Dr. Ibrahim Goni, C.G, National Parks, laments, ‘Park rangers falling victim to killer herdsmen’ - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Monday, 7 September 2020

Dr. Ibrahim Goni, C.G, National Parks, laments, ‘Park rangers falling victim to killer herdsmen’



A peep into the background of Dr. Ibrahim Musa Goni, the Conservator-General of the National Parks Service, shows that he was cut out for the job from birth. Born in Bussa, Niger State, he more or less grew up living in the natural ecosystem he would later study about and then make a living from. He spoke with PAUL UKPABIO on the state of the national parks and the toll that such crises as Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic have taken on them. 


How has the Boko Haram insurgency affected the operations and growth of our national parks?
National parks remain our natural treasure and we must hold them in high esteem. Apart from the negative anthropogenic activities such as illegal logging, grazing, water poisoning and mining which have bedeviled the parks lately, organised crimes like insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and armed robbery have taken untold challenge on the effective management of some of our national parks across the country. Confrontations between these criminals and park rangers have oftentimes resulted in casualties with park rangers killed or maimed.

Therefore, to appraise the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the overall operations and growth of the national parks in the last couple of years, I will say that their activities have negatively impacted on the operations and development of some of our national parks. Records available indicate that there have been geometric decreases in tourists’ arrival with its attendant decline in internally generated revenue and loss of manpower to heinous activities of insurgency in areas that are prone to great security challenge, especially in the North Eastern part of the country.

However, over the past few years, the management of the National Park Service has made concerted efforts to tackle this menace headlong through strategic partnership and inter-agency collaboration. The Service is currently collaborating with some agencies such as the military and paramilitary as well as other relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies in the country. To a large extent, these collaborations have been yielding positive results and we are gradually rebuilding the confidence of the people.

How have the nation’s parks manage to survive the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic with regard to funding?
No doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic is a global health challenge considered as the biggest calamity that mankind has faced since the Second World War. This pandemic has ravaged all the sectors of the global economy, so the National Park Service is not exempted in any way. Nevertheless, the funding of the National Park Service has really been affected even though we still draw our salaries from the government and there are no job losses. The downward review of the nation’s budget has affected the Service’s funding.

Do the animals at our various national parks feel the impact of Covid-19?
The animals in our various national parks are aware of the Covid-19 pandemic due to reduced hunting pressure and illegal trafficking on Nigeria’s wildlife resources in the past few months. The lockdowns and restrictions have made it difficult for poachers to get markets for their kills. Thus, this has helped greatly to enhance wildlife population across the nation’s parks.

The animals are being protected through routine surveillance and organised patrols in vulnerable areas of the parks, using high-tech conservation equipment such as drones, smart cyber trackers, intelligence gathering and sharing with sister agencies, intensified media advocacy, improved enlightenment and education. Therefore, in order to ensure adequate safety and protection of officers and men of the Service, the management has provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in addition to regular information on the virus and guidelines for hygiene as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 Pandemic.

Which do you consider the tougher to manage between Boko Haram and Covid-19?
Covid-19, to me, is worse than Boko Haram simply because Covid-19 is a pandemic ravaging the whole world while the activities of Boko Haram insurgents are mainly restricted to some parts of the Northeast. Generally, pandemics are unseen enemies and they can be deadlier if not brought under control in good time. Pandemics are not merely serious public health challenge rather they pose great threats to socio-economic and political stability in the affected areas.

Are the national parks affected in any way by the activities of killer herdsmen?
Yes, the activities of herders are affecting effective protection of some of our National Parks. Illegal grazing has brought forth herder-park management conflicts. Confrontations between herders and park rangers have oftentimes resulted in the killing or maiming of park rangers during patrols.

A major reason for national parks is for tourists to visit. With all the problems you have mentioned, are tourists still visiting the parks. And with the new normal, are people still allowed to visit the parks in large numbers?
One of the cardinal responsibilities of the National Park Service is to provide a platform for fun seekers via the national parks. With the recent outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, there were restrictions on tourism and research related activities in all our national parks. As a responsible government entity, our activities are guided by rules and regulations. Lately, these restrictions have gradually been eased across the national parks with specific guidelines in line with the Federal Government’s directives through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 Pandemic.

