By Ebere Agozie
Alhaji Ibrahim Goni, Conservator General, National Parks Service (NPS), says 107 rangers lost their lives worldwide in the line of duty between July 31, 2017 and July 31 2018.
Goni disclosed this while delivering the speech of the President of the International Rangers Federation (IRF) at the 2018 World International Day celebration in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said that the natural world was under immense pressure through the loss of species, habitat destruction, climate change, and environmental crime issues.
“These challenges need urgent attention and the many solutions to the problems varied and are complex, therefore rangers must play critical frontline role in defending our natural heritage, now and always into the future.’’
The Conservator-General gave assurance that the service was working tirelessly to strengthen and equip its officers for effective park patrols.
He noted that the service had obsolete and low calibre firearms and ammunition and required, as an immediate measure, light arms and ammunition for effective park operations.
“We are working in collaboration with the Nigerian Army, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force in fighting insurgency, banditry and cattle rustling in the park.
“This will help reduce the constant conflicts between the park staff and cattle grazers in the park as a result of the lack of designated cattle routes and functional grazing reserves, which had led to death of many staff and others getting maimed.
“We will rehabilitate access roads to ease park surveillance and anti-poaching patrol to boost wildlife viewing, and enhance park monitoring and evaluation, ’’ he said.
Dr Okeyoyin Okedeji, Assistant Conservator -General, Ecological Resource Management of the service, gave a roll call of the fallen heroes.
“We lost 107 rangers worldwide, Africa 63, Nigeria 3 and a total of 29 officers died in active service since the inception of the National Park,’’ he said.
In his good will message, Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), congratulated the rangers who risked their lives to protect the environment.
“I give you my gallant salute for preserving and conserving our natural resources.
“I also congratulate the Conservator-General for what he has been doing in reviving the National Park to meet the international standard and wish that rangers are properly kited and well armed for law enforcement.
“Our country is very dangerous when it comes to enforcing the law, people lose their lives trying to protect the law,’’ he said.
Mr Jonah Moses, one of the rangers, thanked the Conservator General for the training given to the rangers to be able to carry out their jobs effectively.
The Service in conjunction with Health is Wealth for life sustainability in Africa as part of the world rangers celebration, held a Medical Outreach programme on Malaria Testing and Treatment in three Park Headquarters Neighbouring Communities.
The communities are Kuchigoro, Karemajiji and Ruga all in the Federal Capital Territory.