Sanctions: France, Senegal, CIV Cancel Flights To Mali - INDEPENDENT
Airlines from Ivory Coast, Senegal and France cancelled flights to Mali on Monday, helping isolate a military junta under regional sanctions for trying to extend its hold on power.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Sunday agreed a raft of restrictions against Mali, following the junta’s failure to hold democratic elections next month as agreed after a 2020 military coup.
Among the sanctions are the withdrawal of ambassadors and the suspension of financial transactions.
The bloc also said they would close road and air borders.
Ivory Coast’s national carrier Air Cote d’Ivoire halted flights to the Malian capital Bamako on Monday.
Flights from Senegal were also disrupted, according to a Reuters reporter trying to enter Mali.
Air France (AIRF.PA) had also cancelled flights, an airline spokesperson said, because of security risks, without providing further detail.
The head of Mali’s airports, Lassina Togola, said in a statement that Air France flights on Monday were cancelled but not suspended long term.
Guinea’s transitional authorities said on Monday that they were not associated with ECOWAS’s decision to sanction Mali, and that their shared border will remain open.
The regional bloc suspended Guinea’s membership in September after its own military coup.
Mali’s military-led authorities have condemned the latest sanctions as illegal and illegitimate.
“The Malian government calls on the public to show calmness and restraint,” it said in a statement in the early hours of Monday.
This is the bloc’s toughest stance on Mali since it implemented similar measures in the immediate aftermath of President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita’s ouster in August 2020.
Those sanctions, which caused a sharp drop in imports to the landlocked country, were lifted inside two months after the authorities promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule.
The bloc hopes renewed economic pressure, including cutting Mali off from regional financial markets and trade of non-essential goods, will push Bamako to rethink the latest proposal to delay presidential and legislative elections to December 2025 – nearly four years after they were supposed to be held.
The Malian government has promised it will try to ensure a normal supply of goods to the public, but sanctions are likely to further hobble the economy in one of the world’s poorest countries where an Islamist insurgency rages, fuelled in part by widespread poverty.
Barrick Gold, which owns Mali’s biggest gold mine complex Loulo-Gounkoto, said on Monday its mines in the country have “thus far not been affected” by the ECOWAS sanctions.
Gold miners Hummingbird Resources and Cora which also have operations in Mali, said they were monitoring the situation in the wake of the sanctions decision.
Mali’s political upheaval has deepened tensions with France, which has thousands of soldiers deployed across West Africa’s Sahel region to battle the insurgents.
For now, some residents in Bamako shrugged off the sanctions, saying they supported the government’s strategy.
“We cannot be independent without suffering, we have to accept suffering,” said electronics store owner Aboubacar Yalcouye.
2,560 passports abandoned at Immigration office in Calabar - DAILY POST
The Comptroller of Immigration Service in Cross River State (CIS), Christopher Baikie, has said that Nigerians have abandoned no fewer than 2,560 international passports at their Nigeria Calabar office in Cross River State.
He spoke when he reeled out his achievements and challenges in the five months of his services as CIS in the state.
Passport Control Officer in the state, Mrs. Clementina Ogbundu, said the abandoned passports date back to 2019.
“We have 2,560 international passports uncollected in our Calabar office.
“Applicants will pay for it, go through all the processes but when the passports are ready for collection, they will not come back again for collection,” she said.
Despite the abandonment, she said new applicants were still coming up to book for new passports.
Baikie, who spoke earlier, disclosed that they repatriated a Cameroonian illegal immigrant last year.
The 24th CIS said they are very humane with immigrants going by the rules guiding their operations, adding that they are using the Public Relations approach with them.
“We have visited the immigrants associations and have encouraged their leaderships in parts of the state to sensitise those without proper documentations to regularise themselves.
“However, though we are allowed to bear arms, enforcement with arms is really not a priority.”
Qatar Airways to launch services to Kano and Port Harcourt in Nigeria - GULF TIMES
Both routes will be served by the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner, featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class.
* The airline continues to expand its West African network, offering seamless connectivity via the Best Airport in the Middle East to destinations in Asia, Europe and North America Qatar Airways is boosting its service to Nigeria with the launch of four weekly flights to Kano (KAN) on 2 March, and three weekly flights to Port Harcourt (PHC) on 3 March, both operating via the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
The airline currently operates two daily flights to Lagos and four times a week to Abuja, which will expand to a daily service in March. Kano and Port Harcourt will become the seventh and eight new African gateways launched by Qatar Airways since the start of the pandemic, Both routes will be served by the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner, featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class, the airline said in a press release Tuesday. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, HE Akbar Al Baker said: “The airline was one of the few to keep operating to many African destinations throughout the pandemic and, as restrictions are lifted, is continuing to expand its network on the continent.
