The Federal Government is contemplating partial commercialisation of existing national parks in the country.
The parks penciled down for the exercise are Kainji Lake, Cross River, and Gashaka Gumti National Parks. Already, discussions have begun among the leadership of the parks and relevant agencies to fashion out a blueprint for the kick-off of the programme.
The Conservator General, Dr. Ibrahim Goni, who stated this in a statement in Abuja, said their potential for recreation parks are exceedingly high, but they are not properly harnessed to achieve the goals.
Goni assured that they would support the private partnership initiative on the partial concession of the national parks by the Federal Government to provide recreational centres for citizens.
He noted that the move would improve tourist infrastructure, marketing, and publicity for the parks. He also maintained that they are ready to promote domestic tourism, ensure the safety of tourists and visitors to the parks.
The Conservator General explained that the parks would provide ecosystem services, with a rich variety of natural resources, capable of turning Nigeria into a major tourism destination in the world.
To achieve this, he said, there is a need to upgrade infrastructure and increase inclusion of indigenous people participation in park resources management, conservation, and tourism.
Similarly, Dr. Goni has called on stakeholders to synergise, synthesise for the sector to perform optimally and contribute substantially to the national economy.
On the protection of national parks, he suggested the establishment of paramilitary structure, in terms of the development of quarter guard, parade team, and the “The major challenge is the issue of ineffective support from communities. We want the communities to accept ownership of the park resources rather than view the parks as government property.”
He disclosed that the national parks recorded 9,557 tourists between 2017 and 2020, attributing it to the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant impact, which hindered foreign nationals from visiting the parks.