By Franklin Alli
Global Environment Facility(GEF) is collaborating with Federal and State governments along with including oil/gas companies to finance Niger Delta biodiversity conservation project at the costs of $9,760,000 (about N1.4 billion).
Speaking at a validation workshop for stakeholders, Minister of Environment, Mr.John Ode, said the project is very crucial to the country, and urged governments and oil firms to join hands with the development partners to execute the project.
Represented by a Deputy Director in the ministry, Dr. Sanni Usman, the Minister believes that the project would go a long way to address the problems of continued deforestation and the extinction of animal species in the region.
He enjoined GEF to carry the host communities along while implementing the project
Team Leader of the project, Jeffrey Griffin, disclosed that out of the N1.4 billion, GEF is ready to fund the first phase of the project with US$3,610,000 (more than N545 million), and implored Federal, States and oil companies to show commitment by co-financing with US$6,150,000 (about N928 million).
Griffin, who is the President of the Absaroka Group, USA, said that GEF’s so passionate about funding the project in addition to existing ones in the country (F ADAMA, and LEEMP), because , as he puts it, “Apart from the fact that the region is a global significant place for oil and gas, it also harbours 80 percent of biodiversity in the country.”
He explained that the first phase of the project is expected to take off early next year in four selected states in the region: Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa State, and it will run through 2016.
He said that GEF is implementing the project in the country through United Nations Development Programme, with Federal Ministry of Environment(FMoE) as executing agency and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as additional partner.
“The best sensitisation approach will be used to get host communities to buy into the project, said National Coordinator, Prof. Johnson Ekpere.
For the project to succeed we’ll meet and talk with community leaders, community Development Associations (CDAs) and youths. There will be peer to peer training for local community leaders from around the Delta in the methods and practices of engaging with the oil and gas firm for biodiversity sustainable use and conservation,” Ekpere said.
After the draft project document had been presented and commented upon, stakeholders, numbering more than 60, were divided into three working groups. They were tasked to deliberate on the project’s goals, barriers to efficient biodiversity conservation, and to come out with action plan for project implementation.
Stakeholders applauded GEF’s vision to transform the Niger Delta as far as biodiversity is concerned, but anticipates some of these key barriers: lack of political will on the parts of government, poverty, growing commercial interests in certain species of plants, animals and trees, natural disaster, land tenure system! land use acts, etc.
Notwithstanding, stakeholders urged GEF to establish a national steering committee comprising all the relevant stakeholders, including the establishment of project management committee and a monitoring and evaluation team, among others recommendation, for the success of the project.
Vanguard gathered that the project’s final document will be ready by December this year for signing by all parties involved in the funding. The project’s implementation will start from the second quarter of 2011.
GEF is the largest multilateral funding mechanism for environmental protection and brings together 178 countries with UN organisations, the World Bank, regional development banks, NGOs and the private sector.