As home to the largest economy and population in the region, we see tremendous growth potential for travel and trade in Nigeria. It is a key market and an important part of our African growth strategy; the expansion of our presence across two new gateways is a testament to our continuous commitment to Nigeria. “We anticipate good reciprocal demand between Port Harcourt, UK, USA and destinations across Asia. For Kano we see the opportunity to grow traffic to and from markets such as KSA and India, as well as strong cargo prospects.”
As travel restrictions ease, Qatar Airways is restoring its services to all its African destinations. When Kano and Port Harcourt flights start operating, the airline will provide 188 weekly flights to 28 destinations in Africa. Qatar Airways African customers will also benefit from generous baggage allowances, which provide for up to 46kg in Economy Class split over two pieces and 64kg split over two pieces in Business Class.
A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was recently announced as the ‘Airline of the Year’ at the 2021 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. It was also named ‘World’s Best Business Class’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Airline Seat’, ‘World’s Best Business Class Onboard Catering’ and ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’.
The airline continues to stand alone at the top of the industry having won the main prize for an unprecedented sixth time (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021). Qatar Airways has also become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star Covid-19 Airline Safety Rating by Skytrax. This follows the success of Hamad International Airport (HIA) as the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star Covid-19 Airport Safety Rating. These awards provide assurance to passengers across the world that the airline’s health and safety measures are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment.
For full details of all the measures that have been implemented on board and at HIA, please visit qatarairways.com/safety. Flight schedule (all times local): Kano (KAN) – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday Doha (DOH) to Abuja (ABV) QR1431 departs: 01:45 arrives: 07:20 Abuja (ABV) to Kano (KAN) QR1431 departs: 08:50 arrives: 09:50 Kano (KAN) to Abuja (ABV) QR1432 departs: 18:35 arrives 19:35 Abuja (ABV) to Doha (DOH) QR1432 departs: 21:05 arrives 05:15 (+1) Port Harcourt (PHC) – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Doha (DOH) to Abuja (ABV) QR1433 departs: 01:45 arrives: 07:20 Abuja (ABV) to Port Harcourt (PHC) QR1433 departs: 08:50 arrives: 10:00 Port Harcourt (PHC) to Abuja (ABV)) QR1434 departs: 18:25 arrives 19:35 Abuja (ABV) to Doha (DOH) QR1434 departs: 21:05 arrives 05:15 (+1)
Over 50% of Europe’s population will be infected with omicron in the next 2 months, WHO says - CNBC
- Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said a new “West to East tidal wave” of omicron infections was sweeping across the region.
- The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks, Kluge added.
- Omicron has swept the region at an alarming pace, with some countries reintroducing social restrictions in an effort to curb it.
Members of the public queue for Covid-19 vaccinations and booster jabs at St Thomas’ Hospital on December 14, 2021 in London, England. Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON — More than 50% of Europe’s population will be infected with the highly contagious omicron Covid-19 variant over the next two months, according to forecasts shared by a top World Health Organization official.
Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, cited data from the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at a news briefing Tuesday, saying a new “West to East tidal wave” of omicron infections was sweeping across the region, on top of the previous delta variant which is still prevalent.
“It [omicron] is quickly becoming the dominant virus in Western Europe and is now spreading into the Balkans,” Kluge said. He added that the region saw more than 7 million infections in the first week of 2022, more than doubling over a two-week period.
“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” he added.
Omicron has swept the region at an alarming pace, with some countries reintroducing social restrictions in an effort to curb it. However, early evidence suggests that omicron is less severe than the delta variant, although there are concerns that the sheer number of infections could still overwhelm health systems.
John Bell, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and the U.K. government’s life sciences advisor, told the BBC in late December that omicron was “not the same disease” as previous strains.
“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago — intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely — that is now history in my view and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue,” he said.
CNBC Health & Science
Read CNBC’s latest global coverage of the Covid pandemic:
Discussing the omicron variant, he added: “The disease does appear to be less severe, and many people spend a relatively short time in hospital. They don’t need high-flow oxygen, average length of stay is apparently three days.”
