Abdulazeez Azeezat Damilola
With its explosive population, Nigeria is one of the most biophysical-rich countries and naturally one of the most biodiversity-rich nations in the world. With its land mass approximately 923,768km2, Nigeria spans four climatic zones and crosses one bio-geographical realm as it harbours vast diversity of species and habitats. Mfon, et al (2014) said forests in Nigeria occupied about 110,890km2 of the total land mass the country sits on. Nigeria’s economic development has since years been on the front foot as the largest in Africa giving rise to the encroachment of the forest land and more depletion of the biodiversity richness of the country. The surge in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow into Nigeria has helped leapfrog South Africa as the largest economy in Africa, despite an ineludible fall into recession in 2016. Although, such achievement does not reflect what the reality is in the livelihood of it citizenries, as more than 40% of its citizens live on less than a dollar ($1) a day. This economic development predominantly exerts pressure on the natural environment, resulting to degradation of the environment. The rapid deterioration of the nation’s environmental quality and depletion of the natural endowment is live threatening for the largest black nation in the world and economically futile. Alarmingly, encroachment of the forest land, depletion of the natural environment has continued to be on the rise in Nigeria, capping deforestation/desertification as the most persistent problems of an ecologically degrading world. In addition, biodiversity is constantly under threat in emerging economy nations. In fact, as indicated by the large number of species on the Red Species Lists (IUCN, 2007), biodiversity is currently under threat in the global world. `
2 Current status of Biodiversity in Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in the world, with about 7895 plant species identified in 338 families and 2215 genera. There are 22000 vertebrates and invertebrate species. These species include about 20000 insects, about 1000 birds, about 1000 fishes, 247 mammals and 123 reptiles. Of these animals, 0.14% is threatened while 0.22% is endangered. About 1,489 species of micro-organisms have also been identified. All species occur in different vegetation that range from the mangrove in the south to the Sahel in the north (Nigeria 1st National Biodiversity Report, 2001). Nigeria contains a large and broad diversity of ecosystems ranging from forest, desert, grassland, freshwater rivers and wetland, coastal/marine and agricultural ecosystems.
3 Biodiversity Conservation as potential for National Development
For decades, oil has been the elephant in the room of Nigeria’s economy accounting for 80% of revenues and contributing 90% to the country’s GDP. With the truthful narration that Nigeria is not an oil rich nation rather an oil dependent nation, the managers of the economy has continued to overlook the richness in the ecosystem to shore up revenue and build a conservative ecosystem that supports growth, and pertinently scale up the life expectancy ratio of the most populous black nation in the world. In diversifying the economy, there is richness in biodiversity and Nigeria must look towards that.
From mangroves and rainforests on the Atlantic coast in the south to the savannah in the north bordering the Sahara, Nigeria is definitely on the back foot as there lies potentialities in these varying ecosystems. In Nigeria, the mangrove of approximately 10515km2 (Saenger and Bellan, 1995) extends alongshore of Lagos, Ondo, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom, with abundant Flora and Fauna species with varying species of birds which could serve as a potential tourist attraction to bring about ecotourism if biodiversity parks are established across these regions. In Delta state alone, thirty-one families resulting in 50 varying species of flora and fauna with an abundance of 2755 individuals were censured in the mixed mangrove forest of Ogidigben and associated communities (J.K. Ebigwa and F. Akomaye), also with major breeding and nursery grounds for many commercially important fin and shellfishes.
Dense forests in Nigeria are concentrated in the states of Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba, together accounting for 95% of Nigeria’s land area that has more than 50% tree cover. The Forests plays a vital role in maintaining ecological balance to avert global warming and ecological hazards. Forests also serve a recreational purpose as sporting activities like cycling, marathon races, golfing etc., are hosted in the forests. This in particular drives a monumental development and a potential for revenue generation.
Nigeria has diverse classes of water-bodies, with its coastal zone stretching approximately 853 km. The nation has a great geographical and climate diversity, with the Atlantic Ocean along the southern borders and an extended savannah region from the Middle-belt region to the far North (Ajadi, 2012). The potentials of marine and coastal tourism will birth anew font to addressing revenue shortfalls as tourism contributes a whopping US$9.9 trillion to the world’s GDP with 330 million jobs, 1 in 10 jobs around the world and a capital investment totaling US$948 billion.
Fifty-one species of edible trees in forty-six genera of 27 families have been identified in the Savannah region, occupying 86.4% of Nigeria’s land area. Savannah trees have considerable potential to contribute to food and forage supplies in Nigeria, in particular the improvement of natural rangeland with fodder trees and shrubs (J.C Okafor, 2012). The Savannah region has the potentials of commercial agriculture as the region is widely regarded as the food basket of the nation. Staples ranging from Rice, Yam, Wheat are predominantly from the Savannah region with fruits like Mango, Melon, Pepper, Berries etc., are largely from cropped and harvested from this region. A need for Improvement in the methods of farming from the use of individual labourers to mechanized farming, establishment of agro-processing zones to help farmers get their produces well-packaged to be able to compete globally with foreign produces and most pertinently provide employments.
Varying degrees of challenges poses an extinction threat on the ecosystem in Nigeria. Apparently, deforestation/desertification, climate change and unsustainable management laws are capped as the most dreadful challenge to the development of biodiversity conservation in Nigeria.
Biodiversity in Nigeria is largely considered a common good as most does not know the impact of its depletion, giving a significant rise in the deforestation figures as Bisong (2012) reported that “Nigeria’s forests are threatened as the forest cover declined from approximately 24 million hecatres in 1995 and down to 9.6 million hectares in 2011. The release of fossil fuels into the environment causes Climate change. Abysmally, Nigeria especially the Niger Delta region where crude-oil is being found is prone to the emission of fossil fuels, crude-oil spillage into the lands and rivers, and flaring of gases into the environment. Laws and regulations is another slack as government are not less actionable but lenient in the fight to save nature from total degradation from the activities of forest encroachers. These are typically the major challenges Nigeria faces in handling better biodiversity conservation to spur economic and national development.
However, a country without a strategy to harmonize its ecosystem with it economic viability plans to serve as a multiplier effect in tripling its Gross National Product (GNP), simply does not have a viable but a figurehead economy in reality.