Nigeria, Cameroon Sign Agreement on Ecosystem Conservation

Nigeria and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon have signed a cooperation framework on transboundary ecosystems conservation and sustainable management of forestry and wildlife resources.

The Minister of Environment, Balarabe Lawal, signed the agreement alongside the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Cameroon, Jules Ndongo, on Friday in Abuja.

The implementation of the agreement aims to supervise and coordinate identified areas of cooperation, ensure special protocols are consistent with identified areas of cooperation, collaborate in the implementation of common transboundary programmes, and develop the institutional and mobilisation of funds for the implementation of common transboundary programmes.

The 2023 wildlife chapter of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s organised crime threat assessment for Nigeria found that Nigeria was a key transit hub and consolidation point for various forms of illegal trade in wildlife and forest products, especially for pangolin, ivory, and rosewood.

The UNODC said these products were sourced both from Nigeria as well as from other countries in the region, including Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Benin Republic.

In his keynote address, Lawal said Nigeria and Cameroon shared a common vision on the best approach towards the protection, conservation, and sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

He said that apart from the global phenomenon of climate change and environmental challenges, social factors, including over-population, poverty, and food insecurity, have continued to immerse these resources to the brink of extinction.

“While this is going on, transboundary criminality such as illegal logging, poaching, and wildlife trafficking have further aggravated the trend, and seem to have vindicated the reverberating but appalling warning revealed in the landmark Inter-Governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2019 Global Assessment Report that about one million species are threatened with extinction, and many within decades.

“With our common border spanning over 1,500 km, halting and reversing the unsavoury trend cannot be achieved by the political will and commitment in-country alone but more promising is the adoption of bilateral and multilateral approaches particularly when considering the continuum and migratory nature of these resources against the backdrop of the complexities of their transboundary management and conservation.

“To that extent, the event of today is of great significance as it does not only underscore the commitment of these Renewed Hope Agenda of the present Government to collaborate with Cameroon to manage and conserve our shared natural resources but also demonstrates the importance of bilateral cooperation in tackling global challenges,” the minister said.

He noted that the agreement symbolised a milestone and provided a platform for the establishment of a joint transboundary management framework, which would facilitate cooperation and coordination between the two countries on the conservation and sustainable use of the nation’s natural resources.

“This framework will be instrumental in ensuring the effective conservation and sustainable management of our forests and wildlife resources, which are critical to our ecosystem services, livelihoods, and sustainable development”, Lawal said.

He also hailed the collaboration the country had with national and international partners like the German Government, the United States Agency for International Development, through United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the TRAFFIC International, the Africa Nature Investors, and the Environmental Investigation Agency, among others.

The minister pledged that Nigeria would play its part in ensuring the successful implementation of the agreement.

On his part, Ndongo said there was a great deal of trade between the two countries, especially those living on either side of a common border, adding that some of the transactions involved the exploitation and marketing of timber, non-timber forest products, and bush meat.

“It should be underscored that you cannot ascertain that all these activities are carried out legally. The over-exploitation of forestry resources and poaching, especially cross-border poaching, are serious threats to the sustainable management of our natural resources and constitute one of the causes of climate change”, he said.

Ndongo assured that Cameroon would do everything possible to implement the agreement.

“My country hereby calls on all technical and financial partners who assisted us from the beginning of this process to today’s successful conclusion not to stop at this juncture.

“After the signing of this agreement, our doors will remain widely opened to welcome interest partners on board. Our relevant technical services, assisted by our technical and financial partners, should now undertake the task of pursuing the agreement implementation process”, he said.

The Head of the Environment and Climate Change Division at the Economic Community of West African States, Bernard Koffi, commended the two countries on the milestone agreement.

Koffi, who was represented by ECOWAS Advisor, Adewale Adeleke, said the effect of the cooperation would be a great one, adding that it looked towards further cooperation with the two countries.