For those who have not visited the parks, what are the distinguishing features of each park?
There are seven national parks located within the major ecological zones of the country except the marine ecosystem. The areas the parks are located are reputed as the richest ecosystems in Nigeria in terms of biodiversity, with some of them harbouring rare, endemic and endangered wildlife species. Apart from the rich animal and plant resources that abound within the national parks, they also help to preserve several historical, archeological and cultural features such as the Dogon Ruwa waterfalls and GoronDutse in-selberg in Kamuku National Park;  the ruins of Oyo, the political capital of the ancient Oyo Empire; the Koso ruins and Old Parnono Shrine located in Old Oyo National Park; the Dagona Waterfalls sanctuary; an internationally recognised wintering site for Palearctic migrant birds coming from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, located in Chad Basin National Park.


The Cross River National Park is an important ecological gene pool containing one of the oldest rainforests in Africa and the largest in Nigeria. Gashaka’s Gumti National Park contains some historic sites, one of which is the old German Fort at the top of Gashaka Hill. The Gangarwal peak of the Chapal Wadi mountain range located in the park is the highest peak in Nigeria. Also, the Kainji Lake National Park is a typical Iselberg landscape with round hills, a network of rolling hills, valleys and gentle flowing rivers that empty into River Niger. 

The Park is endowed with a rich and diverse population of wildlife and cultural sites. While Okomu National Park is very rich in birdlife and remains the last rainforest ecosystem in the South West of Nigeria. Some of the animals commonly sighted during patrols, research activities and tourism tours in the parks include lion, civet cat, hippopotamus, Nile monitor lizard, bushbuck, waterbuck, Red flanked duiker, baboon, drill, Patas monkey, reedbuck, kob, Roan antelope, Oribi, Aardvark, klipspringer, warthog, hyena, gazzel, Tantalus monkey, Mona monkey, Putty nosed monkey, mongoose, brush-tailed porcupine, Western hartebeest, Striped jackal,  red river hog, giant forest hog,  cane rat, tortoise, hyena, grey duiker, grimes duiker, and some reptiles such as puff adder, frog, toad,  spitting cobra, python, black cobra, crocodile and green mamba. Others are some species of birds such as hornbill (black casqued), village weaver, common bulbul, great blue turaco, and so on.

However endangered species such as chimpanzee, leopard, gorilla, elephant, buffalo, vulture, grey parrot, wild dog, docas gazelle and others are becoming increasingly scarce in the parks.

You have toured the entire Nigerian landscape and lived in different parts of this country. What are the things you like most about the country?
Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. It is home to over 200 million people. What interests me most about Nigeria is our rich diversity in all aspects of life. We have more than 520 languages, quite a number of different religion and culture. My journey in Nigeria and indeed across the globe has really made me discover a lot about this country. Apart from the fact that we are richly blessed in terms of natural resources, we are one of the happiest people in the world with excellent intellectual capacity.

Which Nigerian culture has shocked you the most?
The Sukur people (Kingdom) in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State. Due to its uniqueness and peculiarity, the Sukur cultural landscape became a world heritage site (WHS) and the first to be named in Nigeria in 1999.

Do you think that all the peoples living in Nigeria have been discovered or you think we could still wake up one day to find a tribe we did not know has been part of us for centuries?
Nigeria as nation has a rich and complex history. I am not convinced that we are yet to discover and document all the people and tribes indigenous to Nigeria. However, it may be possible that one day we may still get to discover a people that we never knew exists due to our multi-ethnic diversity and age long history.

With your constant shuttles and travels, where do you find the time to still be a family man?
Family support is the backbone of any successful career. Out of my very busy schedules I ensure that I make out adequate time to interact with family.

Do any of your children have the passion for preservation of wildlife, fauna and flora like you do?
Every member of the family knows the value of conservation. To this end, they have all been very cooperative and supportive towards my effort in conserving the country’s most valuable resource. I can categorically tell you without an iota of doubt that their interest and passion for what I do accounts largely for my success story today.

You clamoured for the use of weapons and firearms by the guards and some other personnel in your service, and it was granted by the federal government. How effective has it made your personnel in recent times?
The use of weapons is already enshrined in the Act establishing the Service. What we are clamouring for is the use of high calibre firearms and weapons to contend with the trend of security challenges in modern Protected Area management. The process of getting to use this category of weapons is yet to be completed. Hopefully, it will be brought to an end very soon and the Service will have the required equipment to combat the recent crimes associated to Park management. However, the Service is doing all it takes within its capacity to ensure that the Parks are safe haven for research, and a place for tourism activities to thrive.





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