The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery has reinstated Britain’s commitment to support the Nigerian Government as part of efforts to preserve the forest and other natural resources for the benefit of future generation.
Mr. Montgomery stated this during his visit to the Okomu National Park as part of ways to monitor its partnership with the park services through the Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation.
Represented by the head of Climate Change and Energy, in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Ms. Martine Sobey, Mr. Montgomery said the visit is part of a longer visit to Edo State with the objectives to understand some of the challenges and also the opportunities for preserving the forests of Edo State which are critical for biodiversity, people, communities, and in providing a vibrant forest economy.
Ms. Sobey revealed that with its flagship program, PropCom Plus, their role is to encourage market-led approaches to develop agribusiness that delivers climate and nature outcomes, and this is where the visit is apt as it will help the British government to understand the issues that companies, businesses, and the government face in Nigeria.
Speaking on the efforts by ANI Foundation and Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC in the preservation of the Okomu National Park, Ms. Sobey said more of such collaboration is needed in enlightening the local communities on the need to join hands with other stakeholders in the masterplan for the Okomu National Park and reserve.
In a presentation, an executive director in ANI Foundation, Tunde Morakinyo said the role of ANI in the Okomu landscape is to protect and regenerate forests and their animals as well as providing employment opportunities to local people and revenue to government in terms of incentivise partnership.
Mr. Morakinyo revealed that since its operation in the Okomu National Park, they have been able to train and deploy the first batch of rangers to the region. He added that the Foundation has so far confiscated eight wire snares, one (1) shotguns, six (6) cutlass, Six (6) chainsaws, one (1) motorcycle, five (5) wood truck in addition to the destruction of twelve (12) illegal logging and hunting camps as well as the arrest of over twenty (20) illegal farmers and hunters and 6 convictions have been made.
The Managing Director, Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC Dr. Graham Hefer said aside it partnership with the National Park, Okomu Oil is committed to the protection of biodiversity under the concept of HCV, and so far has identified White Throated Monkey, African Grey Parrot, Yellow Casqued-Hornbill, Tree Pangolin, and Home Hinge Back Tortoise in the company’s concession.
He added that in protecting these Rare, Threatened and Endangered (RTE) species, the company has formulated a management plan with regular enlightenment and training of its workforce and neighbouring communities on the preservation of the HCV areas as well as the recruitment of eco-guards.
Dr Hefer added that in the company’s reforestation plan, over 6,137 endemic trees were planted on an area of about 6 hectares in 2020, with ten (10) hectares also being planted in 2023 while an additional fifty (50) hectares are to be planted in the next five (5) years.
On his part, the chairman, Edo State forestry commission, Mr. Edward Obiaw appreciated the management of Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC and other stakeholders for their roles in the regeneration and preservation of the state forest resources and noted that the state government will continue its partnership with the company and ANI in its efforts to regenerate the state forest reserve.