Kluge stated Tuesday that mortality rates had remained stable and continued to be highest in countries with high Covid-19 incidence rates, combined with lower vaccination uptake.
Mixed Reactions As FAAN Nabs 90 Over Illegal Activities At Lagos, Abuja Airports - DAILY TRUST
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has arrested over 90 touts as part of its drive to rid the nation’s airports of touting and extortion.
Out of the 90 arrested at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, 89 of them have been handed over to the police.
Daily Trust reports that the federal government had recently declared war on touting at the airports following outcries over the prevalence of extortion, bribery at the airports.
The decision to set up a committee against touting came after a stakeholders’ meeting which involved the office of the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business led by Mrs. Jumoke Oduwole.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu disclosed that over 90 persons, caught at both the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, carrying out nefarious activities have been arrested.
She said the touts were arrested for various acts of illegality including Fake Covid-19 test results, touting, unauthorised entry, trespass, illegal facilitation, forgery, loitering, theft, public nuisance, and arguments, amongst others.
Some of those arrested are staff of Patovilki Nigeria Limited, Lakewood Services, Nahco Plc, and other airport staff.
Of the total arrested, 59 were handed over to the airport police command in Abuja for prosecution, while 30 were handed over to the police force in Lagos for the same.
“FAAN will like to use this opportunity to warn those that do not have any legitimate business at the airports, as well as airport staff carrying out illegal duties to desist from such acts, as the Authority will not hesitate to arrest and hand over such individuals for prosecution,” the statement by Yakubu said.
However, a source at the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company wondered how the Authority went to press without verifying the identity of those arrested.
In a statement, the management of NAHCO however expressed support for the authority in its bid to rid the airports of touting and other vices.
The handling company in a statement said, “We commend the move.
“NAHCO is a responsible player in the industry, (and) as such, will not condone any form of illegality. We urge FAAN to always carry us along in this fight. The current move will in no small measure help our industry to grow as well as bring sanity to the airports.
“We will however engage FAAN, to provide us the details of our personnel alleged to be involved, to enable us to activate our internal disciplinary process as we currently do not have any clue as to who is involved, when, and in what capacity.”
Omicron Has Workers on Edge About Returning to the Office - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Workers grew more uncomfortable about heading back to the office in the first week of the year and were much more likely to consider quitting if their employer demanded they return, a sign that companies’ efforts to get people back amid rising Covid caseloads face stiff resistance.
The share of remote workers who would consider leaving their job if they were asked back to the office before they felt safe rose to 55% as of Jan. 6, up from 45% just a week earlier, according to pollster Morning Consult. More than 4 in 10 workers felt unsure about returning to the office, compared with 35% who said so on Dec. 30. People were also less likely to want to attend indoor sporting events, go to the movies and dine out, Morning Consult’s weekly survey found.
The findings come as Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and other companies once again delay plans to bring employees back to their desks as the omicron variant sweeps through the U.S. The surge has led to staffing shortages with millions of Americans calling in sick, on top of those who have already quit, sapping the nation’s economic recovery. Employers are also unsure whether the Supreme Court will toss out the Biden administration’s proposed vaccine shot-or-test rule, clouding the workplace situation even more.
“When organizations don’t communicate effectively about what the future looks like, it creates uncertainty and can cause people to quit,” said Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace and wellbeing at Gallup Inc. “Matching what employers and workers want going forward is essential, because work will never be the same again.”
UK could be among the first countries to emerge from Covid pandemic, top scientist says - CNBC
- The U.K. could be one of the first countries to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to one leading scientist.
- The U.K. was criticized by many for its reluctance to introduce more Covid rules in the face of the omicron variant.
- Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that “the U.K is the closest to any country in being out of the pandemic if it isn’t already out of the pandemic and having the disease as endemic.”
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures while visiting St Thomas Hospital to receive his coronavirus booster vaccination, in London, Britain December 2, 2021. Paul Edwards | Reuters
LONDON — It’s been criticized by many for its reluctance to introduce more Covid-19 restrictions in the face of the omicron variant, but the U.K. could be one of the first countries to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, according to one leading scientist.
Speaking of various responses to Covid, and particularly the latest wave of cases caused by the virulent omicron variant, leading public health official Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that “the U.K is the closest to any country in being out of the pandemic if it isn’t already out of the pandemic and having the disease as endemic.”
“Countries are now seeing population immunity build up ... and that seems to be keeping the virus at bay, not causing serious illness or death in countries where population immunity is high.”
