Governor Ben Ayade last week while receiving the Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Authority, Mr Emmanuel Jime had expressed frustration over alleged frustration of his signature projects especial the Super Highway on instigation of some federal government appointees from Cross River State, threatened that he would revoked the certificate of occupancy of the Cross River National Park just as Bauchi State government took over the Yankari National Park (now Yankari Game Reserves).
It is regrettable and unfortunate that Governor Ayade did not have an understanding and appreciation of the legal statutes and historical antecedents of Cross River National Park and Yankari Game Reserves) respectively before electing to pontificate on them.
The Yankari Game Reserve comprises of that piece of land containing eight hundred and two decimal nought four square miles or thereabout situated in the former Fali and Duguri Districts of the Bauchi Emirate, formerly Bauchi Province, constituted by the Bauchi Local Authority Yankari Forest Reserve Order 1957, as amended by the Bauchi Local Authority Yankari Forest Reserve (Amendment) Order 1971, of the defunct Northern Region of Nigeria.
After the Northern Region was divided into Six States in 1967, the Yankari Game Reserve became the property of North Eastern State. North Eastern State was further divided in 1976 into Bornu, Gongola and Bauchi State and Yankari Game Reserve became the property of Bauchi Government.
However, on the 2nd of August, 1991, Yankari Game Reserve by the Yankari National Park Order which came into force on that day becomes the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria vested on the National Park Service of Nigeria.
Section (1) of the Yankari National Park Order 1991 provide thus: The area formerly known as the Yankari Game Reserve is hereby declared to be a National Park to be known as the Yankari National Park.
Section (2) the Yankari National Park Order 1991 provides thus: Accordingly, the provisions of the National Parks Service Act in this Order (“the Act”) shall apply to the Yankari National Park as if it were a National Park established under the Act.
However, by the National Park Service Act, 2006 (as amended) the Yankari National Park was returned by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the Government of Bauchi State.
On the other hand, the first section (Oban) of the Cross River National Park was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1988 through assistance of the Worldwide Fund for Nature-UK, while the second section (Okwango) was established by the Cross River National Park Act (then Decree) passed by the then Federal Military Government in 1991.
The Cross River National Park is seventh National Park belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
They are all legal entities established by the National Park Service Act, 2004.
The others National Parks in the country are: the Chad Basin National Park; the Gashaka-Gumti National Park (Adamawa/Taraba State); the Kainji Lake National Park (Niger/Kwara State); the Old Oyo National Park (Oyo State); (Kamuku National Park (Kaduna State) and Okomu National Park (Edo State).
These National Parks are managed by the National Parks Service.
The objectives of the National Parks Service are thus:
(a) the conservation of selected and representative examples of wildlife communities in Nigeria;
(b) the establishment of an ecologically and geographically balanced network of protected areas under the jurisdiction and control of the Federal Government;
(c) the protection of endangered species of wild plants and animals and their habitats;
(d) the conservation of wildlife throughout Nigeria so that the abundance and diversity of their species are maintained at the optimum levels commensurate with other forms of land use, in order to ensure the continued existence of wildlife for the purpose of their sustainable utilisation for the benefit of the people of Nigeria;
(e) the preservation of outstanding scenic, natural, scientific, recreational and other values in the National Parks;
(f) the protection and maintenance of crucial wetlands and water catchment areas;
(g) the control of dangerous vertebrate species; (h) the implementation of relevant international treaties, agreements or other arrangements regarding and relating to or connected with protected areas and wildlife management to which Nigeria is a party, in so far as the power to implement those international treaties, agreements or arrangements is conferred on the Service by the Federal Government;
(i) the promotion and provision of education about wildlife and nature conservation; and
(j) the conservation of biological diversity in Nigeria.
The Functions of the National Park Service shall be to:
(a) preserve, enhance, protect, and manage vegetation and wild animals in the National Parks;
(b) advise the Federal Government on the development and preservation policy of the National Parks, including the financial requirements for the implementation of such policy;
(c) advise the Federal Government on the declaration of areas which, for the purpose of protecting wildlife species, biotic communities, sites of special interest or of aesthetic value, the Service considers may be declared as National Parks under this Act;
(d) keep under review all activities relating to the National Parks;
(e) ensure the implementation of the National Parks Policy of the Federal Government;
(f) prepare surveys and maintain up-to-date records of all the existing facilities for the growth and protection of the fauna and flora in the National Parks, for zoological or botanical species, and for wild or domesticated animals and advise the Federal Government and State Governments on their adequacy and efficient utilisation in the interest of the national economy;
(g) promote, develop and carry out research on the wildlife resources of Nigeria, with a view to promoting optimum utilisation and management of the wildlife;
(h) encourage general education in the knowledge of wild and domestic animals, fauna and flora and vegetation by publishing or sponsoring the publication of the results of research, particularly in relation to problems affecting Nigeria;
(i) encourage the general public to visit the National Parks and the study of nature afforded in the National Parks, thereby popularising them as tourist attractions;
(j) co-operate with other agencies to promote and develop alternatives to wildlife as a source of protein and income for the rural population; (k) implement relevant international conventions and obligations;
(I) co-ordinate the activities of the various National Parks Management Commit- tees; (m) administer and enforce this Act to attain its purpose; and carry out such other activities which, in the opinion of the Service, will facilitate the performance of its functions under this Act.
These National Parks are national heritage belonging to the people of Nigeria.
Governor Ben Ayade the other day threatened that he will not hesitate to revoke the occupancy over the Cross River National Park. This is surely an empty boast premise on the legal status of the Cross River State National Park.
Governor Ayade compared the Cross River National Park with that of Yankari Game Reserve and said he would revoke the occupancy of the Federal Government over the Cross River National Park just as Bauchi State Government did over that of Yankari Game Reserve.
I had previously tried to give a legal and historical background of the Yankari Game Reserves to emphasise the point that Governor Ayade does not know what he is talking about. He has no modicum of power over Cross River National Park.
He cannot, therefore, revoke its occupancy. He cannot take it over from the Federal Government. He must go and carry out a proper and legally acceptable Environmental Impact Assessment Survey over the Super High Way on the Cross River National Park rather than throwing needless tantrums.
Governor Ben Ayade must be made to understand that the Cross River National Park was never negotiated or initiated by Cross River State, unlike the case of Yankari Game Reserve was established by the Northern Emirate Council then.
Governor Ayade has also on the same day threatened to dredge the Cross River Port. Why does Governor Ayade bother so much about the Calabar Port when he has already commenced the Bakassi Deep Sea Port? Is Ayade inferring that he will not go on with the construction of the Deep Seaport?
Governor Ben Ayade should learn to zip his mouth in the things that he knows little about. He should be told that he can never in his lifetime as governor revoke the Cross River National Park. I dare him to try.