Mixed reactions have continued to trail the plan by the Oyo State government to convert a part of Agodi Park and Gardens to an estate.
Pmnews.ng reports that the state government led by Engineer Seyi Makinde and some stakeholders are currently at loggerheads over the development.
The relaxation spot is located a few metres from the Agodi Secretariat, the seat of Oyo State government in Ibadan, the state capital.
The park formerly known as Agodi Forest and Agodi Botanical Gardens falls within Ibadan North Local Government Area.
It was renamed as Agodi Park and Gardens by the immediate past governor of the state, late Abiola Ajimobi, to serve as one of the tourist sites in the state.
Ajimobi, while performing the re-opening of the reconstructed Agodi Gardens in December 2014, said it had the potential to generate no fewer than N500 million to the state government annually.
In the statement signed by his then Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, he noted that the gardens “is sitting on 62 hectares of land in-between the State Government Secretariat and the popular Premier Hotel in the heart of Ibadan.
“Agodi Gardens was in a sorry state when we first visited the place. It was desolate and empty. Everything was very bad. It had deteriorated so much and it was very shameful to us in Oyo State.
“Places like that are in South Africa, Dubai and others. This is what we want to recreate in Oyo State. We want people to come here from all over the world and enjoy themselves in a world-class hospitality centre”.
Since then, it has been serving as the major recreational facility for tourists both within and outside the state.
However, the Oyo State government, led by Makinde, a few weeks ago, decided to turn a part of the gardens to an estate.
This has been greeted with condemnations by some activists and other stakeholders in the state, leading to a protest a few days ago.
The protesters marched from the gardens to the state secretariat to register their displeasure.
But they were attacked by some individuals suspected to be political thugs.
Planned housing estate project will not consume Agodi botanical gardens – Oyo government
The state government in its explanation noted that the planned housing estate will not consume the botanical gardens.
Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr Williams Akin-Funmilayo, while speaking, added that the conversion of the forest to a housing estate is a laudable development that would benefit the people of the state by reducing housing deficit.
Akin-Funmilayo explained that the government has taken the proactive step to convert the forest to a housing estate because the forest has become a hideout for hoodlums, thieves, kidnappers and perpetrators of many heinous acts, not only in the night but also in broad daylight.
He noted that the whole expanse of land comprised the Agodi Gardens, office of the department of fisheries, and the forest.
He explained further that the portion that belonged to Agodi Gardens is 9.1 hectares, with trees marking the natural division between the garden and the rest of the land, while the fishery department sits on 1.2 hectares of land at the corner.
“There are three identities here; the garden, fishery department, and forest, which the state government is trying to build on. Agodi Gardens remains intact.
“But the forest has become a threat, which we have heard and seen. Many people have lost their lives here. Hoodlums and thieves waylay people around the corridor even during broad daylight. Moving from Parliament Road to Premier Junction can be dreadful.
“The rest of the forest is 46.63 hectares, which is now being developed into Baywood Estate. There is no directive, policy or instruction from any quarters that says Agodi Gardens should be converted to a housing estate and there is no intention to alter the constructions here. So, the idea that the gardens will be converted is a figment of the imagination of the people who refuse to seek the truth.
“The reality is that people cannot pass through this road freely between 7 pm and 8 am without fear because of the high rate of criminality around this corner and there is vast forest to escape into.
“Thus, the government is justified for trying to add value to the environment by providing housing instead of keeping the forest and allowing it to remain a habitat for criminals, kidnappers, and evil doers in the society.
“The government of Oyo State does not have any intention to convert Agodi Gardens to a housing estate.
“The plan is to upgrade the garden to an international botanical garden, which will serve the people of Oyo State better than it is right now.”
Despite the government’s explanation, the plan has attracted criticisms among residents.
Destruction of trees, root systems will have disastrous consequences – Modder-Oyefeso
Among those berating the decision of the state government is a group, Save Our Green Spaces, led by Rosalie Ann Modder-Oyefeso.
The group appealed to the governor to allow the land to remain as the watershed for the Ogunpa River and for the entire Ogunpa Forest Reserve to be kept safe for the people of Ibadan.
Its leader, Modder-Oyefeso told newsmen that destruction of the tree and root systems in the forest will have disastrous consequences on the lives and property of the residents of the city.
She said, “In the last few days, and getting worse by the hour, various members of Ibadan’s Green Groups have been running into much controversy over the actual name of the forest area in Agodi Forest being destroyed at top speed by bulldozers.
“This has largely come about because of the word games being played by the government spokespersons based on the now fashionable trend of dismissing appeals on technicalities and semantics alone.
“So when any Green conservationist group complains that the trees in Agodi Gardens are being cut down, the spokespersons can quickly have a pretty clip made and widely disseminated, swearing that they have not touched the trees in Agodi Gardens.
“I appeal again to the Governor of Oyo State to allow this land to remain as the watershed for the Ogunpa River and for the entire Ogunpa Forest Reserve.
“It is a relief to me that our own Governor is a qualified engineer and will understand in two minutes what has taken me a week to figure out. And if he doesn’t, I will write again and remind him”.
It is an attempt to sabotage environmental order for political profiteering – Kazeem
An activist, Olalekan Israel Kazeem in a statement obtained by Pmnews.ng insisted that there was nothing that the state government can say about the conversion of Agodi Gardens to a residential area that will make any sense.
