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Cablegate: Federal and State Governments Battle for Yankari

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Yankari National Park is Nigeria's premier
game, bird and plant reserve, but the GON has invested little
money to improve park infrastructure or promote park tourism
since assuming control of the park in the early 1980s. Park
officials told Econoff January 29 that the Bauchi State
Government is intent on reclaiming the park and has allocated
1.9 billion naira (USD 14 million) in its 2004 budget for
Yankari improvements, while forming a committee to jointly
manage the park with neighboring Gombe State. The GON does
not want to turn Yankari over to the states, but National
Assembly members will likely introduce a bill to return the
park to the states and demand that the GON pay Bauchi and
Gombe (which were one state before) restitution for lost
income since the GON assumed control of the park. End

Background: Positive Mismanagement?

2. Yankari National Park was established as a park in 1956
and a National Park in 1991, is the country's premier game
reserve. It is home to over fifty mammal species, including
elephants, lions and leopards, with over 350 bird species and
a myriad of fish, reptiles and plant life. Since assuming
control of the park in the early 1980s after alleged state
mismanagement, the GON has invested little money into park
infrastructure (lodging, roads, basic security, fencing),
advertising or marketing. Roads have not been resurfaced in
over 20 years, park rangers lack vehicles and walkie-talkies,
and poaching by local villagers is not controlled.
Underdevelopment and lack of visitors has kept much of the
park unspoiled, however, with amazing scenery, wildlife and
natural hot springs in one of Nigeria's few wild places.

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Bauchi State to the Rescue

3. Bauchi State Governor Ahmadu Muazu allocated 1.9 billion
(USD 14 million) naira in the state's 2004 budget for
rehabilitation of Yankari National Park to include new
lodgings, reception area, equipment, security, reintroducing
species of wildlife, and strangely a golf course. Muazu has
been lobbying the National Assembly to return Yankari to
Bauchi and Gombe (which were one state when the Federal
Government took over the park), and the two states have
formed a committee that hopes to take control of the park
from the GON within the next year. Contacts in the Vice
President's office told Econoff that the GON has no intention
of returning Yankari to Bauchi or Gombe, because the park
belongs to the national patrimony.

Cash Cow, But Where's the Cash?

4. The House of Representatives Majority Leader, Alhaji
Abdul Ningi, is leading the efforts to return Yankari to
Bauchi and Gombe States. Ningi asserted that that the GON
should pay the two states compensation for lost revenues
since the resort was taken over by the GON. Ningi stated
that although Yankari's infrastructure was "in shambles and
ramshackled," he claimed the game reserve was making "huge
revenue every day."

5. According to Yankari rangers, the park has averaged an
estimated 20,000 to 25,000 visitors per year from 1995 to
2000. Low prices in the park have made Yankari one of the
best travel bargains in Nigeria, but they also mean the GON
has not likely reaped huge revenues from park visitors over
the years. Park entrance is only USD 1.25, while lodging (as
poor as it may be) is only USD 5 to 75 a night. Meals cost
only USD 2 to 3 for lunch and dinner. A 2 hours game drive
in the park is a mere USD 2, while a full day in the park
with a ranger guide costs USD 10. According to park
management, pricing has remained unchanged over the last five
years, even with a devalued naira. With limited park
revenues and a small federal stipend, Yankari is likely
losing money for the GON.

Comment: Yankari's Uncertain Future

6. Kenya and South Africa have adopted two-tiered pricing
schemes for local and international visitors, who pay two to
three times the rate of local patrons. Nigeria does not get
many international tourists, and charges only one rate.
Major hotels in Lagos and Abuja can cost between USD 190 to
USD 250 a night, so it is amazing to find such a travel
bargain with good service and somewhat adequate facilities.

7. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal for making money in
Nigeria, and the GON likely will not give even this skinny
"cash cow" back to the states. With proper management and
pricing Yankari could easily become Nigeria's premier tourist
destination, providing jobs and revenues to the local economy
while doing a better job of preservation. Money and
management attention from Bauchi and Gombe States would
likely help Yankari, at least in the short term.

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