Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Mohammed Abdullahi, disclosed this on Friday at a webinar in Abuja.
The webinar was focused on “Science Advice for COVID-19 in the Context of Biodiversity, Conservation and Ecological Restoration.’’
The meeting was organised by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Nigerian Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (NiPBES).
Abdullahi said that the government had made several interventions towards curtailing the spread of COVID-19 through tracking, encouraging curative measures and researchers in the development of local vaccine.
He said that the government was also encouraging initiatives from partners towards addressing the pandemic, through long and short term strategies.
“The pandemic has interrupted economic activities and agriculture value chain, due to border closure, hence the need for joint national effort to explore available resources to address the menace.
“They are working on that assignment and soon there will be a way forward on that,’’ Abdullahi said.
According to him, Nigeria is endowed with enormous resources, comprising of flora and fauna.
“The competitive benefits of these resources that encourage sustainable healthy ecosystem and growth cannot be over emphasised,” he said.
He further said that the ministry was developing a viable value added vocation programme to promote indigenous biodiversity resources using appropriate technologies.
The minister added that the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology had a gene bank for the preservation of the country’s abundant resources.
Abdullahi said that the government was collaborating with local and international partners to forestall challenges of the ecosystem, climate change, and biodiversity.
“The ministry through the Natural Medicine Agency initiated a plant restoration project across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country to restore plants that are going extinct.
“So far, over 1000 species of plants have been inventoried by the agency,’’ he said.
Mr Lamine Sow, Acting Director, UNESCO Multi-Sectoral Regional Office, said the pandemic had revealed the fragility of the world.
Sow said that science had the power to address the COVID-19 challenge, curb the trend of zoonotic disease infection as well as forestall future ones.
“The power of science to address the issue of COVID-19 had become more vivid with the search for vaccines and treatments, and indeed encourages policies that promote ecological resilience.
“UNESCO has proposed three strategies to curb the tide of the pandemic, bordering on open science held in March, manning borders on safe water and building ecological resilience.
“These strategies can be implemented using the tool of biosphere reserves to enhance biodiversity conservation, creation of safe spaces between nature and humans, thus preventing of zoonotic disease transmission and promote development.’’
He reiterated that UNESCO Regional Office Abuja had presence in eight West African countries-Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo and was collaborating with actors to promote response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammad Mahmud, said that the growing population and nature demand has made human beings to encroach into natural reserves.
According to Mahmud, if this development is not addressed, we should expect worse pandemics in the future.
He called for synergy among citizens and government to slow the decline of the natural world, move forward and address the issue of consuming natural resources.
“We need to change our perception to biodiversity, change the way we run our world, economy and make it better because the natural world is beautiful and should be cherished,’’ he said.
Mr Olagunju Lateef, Secretary General, Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO, said COVID-19 and other infectious disease, have raised the need for the country to include protection of biodiversity as part of its intervention to manage outbreaks of emerging infectious pathogens.
Lateef said there was need to adopt nature based solutions to protect, manage and restore modified ecosystem which address societal challenges effectively.
NAS President, Prof. Kalu Onuoha, said that wild life trading should be considered as a way of regulating the movement of wild animals that transmit dangerous diseases to human beings.
Onuoha, represented by the Executive Secretary of NAS, Dr Oladoyin Odubanjo, said “wildlife trading should be considered because they increase the transmission of disease from animals to human beings.
“This is evident from the COVID-19 outbreak that went viral from an animal market in Wuhan, China.
“Regulating wildlife will not only monitor pathogens but also ensure biodiversity conservation.’’
Dr Uzodimma Adirieje, Chairman NiPBES, called for the preservation of biodiversity, ecosystem in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to avoid human encroachment.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that National Park Service and Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria were also participants at the webinar.
Edited By: Abigael Joshua/Ali Baba-Inuwa