BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR –
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington says illicit logging and other harmful environmental practices have given Nigeria the notorious rating as the country with the highest rate of deforestation globally
He said the country must therefore shun unhealthy practices destroying the environment and embrace global best practices to favourably compete with other nations, including the USA that generates over 600 Million Dollars annually from tourism.
Speaking at the World Earth Day commemoration in Calabar, Symington condemned the uninhibited hunting of wild life animals by many Nigerians, stressing that adequate protection of the forest readily present Nigeria with a huge revenue generating base.
The Ambassador also identified degradation, fragmentation, over-hunting, unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products and uncontrolled bush-burning among other factors responsible for the country’s unhealthy global ecological rating.
He said Nigeria’s tourism sector can benefit handsomely from the Cross River Gorilla specie which remains the world’s most endangered ape given that there are less than 300 of the gorillas specie still alive in our forests.
Symington, who spoke on the theme for this year’s World Earth Day: “Environmental and Climate Literacy”, commended Nigeria for sustaining its 9.6million hectares of forest despite uncontrollable human odds, especially as the country loses at least 11 percent of its primary forest annually.
According to him, sustained efforts must be geared toward creating positive awareness about conservation with a nationwide reforestation programme in place to encourage deliberate participation of forest communities, landlords and especially non-governmental organizations in planting indigenous species towards regaining forest cover and improving positive climate gains.
He however urged the media to buy into the United States Environmental Policy as it concerns conservation and protection of the world’s forest, especially the remaining rain belt regions.