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Cablegate: Nigeria's Cross River State Puts the Environment at The

VZCZCXRO0202
RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL
RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHUJA #2292/01 3521218
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181218Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7797
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 2526
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002292

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W, OES/PCI
STATE PLEASE PASS USAID/AFRICA/SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT DAVID ATWOOD

ACCRA FOR REO FISHMAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TBIO EAGR ECON NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA'S CROSS RIVER STATE PUTS THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE
CENTER OF ITS DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
PORTIONS OF THIS CABLE ARE SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE
PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Regional Environment Officer (REO) and ESTH Officer visited
Cross River State November 20-24 to assess wildlife and forest
conservation efforts in the state. State officials reported that
the state has embarked on an ambitious environment-centered
development agenda with the primary objective of preserving the
state's remaining forests and rich biodiversity through enhanced
conservation, afforestation, and reforestation program. The State
House of Assembly is considering a comprehensive environmental
legislation that will provide the legal basis for enforcing
conservation measures. It also plans to establish an eco-fund to
finance environment-centered sustainable development projects in the
state. The state, to spearhead these efforts, has invigorated its
Forestry Commission by appointing a new CEO and a governing board
composed of public, private, and civil society representatives. It
has also sent a delegation to the Copenhagen Climate Change
Conference to explore international carbon credit opportunities.
END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -------
CROSS RIVER SEES VALUE IN CONSERVING ITS RAINFORESTS
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (SBU) Cross River State Commissioner for Environment Julius
Okputu, Special Advisor on Conservation and Biodiversity Nzan Ogbe,
and Permanent Secretary for Environment Charles Oduko met with REO
and ESTH officer and outlined Cross River State Government's
environment-centered development agenda. Okputu said preserving the
environment and combating the effects of climate change are top
priorities of the State Government. Nigeria has lost over 90
percent of its rainforests, and of the remaining 10 percent, more
than half is found within Cross River State, according to the state
officials. (NOTE: Cross River, with about 800,000 hectares of
rainforests, is Nigeria's most heavily forested state, according to
local officials. END NOTE). Furthermore, over 60 percent of
Nigeria's endangered plant and animal species are found within these
forests, which are under threat from illegal logging, unsustainable
harvesting of non-timber forest products, and expanding agricultural
practices.

3. (SBU) The State Government recognizes the ecological and economic
value of its rainforests and is under pressure from both the federal
government and civil society to protect them, according to Okputu.
He said the core of the government's development agenda is
maintaining and enhancing the Cross River National Park -- the
largest rainforest in Nigeria and a national treasure -- through
enhanced anti-logging enforcement and a afforestation and
reforestation project. Okputu said the state will channel more
resources into the Cross River Forestry Commission, which manages
the state's forest reserves.

4. (SBU) Okputu said that for conservation to work, the person at
the forest-level must see real benefits from conservation efforts.
He added that the state has recently introduced a free heath care
program for all children under five and pregnant women and wants to
tie this benefit to its afforestation and reforestation project. He
said the state plans to involve the community in the project by
Qsaid the state plans to involve the community in the project by
distributing free stocks of saplings and asking each family
benefiting from the state's free health care program to plant and
care for two trees per child.

------------------------------------
CROSS RIVER ESTABLISHING AN ECO-FUND
------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Okputu disclosed his government's plan to establish an
eco-fund to support projects that enhance environmental stewardship
throughout the state. The fund will draw its income from the
state's share of the federal ecological fund, the United Nations
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)
program, a possible carbon financing regime that might emerge from
the December 7-18 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, a planed
biodiversity offset program, and logging concessions in the future.
Okputu reported that his state will be represented in Nigeria's
300-person strong delegation to the Climate Change Conference in
Copenhagen. The eco-fund will be used to finance sustainable
agricultural projects, micro-hydro projects and renewable energy, a

ABUJA 00002292 002 OF 003


model green city, and the greening of existing cities, according to
Okputu.

