Tribute to a Nigerian conservation leader

Supporters and friends of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) have been invited to the Lekki Conservation Centre, NCF Headquarters at Victoria Island (Lagos, Nigeria) tomorrow to celebrate World Environment Day (WED), initially planned for Tuesday 5 June.

Although the main theme  – ‘Green Economy, does it include you?’ –  has not changed,  the event will now also mark the life and work of the internationally respected conservation leader, Professor Emmanuel Asuquo Obot, killed in a plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria ten days ago.

Professor Obot was most recently Executive Director of NCF, a position he has held firmly for nearly 10 years. After graduating from the University of Ile Ife in Nigeria, he became a revered botanist, field scientist and policy advocate for issues of global conservation importance.

Botany in general and orchids of West Africa specifically remained a passion of Professor Obot’s throughout his working life as he moved from academic research to his ultimate position as a pan–African conservationist at the head of the NCF.

As a highly respected scientist, Professor Obot worked for thirty years to provide access rights and secure land tenure through sustainable, conservation-driven community development projects. A pioneer in the development and implementation of the participatory management of renewable natural resources, Professor Obot was a well-respected colleague and friend of Fauna & Flora International (FFI). Passionate about biodiversity conservation, he worked with local people living around protected areas in Nigeria to develop structures to allow communities living in close proximity to National Parks to contribute to the management of the Parks.

Prof Obot with FFI Africa Regional Director, Rob Brett

Prof Obot with FFI Africa Regional Director, Rob Brett

One of Professor Obut’s greatest legacies was the establishment of the Cross River National Park. Daniel Pouakouyou, FFI’s Central Africa Programme Manager said of his colleague and friend, “I have learned to accept and work positively with others whose opinions may be different from mine by working closely with conservation baobab like Professor Obot. I can’t believe I won’t be receiving anymore phone calls from Prof Obot checking on me and asking about future FFI additional conservation investments in West Africa.”

For many years, Professor Obot worked to raise awareness of the impacts of oil exploration and oil spills on the environment and people of the Niger Delta, his homeland.

Daniel Pouakouyou continued, “Professor Obot was a truly inspirational man. Always putting the interests of others before his own. Kind, honest and true, Prof’s humility never failed to impress. We are mourning the loss of one of conservation’s greatest leaders.”