A Tribute to Professor Emmanuel Asuquo Obot

05 June 2012 | Article

The IUCN community is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our colleague and friend Professor Emmanuel Asuquo Obot who died tragically on Sunday 3 June 2012 in the plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria. Professor Obot was the Executive Director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, an IUCN Member organization, a Steering Committee member of the Commission on Environmental Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) and Chair of the CEESP Theme on Social and Environmental Accountability of the Private Sector (SEAPRISE).

With a doctorate in botany and a passion for orchids, Professor Obot was one of Nigeria’s most respected scientists. He worked for thirty years on the design and implementation of environmentally sustainable community-based development projects with the objective of providing access rights and secure land tenure to local people(s). He sought to develop and apply the concept of participatory management of renewable natural resources with local people living around protected areas in Nigeria. He developed and tested “governance” structures that allow communities living in close proximity to National Parks to “have a voice” and contribute to the management of the Parks. The establishment of the Cross River National Park is one of his greatest legacies.

For many years, Professor Obot also worked to raise awareness about the impacts of oil exploration and oil spills on the environment and people of the Niger Delta, his homeland. This was a cause close to his heart. Most recently, he was invited by the Director General of IUCN to set up and Chair an Independent Advisory Panel to advise Shell in Nigeria on the remediation and rehabilitation of oil spill sites in the Niger Delta. He took on the role despite the differences with Shell “in order to give something, however small, back to the people of the Delta” and because this work was in the “best interests of the people who live in the Niger Delta and depend upon biodiversity for their livelihoods”.

The Panel held its inaugural meeting from 11th to 13th April 2012 at the IUCN Headquarters. The first day of that meeting was in fact Professor Obot’s birthday which was celebrated by sharing a special birthday cake with all the Panel members. In his words of thanks, Professor Obot expressed gratitude by stating that he was glad to be serving his people, even on his birthday and so far from his home and family. This was clearly indicative of how he put the interest of others ahead of himself.

A wonderful man - authentic, kind and humble. A respected scientist and an inspiration to many. Professor Obot will be greatly missed. He leaves behind his wife Emma, an educationist, and four children.

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