Heymann, speaking at an online seminar hosted by think tank Chatham House on Monday, cited the latest figures from the U.K.’s statistics authority on immunity that estimated that 95% of the population in England have antibodies against infection, either through vaccination or natural infection. The majority of those in intensive care units now, Heymann added, were the unvaccinated.
The U.K. government was criticized last month for refusing to bring in more restrictions on social mixing ahead of Christmas as the omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa in late November, spread rapidly. The U.K. was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the highly infectious strain.
Omicron was dubbed as “of concern” by the World Health Organization given the high number of mutations of the strain and fears it could undermine Covid vaccines.
We now know that omicron is far more infectious than previous variants of the virus, including the delta variant, but a growing number of studies and real-world data show that it is causing less severe illness, although this could also be due to widespread vaccination campaigns.
Covid vaccination offers high levels of protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death and vaccine makers say early studies have shown that booster shots significantly restore protection against the omicron variant.
The U.K. government has had to hold its nerve in recent weeks by not introducing new restrictions on the public, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the British public that they would have to “learn to live with the virus” last year.
The government has maintained this stance, despite fellow European countries introducing far stricter rules on socializing and travel in the last month (and some introducing partial or full lockdowns).
There are glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel, however, with increasing signs that the peak of the omicron wave of infections is proving to be shorter and sharper than those seen with previous variants. The daily number of cases being reported by the U.K. is steadily falling (although they still remain at high levels; on Tuesday, over 120,000 cases were recorded).
It’s clear that Covid will be an endemic virus due to herd immunity, epidemiologist says
Hospitals in the U.K. and around Europe are operating at very high levels of capacity although hospitalizations remain at lower levels than in previous waves of the pandemic when vaccine coverage was lower.
Global health officials caution that it’s too early to say the pandemic has entered an “endemic” phase, where there are persistent but low-to-moderate levels of Covid in any given population in future but the virus is not causing excessive levels of infection or spreading from country to country (which would make it a pandemic again).
The U.K.’s Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC Sunday that the country was on the road “from pandemic to endemic” as the government said it could reduce the period of self-isolation for vaccinated people who test positive for Covid from seven days to five (as with the latest guidance in the U.S.) to alleviate staff absences in the workplace and the massive economic disruption caused by Covid.
Work Anywhere and Commute by Plane, Yahoo Tells Japan Employees - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Yahoo Japan is telling its 8,000 employees they can work anywhere in the country -- and even be flown into work when the job requires it -- bucking the trend of companies looking to return workers to offices in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic.
The program takes effect April 1 and allows employees to commute by plane, which wasn’t previously an option, the company said in a statement Wednesday. While Yahoo is best known for its internet portal in Japan, it’s a unit of SoftBank Group Corp.’s Z Holdings Corp., which also owns the Line messaging app and PayPay mobile payments service.
90% of the company’s employees are now working remotely, according to President Kentaro Kawabe, who tweeted that an overwhelming majority of them said their performance has held steady or improved at home. “So we’re allowing Yahoo employees to live anywhere in Japan. This doesn’t mean we’re denying the benefits of the office -- you’ll be able to fly in when needed,” he added.
Yahoo is setting a commuting budget of 150,000 yen ($1,300) per month per worker and lifting its previous daily cap. In-person communication will still be encouraged as the initiative is also aimed at bolstering morale and wellbeing, with social gatherings to be subsidized by 5,000 yen per employee a month.
The company has had an “office anywhere” remote work system in place since 2014, however it had capped the number of work-from-home days before the virus took hold to five days a month.
Japanese companies have responded to the pandemic by embracing flexible work arrangements, which were rare before 2020 in a culture that once prided itself on direct interaction in the office and long working hours. Panasonic Corp. last week unveiled plans for a four-day workweek, an initiative Mizuho Financial Group Inc. already has underway.
UAE inaugurates visa application, document attestation centre in Lagos, Nigeria - VANGUARD
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially inaugurated a Visa Application and document attestation Centre in Lagos, Nigeria at the office of the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates, 8th floor, Nipost Towers, 1, Ologun Agbaje Street, off Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The Consul General Dr Abdulla Al Mandoos in the presence of prominent government officials such as the special adviser to the Lagos State Government on Sustainable Development Goals and Investment, Solape Hammond; Comptroller General of Immigration for Lagos State, Ahmed Aliyu; Country Manager of Emirates airline, Paulos Legesse; Vice president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gbenga Ismail; Head of UAE visa Centre, Abdulla Alqahtani and several media houses were present to witness the centre’s unveiling ceremony.