6. (SBU) Okputu expressed displeasure at the current disbursement of
the federal government's ecological fund, saying a disproportionate
amount goes to drought and desertification control, which favors the
northern states. (NOTE: Under the current formula, 60 percent of
the fund goes for drought and desertification control, 25 percent
for soil erosion and flood/gully control, 5 percent for pollution
control, 5 percent for emergencies, and 5 percent for the
administration of the fund. END NOTE). Okputu added that there is
a collective push by the southern states to raise the 25 percent
allocation for erosion and flood/gully control to at least 45
percent, arguing that the current allocation is insufficient given
the challenges faced by southern states and should be calculated on
the basis of need rather than on entitlement.

7. (SBU) Okputu is optimistic that the eco-fund will be established
early next year and wants to do as much groundwork as possible to be
ready for international carbon financing in the near future, which
will be used to fund development projects. He said the state will
institute a standardized development approach, where all projects
will need to have a commitment to environmental protection and
sustainable development principles by undergoing environmental
assessment to determine any possible damage to biodiversity and any
other environmental impact before approval. He added the state
would require compensation for project-related loss to biodiversity
and use the money to finance restoration efforts elsewhere. Okputu
mentioned the lack of a central databank of environmental assets,
funding, and human capacity as major challenges in realizing the
state's development agenda. He said such a database is essential
for effective forestry and biodiversity management and to apply for
international carbon credits. He requested USG assistance in
building such a system and the capacity of his agency.

----------------------------------
WASTE MANAGEMENT A GROWING CONCERN
----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Permanent Secretary for Environment Charles Oduko said
waste management is a significant problem in urban areas, especially
in the capital city of Calabar. (NOTE: Calabar is perhaps one the
cleanest cities in Nigeria and frequently earns praise as a model
for other Nigerian cities to emulate. END NOTE). The city has no
landfills, recycling or waste treatment facilities, although it has
a functioning waste collection system. ESTH Officer explained the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Methane-to-Market (M2M)
program, which helps convert landfill-generated methane gas into
small scale energy for local use and promised to facilitate linkage
with EPA's M2M program. Oduku said the state intends to privatize
its waste collection and management services, convert existing
dumpsites into landfills, and build recycling villages in
partnership with the private sector.

-------------------------------
A REFORMED FORESTERY COMMISSION
-------------------------------

9. (SBU) Cross River State Forestry Commission Chairman Odigha
Odigha and members of his governing board, composed of
QOdigha and members of his governing board, composed of
representatives from the public, private, and civil society sectors
met with the visiting U.S. team and discussed their priorities.
(NOTE: Chairman Odigha is a respected conservationist and
environmental activist who worked in the state for local and
international NGOs for a long time. END NOTE). Odigha said the
state, as part of its forest conservation plan, has imposed a
two-year moratorium on logging in January 2008 and is actively
enforcing the ban through a recently established anti-logging task
force. (NOTE: The state plans to extend the moratorium before it
lapses in January 2008. END NOTE).

10. (SBU) Odigha said, with the moratorium on logging in effect and
the resultant removal of revenue targets from logging concessions,
his agency is now more focused on its core mission of promoting
conservation. He also said the agency's board has approved
elevating the Community Forest Management Unit within his agency to
a department level, which he expects will result in more resources
to encourage community-based forest conservation and wildlife
management initiatives. He reported the Commission is spearheading
an afforestation and reforestation project through an indigenous
tree-planting campaign involving local communities. This is in
addition to enhanced conservation of existing forests. The state --

ABUJA 00002292 003 OF 003


under its afforestation and reforestation project -- aims to
increase its forest coverage from 800,000 hectares to one million
hectares, according to Odigha. He reported that the Commission has
started a tree nursery program and will soon start distributing
stocks of saplings to communities throughout the state.

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COMMENT
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11. (SBU) Cross River State sees its depleted rainforests as
precious resources that need to be preserved and enhanced for the
benefit of current and future generations. The state has laid out
an ambitious environment-centered development plan but lacks the
resources and capacity to carry them out in a reasonable period of
time. Prioritizing the various elements of the plan and taking an
incremental approach is more likely to result in improved natural
resource management and sustainable development. The state's plan
could serve as a model for other Nigerian states.

12. (U) The REO in Accra cleared this cable.

SANDERS

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