintain the environmental process and exploit them for economic and national development.[6]

Noteworthy, biodiversity conservation plays a massive role in national development as it enables the preservation and continued maximization of the tourism industry – a viable sector. As it stands, the Nigerian tourism industry contributes a staggering 35% to the Nigerian GDP, creates significant tax receipts, and is responsible for over 20% of new employments in Nigeria.[7] Worth below $400 million as of 2007, the Nigerian tourism industry grew in leaps and bounds over the past few years to worth over $2 billion in 2017.[8] Even at this, the sector remains mostly untapped as Africa has $207.3 billion of untapped tourism potential,[9] and Nigeria accounts for roughly 20% of the current African industry.[10] As such, the Nigerian tourism industry – empowered through biological conservation – can create employment, generate revenue for the government, ensure infrastructural development, and contribute immensely to Nigeria’s GDP – all indices of national development. After all, the $40 billion addition is almost 15% of Nigeria’s public external debt.[11]

Also, biological conservation – by improving the tourism industry – satisfies the long-existing need for diversification of the Nigerian economy – a requirement for genuine national development. As already noted, the oil sector’s volatility has become even more prominent following the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue post-COVID-19. For a country where oil earnings account for 90% of its foreign exchange earnings and represent the basis of its budgetary calculations, this spells economic doom, and, in turn, a halt to national development.[12] However, with biological conservations comes a more attractive tourism sector. And a more attractive industry implies an extension of the revenue base, diversification of the economy, increased job opportunities, and an increase in the human development index.

Moreover, through its multiplier effect – relationship to other industries such as fisheries, forestry, and agriculture – biodiversity ensures continued food production, pharmaceutical production, and ecological balance. Without a doubt, it is evident that biological conservation can significantly impact Nigeria’s economy and, in turn, engender national development.

Challenges

Although Nigeria boasts of 7 National Parks, 32 Games Reserves, 994 Forest Reserves, and 27 Bird Areas, among others – a form of biological conservation – its attempt at biodiversity conservation is far from perfect. This imperfection is evident as Nigeria has over 300 threatened species – notably 168 plants and 26 mammals.[13] Evidently, Nigeria faces a myriad of challenges limiting its capacity to conserve its biodiversity effectively.

Prime among these challenges is the absence of sufficient conservation awareness among Nigerians. This challenge has, in turn, resulted in strategic depletion of biodiversity even in protected areas as residents continue to find ways – traditional – to extract resources from sites of ecological importance without being aware of the full extent of their acts.[14]

Also, the Nigerian government – the three tiers at that – have failed over time to prioritize biodiversity conservation. Worse, the various agencies responsible for implementing these policies and laws grapple with corruption and administrative bottlenecks that make it impossible for effective performance.

Similarly, there is a predominance of management problems – insufficient funding, lack of workforce, and insecurity – that plague Nigeria’s attempt at biodiversity conservation.[15] In turn, this has contributed significantly to the various agencies’ pitiable efforts at effectively performing their functions.

Again, Nigeria continues to struggle with outdated laws and policies which are inadequate for the realities of the current challenges.[16] Although a signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity, it has failed to domesticate the Convention or make other national legislation of similar importance. As a result, Nigeria continues to operate under a limited and unfavourable legal framework.

Unfortunately, while these problems are already worrisome, Nigeria faces more myriads of issues, namely, climate change, political instability, insufficient planning, poor infrastructure, and lack of proper implementation.

Achieving National Development Through Biodiversity Conservation: Fuelling the Fire

While these various problems are intimidating, they remain beatable. In light of this, I recommend the following.

First, it is necessary to increase conservation awareness among locals. This is because knowledge about biodiversity and the importance of its conservation ensures the reduction in threats to biodiversity. As such, I recommend that the government establishes a conservation institution and modify existing institutions to include awareness as part of their designated functions. This way, a dual advantage of active protection and the encouragement of protection by citizens can be achieved.

Also, I recommend that Nigeria ratifies and domesticate other existing international conventions while also enacting national legislation on biodiversity. Through this, Nigeria can create a practical framework that is well in tune with the realities of modern challenges.

Similarly, the government must increase its funding of agencies and institutions geared towards biodiversity conservation. This will ensure that an adequate and competent workforce can be employed to conserve biodiversity while also maximizing the tourism industry. As such, I recommend that the government create a special fund to finance the institution.

However, if actual progress must ensue, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) must be established. This would increase efficiency through competition, ensure sustainable investment, and engender a culture of sustainable exploitation amongst private individuals.

Conclusion

Although sometimes confined as an environmental issue by most, the place of biodiversity conservation in the quest for national development is not only immense; it is critical to sustainable national development. This is because it enables the effective and sustainable exploitation of the tourism industry towards economic growth, and in turn, national development. However, the quest for biological conservation is riddled with various challenges, such as lack of conservation awareness, ineffective policies, and management problems. As such, Nigeria must strengthen its attempt through increased funding, new strategies, and an increase in conservation awareness. Only then can biodiversity conservation fuel the fire of the Nigerian economy and national development.

The Prize Giving Ceremony

[1] The World Bank in Nigeria. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nigeria/overview Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[2] Ibid

[3] IMF Executive Board Approves US$ 3.4 Billion in Emergency Support to Nigeria to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/04/28/pr20191-nigeria-imf-executive-board-approves-emergency-support-to-address-covid-19 Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[4] Adeyemi, K. S., & Abiodun, A. J. (2013). Development of the non-oil sector in Nigeria: challenges & lessons for less developed countries. Covenant Journal of Business and Social Sciences (CJBSS), 5(23).

[5] Audu, H. and Ayuba, M. G. (2016). Biodiversity Conservation in Nigeria; Contemporary Challenges for Ecologist International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, 18(1) 331-340.

[6] Dushyant, K. S. and Mishra, J. K. (2011). Impact of Environmental changes on biodiversity. Indian Journal of Scientific Research, 2(4)137-139.

[7] Tourism contributes 34% to Nigeria’s GDP, generates 20% employment – NBS https://www.premiumtimesng.com/entertainment/naija-fashion/271174-tourism-contributes-34-to-nigerias-gdp-generates-20-employment-nbs.html Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[8] Nigeria Tourism Revenue https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/nigeria/tourism-revenue Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[9] WTTC (2014, 2015). World Travel and Tourism Council, 2014 & 2015. The Authority on World Travel and Tourism: Travel and Tourism Economic Impact on Nigeria.

[10] Eneji Mathias Agri et al. “Diversification of Nigeria’s Economy; Impact of Tourism on Sustainable Development in Nigeria.”

[11] Nigeria Public External Debt. https://tradingeconomics.com/nigeria/external-debt Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[12] Nigeria Banks Face Gloomy future Over low Oil Prices, Coronavirus. https://nairametrics.com/2020/04/02/nigerian-banks-face-gloomy-future-over-low-oil-prices-coronavirus/ Retrieved on the 26th of June, 2020.

[13] IUCN, 2020. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-1. https://www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on the 26th of May 2020.

[14] Ogunjinmi, A. A. (2007). Evaluation of Environmental Interpretive Services as a Management Tool in Nigeria’s Park System. Master of Environmental Management and Protection (MEMP) Dissertation, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Pp113

[15] Adebayo RA, Uyi NO (2010) Biological control of invasive weed species: the Nigerian experience. International Journal of Agricultural Research 5(12): 1100-1106.

[16] Saidu, Y (2017). Protected Area, Management and Biodiversity Administration, A Plenary Paper Presented during the Maiden Conference of Wildlife Management Society of Nigeria (WIMSON) Held in Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 18th to 20th of September.

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