Dr Abdulla led the visitors on a tour of the centre, reaffirming that despite the current challenges of the pandemic, the United Arab Emirates still avails itself of the opportunities to bolster its bilateral relations with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He further explained that the Centre was well equipped with apposite Covid 19 preventive measures to ensure all protocols were strictly adhered to.
“The vision to establish a Visa and Attestation office in the Centre of Excellence has been in the works for a while now. Lagos being the economic capital of Nigeria with over 20 million in population, the centre aims to put to ease, the bilateral business processes between both countries. The best equipment has been installed to ensure the process remains fast and convenient with a target of 6 minutes to complete the entire process from the walk-in.”
“With this new development, we anticipate that the people of Lagos and neighbouring states no longer feel compelled to travel to Abuja to process visas and attest their documents as they can now achieve all that in Lagos State,” he said.
Ending Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Animals - THISDAY
Nigeria has emerged as the top transit point in the world for illegal ivory and pangolin scale trafficking from Africa to Asia. Between 2016 to 2019, over half of the pangolin scales seized globally came from Nigeria, Ugo Aliogo reports
A survey by WildAid has stated that the growing appetite for bush meat among urban residents increases the risk of zoonotic disease transmission, and threatens wildlife populations in Nigeria and its surrounding countries. The survey also explained that the consumption also overlaps with the illegal trade networks, fueling the trade in protected species like elephants and pangolins. While studies have shown that bush meat consumption in Nigeria is influenced by a number of factors such as taste, health, and culture, there is little information on the attitudes, awareness, preferences, and reservations of the public in major cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Calabar.
The survey explained that 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in the last decade have originated in animals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Outbreaks of Ebola, HIV, and SARS have been linked to the wild or bush meat trade, with COVID-19 also potentially spreading through this activity and causing tremendous health and economic impacts. The survey remarked that Nigeria has a flourishing bush meat markets in major cities selling both legal and illegal bush meat, adding that the trade remains largely unregulated.
The survey espoused that the process of trapping and transporting wild animals in stressful and unhygienic conditions in which they come into contact with people and domesticated animals greatly increases the risks of new disease introduction and transmission.
The survey further argued that a commercial trade serving large urban centers poses a significantly higher risk and a larger rate of outbreak than subsistence use in rural areas, stating that the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed over 11,00 people3.
“Several governments launched large-scale mass media campaigns that discouraged people from consuming bush meat. Consumers quickly adjusted their preferences away from bush meat, especially fruit bats and monkeys6, and switched to alternatives such as fish. Bush meat sellers complained bitterly about the poor sales during the epidemic; however, by 2018 sales of bush meat had rebounded in Nigeria,” the survey noted.
Beyond the survey, it is worrisome to state that Nigeria has no surviving Cheetahs, Rhinos, or Giraffes, and more than 50 lions, 100 Gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 Chimpanzees left in the wild. Despite efforts, poaching for body parts and meat along with habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development, and agriculture expansion threaten wildlife in the country. In 2022, WildAid decided to raise the stakes in the fight against illegal bush meat consumption with the launching of a massive public awareness conservation campaign in the country to reduce demand for illegal bush meat in major centers, support enforcement activities to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness of the disappearing wildlife using.
Federal Government Commitment
Nigeria is endowed with amazing biodiversity and houses comparable levels of endemic species due to a complex topography and wide variety of habitats, which include the freshwater swamp forest, mangrove forest and coastal vegetation, lowland forest, derived savannah, guinea savannah, Sudan/Sahel savannah, and montane ecosystems. There is also the unique vegetation of the Jos plateau, as well as the montane vegetation of the isolated highlands of Mambilla and Obudu. Each of these ecosystems has its own unique characteristics of wild fauna, flora and a huge collection of marine and freshwater aquatic species.
Speaking on the development, the Minister for State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, stated that statistics shown that Nigeria has an endemic flora of 91 species belonging to 44 families.
Ikeazor further explained that according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) Red list of 2013, Nigeria has a total of 309 threatened species namely: Mammals (pangolins, lions, elephants, manatees), Birds (grey parrots and the black crowned crane, which is our National Bird), Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Molluscs, and Plants (Costus spectabilis, our National Plant).