He said that the statement of the commissioner in defence of the conversion was so twisted, incoherent and lacking details.
He added that the statement failed to answer why the conservation area must be converted to a housing estate when a green revolution should take off from that spot.
“There is nothing the Oyo State government says about the conversion of Agodi Gardens to a residential area that will make any sense.
“For the umpteenth time, I’ll reiterate that those who started the Nigerian journey had good intentions before jackasses in uniform hijacked it and later some “democrats” screaming Awoism; an idea they know nothing about.
“The notion for Agodi Gardens has been conceived and initiated as far back as the 60s during the days of Obafemi Awolowo. And, probably the Governor does not know, trees were bought and brought in from several countries and planted there to make the reserve which is about to be washed off by the Governor to give way for a housing estate.
“Meanwhile, the trees that will be cut off to give way for the housing estate are as old as the Governor and even more.
“Interestingly, the location of Agodi Gardens and the conservation forest being destroyed today was chosen strategically specifically for its hilly nature and previous soil and the fact that it sits on a subterranean rock which extends from Mokola hills down.
“The location is where the greatest volume of runoff water is absorbed by the roots of the trees when it rains. Now, with the absence of trees in that area, the torrent of water will freely flow downstream to Mokola with no hindrance, thereby opening the city up for flooding.
“It is really very shameful, embarrassing and heart wrenching that part of the lands (200 plot worth of forest) which made up Agodi Gardens and conservation forest is being destroyed by this administration to give way for a residential estate.
“It breaks my heart to shreds. This is pure deforestation which must not be allowed to see the light of the day. I cannot imagine that a Governor would be comfortable to allocate game reserves for housing estates when a massive investment should be put into completing the Agodi Gardens project and also promote tree planting projects. It is embarrassing.
“Nigerians must rise to condemn this attempt by Governor Seyi Makinde to destroy game reserves in Oyo State just as it was condemned in the early 2000 when a former Governor came up with the same pathetic idea to build residential estate at the exact location the desecration of today is being initiated.
“The most unfortunate aspect of this is that there is no House of Assembly in Oyo State to immediately call the Governor to order. We the citizens must not sleep. That Agodi gardens have not been touched is a fat lie”.
Desecration of the original plan runs contrary to the spirit, letters of COP28 – Busari
A lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Media Technology, Lead City University, Ibadan, Dr. Bayonle Busari, while speaking, noted that the deviation from the original plan ran contrary to the spirit and letters of COP28, which is all about climate and the environment.
He told newsmen that “the state owns the land, and it reserves the right to convert any part of its land to any use of its preference.
“However, in the particular instance of the Agodi Gardens, there’s the need to interrogate the policy for the acquisition of the land and setting up of the Botanical Gardens. Was there a provision for a later conversion in the original plan?
“The conversion of the original plan runs contrary to the spirit and letters of COP28, which is all about climate and the environment. If the government sticks to the conversion plan, it may mean a probable end to any spot for relaxation in Ibadan, coming after a similar plan on the Amusement Park.
“The state government can look elsewhere for a high-end residential area away from the Agodi Gardens and leave the area in accordance with its original purpose. We should not lose sight of the fact that we have experienced two devastating flood disasters in 1980 and 2011, even with the presence of the green area.
“The future environmental impact of the conversion can be better imagined. We’re not sure if the government has done an environmental impact assessment of its conversion plan on the environment.
“There’s the need for the government to come out with a lot of information that goes beyond the justification for the conversion, which basically rotates around satisfying the yearnings of the rich.”
Indigenes can approach Court to stop the plan – Ajimobi’s aide, Bolaji Tunji
Mr. Bolaji Tunji, the former Special Adviser on Media to the immediate past governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi, in his reaction, said that the indigenes of the state can approach the court to stop the plan.
Tunji in a statement made available to newsmen, insisted that Ajimobi sought to preserve Agodi Gardens by renovating it and ensuring that it returned to the leisure and tourist attraction and the picnic spot it was known for.
He said that everyone thought it was a mere rumour when the report filtered in that the gardens would be converted to an estate.
“When the report filtered in that the iconic and historic Agodi Gardens would be converted to an estate, everyone thought it was mere rumour. The reality is now with us.
“During his tenure, Senator Abiola Ajimobi sought to preserve this iconic and historical legacy by renovating it and ensuring that it returned to the leisure and tourist attraction and the picnic spot it was known for.
“The nature, vegetation, the flora and fauna was preserved. Unfortunately, with this new policy of turning the place into an estate, Agodi Gardens will only be in our history book. It is rather unfortunate.
“I hope we may not wake up one day to discover that the Oodua group-owned Cocoa house has been converted into apartments. Well, we will not question the wisdom of Governor Seyi Makinde, he is governor today and the spectre of authority is in his hands.
“If indigenes of the state feel strongly about the conversion, if they realise the implication of converting a green area into bricks and mortars, there is nothing stopping them from going to court to stop it.
“There could even be an organised protest. Unfortunately, our people hardly speak out in situations like this, they prefer to grumble and speak in the corners of their room.”
ANAELE ANTHONY CHUKWUEBUKA is a blogger, the CEO, Owner and founder of “Pmnews.ng”. He graduated from Imo State University where he studied Education History.
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