She remarked that some of the country’s biodiversity sites includes: the seven National Parks (Old Oyo, Cross River, Gashaka-Gumti, Okomu, Chad Basin, Kainji Lake, and Kamuku); 27 important bird areas, which are found in all our National Parks, as well as 60% of our 11 Ramsar Sites (such as the Hadejia-Nguru); two World Heritage sites of Sukur Kingdom and Osun Osogbo Grove; 994 Forest Reserves in the 36 States of Nigeria; and 32 Game Reserves.
She stated: “In year 2020, Nigeria secured three additional Biosphere Reserves, bringing the total number of Biosphere Reserves to three, as approved by UNESCO: the Omo Biosphere Reserve in Ogun State, Oban Biosphere Reserve and Okwango Bioshphere Reserve, both in Cross Rivers State; and Hadejia-Nguru-Bade Biosphere Reserve, straddling Yobe and Jigawa States.”
She espoused that biodiversity plays a vital role in the economy, ecology and social lives, adding that it is a source of food, fibre, domestic and commercial products, medicine, and for aesthetics and culture, agriculture, knowledge, and industrial processes.
According to her, “You will agree with me that our survival and overall wellbeing depends on how sustainably the environment and its biodiversity are managed. However, there are serious environmental challenges that have led to the loss of biodiversity and threaten our very existence. Habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change are the drivers of biodiversity loss.
“The alarming rate of over-exploitation of these natural resources calls for urgent, increased and proactive actions to reverse this trend. Poaching, possessing, taking, trading (supply or selling) and consumption has put Nigeria on the spotlight of wildlife crime. Collaborative efforts with organizations such as WildAid would help to address this menace.
“The campaign by WildAid represents one of such actions bearing in mind the quantum of impacts wildlife crime has left on our biodiversity and the ecosystem. If we all join forces in this laudable initiative, quite a lot would be achieved in rescuing and protecting these animals most of which are already facing extinction. We have the duty to spread the awareness that the more these animals are allowed to live in the wild, the better the planet would be for all of us.
“Nigeria as a Signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) commits to the implementation and adherence to the CITES laws and regulations as well as to other global agreements, conventions and treaties focused on conservation of biodiversity.
“Nigeria has also played a vital role in the creation of the West Africa Strategy on Combating Wildlife Crime, in its position as Chair of the Steering Committee responsible for establishing this important regional strategy. We will not relent in our resolve to regularly review, develop and implement the appropriate policy, legal and institutional framework as necessary just as we are taking a bold step towards ensuring adequate implementation of the recently validated National Strategy on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria, as supported by UNODC, which will be launched in March this year.
“Being conscious of the multi-stakeholder nature of the fight against wildlife crime, the Federal Government has continued to maintain collaborative partnerships with the key stakeholders within and outside the country. WildAid is one of such great Partners that have not only complemented our efforts but also proved that the efficacy of public campaign and awareness creation is inevitable in the quest to combat the menace.
“The Department of Forestry under the Federal Ministry of Environment will continue to embark on public awareness and sensitization campaign on CITES and Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species of flora and fauna, biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and sustainable development through International Days Celebrations, Formation of Young Foresters Clubs in Schools as well as Community Outreach Programmes.
“We will be reviewing our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan immediately after the second part of the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in the second quarter of this year. The update will require integrating biodiversity into national programmes aimed at reducing poverty and developing a secure future in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Nigeria is taking a leadership role in seeking the adoption of bold international commitments for the recovery of biodiversity and for the expansion of protected areas to at least 30% by 2030 with matching funding commitments in the on-going negotiation process of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This will provide opportunities for investments in Nigeria’s ecosystems while preserving ecosystem services for future generations.”
The Role of Lagos State
On his part, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said humanity can no longer stand by in silence while the animal and plant resources in the forest and other biomes are being exploited, abused and depleted.
“It is very important we stand together to speak against environmental degradation and wildlife destruction in Nigeria before it is too late. Extinction means forever. Every day, countless rare plant and animal species go into extinction. Destruction of all types of ecosystems and lack of wildlife conservation measures is a serious biosecurity threat that leads to increase in likelihood of natural disasters, global warming and a significant change in food production,” he said.
He further stated that the forest is also a natural reservoir for many unknown diseases, adding that but a healthy ecosystem keeps its self in check and cleans the environment.
He posited that the society needs to learn to respect the immense functions and roles that the wilderness systems play in protecting everyone, noting that wild animals, insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians belong in their eco habitat where they provide these protective roles.
In his words: “Destruction of the forest disrupts symbiotic harmonies and increases migration of wild animals and this leads to increasing contact between wild species and urban dwellers causing rising cases of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of animal origin.
“Deforestation that leads to loss of our flora and fauna resources is one of the main environmental challenges confronting Nigeria. Food and Agriculture Organization FAO of the UN (2010) reported that Nigeria has the largest deforestation rates in the world with loss of 60% of its primary forest. The annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is approximately 3.5%, which is between 350,000 and 400,000 hectares per year. From 1990 to 2010 Nigeria nearly halved their amount of Forest Cover, moving from 17,000 to 9,000 hectares. Forests convert carbon into oxygen, cool down the environment, provide protection for numerous plant and animal species and most importantly create rain and fresh water and replenishes our lakes, streams and rivers. The combination of extremely high deforestation rates, increased temperatures and decreasing rainfall are all contributing to the desertification and drying out of the country. Desertification leads to loss of livelihood for millions of people and this in turn leads to competition for resources and conflict.
“The carbon emissions from deforestation is also said to account for 87% of the total carbon emissions of the country. So instead of sinking carbon and reducing green house gases which leads to global warming and climate change we are actually increasing the release of carbon in the atmosphere that has been stored in our forests for hundreds of years. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly one billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per annum. “While the United Nations recommends a minimum forest cover of 26% for countries, Nigeria’s forest cover is said to be less than 6%. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) situation analysis on West Africa also reported serious and rapid wildlife depletion in the region. IUCN reported that about 10% of amphibians, birds and mammals species native to West Africa are threatened with extinction, as well as about 17% of the more than 1600 fresh water fish species. These statistics represent a present danger for Nigeria and all stakeholders should work towards salvaging Nigeria’s forest and environment.”
Causes of Biodiversity loss in Nigeria
The forests in Nigeria are under threat from many different kinds of human activities, from directly destroying habitat to spreading invasive species and diseases. Most ecosystems are facing multiple threats. Each new threat puts additional stress on already weakened ecosystems and their wildlife. Some of the causes of deforestation and wildlife loss in Nigeria are listed below:
Bush Burning: Bush burning involves the removal of forest by using fire to burn out the existing vegetation. The burning can either be caused by accidental or intentional actions. In most rural areas of Nigeria, hunters set forests on fire in order to force the animals to flee their hiding places, or in some cases this can happen accidentally especially during the dry season.
Poaching of wildlife for bush meat and export: Over exploitation of wildlife for eating and illegal trafficking is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity loss in Nigeria. Wildlife meat is a major source of protein and livelihood to many families in Nigeria. Uncontrolled killing and poaching of wildlife for meat has lead to serious depletion in wildlife in Nigerian forest.
Nigeria is also a major player in the global illegal wildlife trafficking. Illegal trade is decimating populations of elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks, chimpanzees, gorillas, and numerous tree species in Nigeria.
Unregulated Logging: Logging refers to the largescale felling of trees mostly for commercial purposes such as the manufacture of paper and furniture. In a regulated environment, this activity would not be much of a problem as loggers are compelled to plant more trees than they cut down. However, in an unregulated environment, not only do loggers cut trees down indiscriminately, they also do not plant to replace the felled trees. Unfortunately, research done by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows that much of the logging done today is carried out illegally.
Rapid Urbanization: The quest to make more land available for roads, airports, industrial areas and housing to cater for the ever increasing urban population in Nigeria has resulted in the invasion of hitherto virgin forests. The existing vegetation is either cut down or burnt, while the land is utilized for urban developmental purposes. This is most visible in rapidly growing urban areas in Nigeria such as Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
Droughts and Soil Erosion: Deforestation can occur if the forests are starved of rainfall for long periods of time as this can cause the trees to wither away and die. Severe soil erosion where large portions of soil are washed away can also result in rapid deforestation.
Agricultural Activities: The population of Nigeria has been in a steady increase, and there is a dire need to provide food to cater for this increasing population. This needs to provide more food has led to an increase in agricultural activity which in turn puts pressure on the available arable land. A vast majority of forest is destroyed annually either through burning or logging to create more land for food production as well as the creation of ranches and grazing land for cattle. Another significant effect of agricultural activities is that the natural nutrients in the land are depleted and this makes it quite difficult to grow new trees when the farmers move on from the land.