Features Write-Ups

AMBODE’S NEW DEAL FOR LAGOS’ PARKS AND GARDENS

Jide Atansuyi—
Environmental regeneration and sustainability have been an integral parts of the programmes and policies of the Lagos State government since 1999, with tremendous achievements being recorded in the transformation of the state’s environmental landscape, regenerating the environment, reclaiming opens spaces and criminals hideout for beautification and landscaping, including creation of parks and gardens.
It is in furtherance of these efforts that the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency recently organized the Greening Stakeholders Forum for the private sector at the Muson Centre, Onike, and Lagos with the theme: ‘Sustaining Our Green Lagos’ With over 300 stakeholders in attendance comprising top political office holders, top Government functionaries at the State and Local Government levels, members of the academia, organised private sectors, non-governmental organisations, students from the universities and secondary schools. The forum was held to seek the support of chief executives of private companies operating in the state to partner with the State Government to effectively tackle the menace of environmental degradation and to ensure continued greening of the State. This support and collaboration of private sectors is seen as significant in view of the fact that only 73 out of over 300 parks and gardens, representing 23%, are being maintained by private companies.
Talking about the different eras of urban greening in Lagos State, Dr Tunji Adejumo, President, International Federation of Landscaped Architect, took participants through a journey into those periods. According to him, the colonial era 1861-1960 where it was noted that the earliest influence of “City Park Movement” was the establishment of plant nursery in 1886 at the site of Old Debtors Prison at Kokomaiko by Governor Alfred Moloney- the first governor of independent Lagos Colony within the annexed Southern Protectorate; the post-colonial era 1960-2000 which witnessed the introduction of agricultural estates as a way of mitigating threat from many natural hazards, which was however drowned under the bitter force of Federal unitary governance in 1967; the millennium phase 2000-2015 brought to limelight global call for urban greening and environmental sustainability and noted that the state governments, past and present, have keyed into the Green Lagos Project. This period saw the establishment of LASPARK to coordinate the state’s urban greening project. He also talked about the future in sustainable development goals. The effort and commitment of the Lagos State Government in the implementation of the Green Lagos Project has earned Nigeria a mention in the recent World Green City Index Reports. Lagos and 14 other African cities made the world list.

Seeking the cooperation and support of private sectors partnership in ensuring the sustainability of the Green Lagos project, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, maintained that the responsibility to restore the glory and beauty of our environment is a collective one as it is apparent that the government cannot do it alone. It is, therefore, imperative that all stakeholders unite to salvage the environment. In doing this, we should realise that it is in our own best interests to protect our environment. Consequently, more corporate bodies need to take environmental projects as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. The private sector IS, therefore, urged to adequately support the activities of the government through the Lagos State Park and Gardens Agency by adopting and maintaining the parks and gardens or even the creation of new one for the mitigation of the adverse effect of climate change and global warming, which have now become huge global concerns. Considering the adverse effects of climate change on our world, it s only reasonable for mankind to place more emphases on environmental protection and sustainability when assessing growth and development because the environment has a big part to play in the quality of our lives.

It is, thus, important for everyone to see himself/herself as stakeholders in the Green Lagos Project because in the face of other competing funding demands as a result of the population surge in Lagos Metropolis, fiscal restraint, the government might not be able to single-handedly sustain the Green Lagos Project alone. Therefore, as a first option to ensuring a sustainable urban greening project for the state, a number of alternative funding options and active stakeholders’ involvement is majorly required.
It should be noted that the state government has in the past 8years setup 300 of parks and gardens and green spaces across the state, 67 of which are being maintained and managed by private concerns. The cost of maintaining these parks and gardens is enormous. For instance, depending on the size, features and the location, it cost between 100 and 200 million naira to establish a world class recreational park or garden. Maintenance is cost is twice the cost of establishing them. It is based on this reality and as a measure to spreading the resources of the state across competing programmes, that the Ambode administration now requires the participation, support and contribution of the private sector and other well meaning individuals to sustain the Green Lagos project.

On its part, the Ambode administration is planning to build a Metropolitan Park at Ayeteju in Ibeju-Lekki, along the Lekki-Epe expressway on 5 hectares of land. The proposed recreational park is being envisioned to serve the people of Lekki, Ajah, Ibeju, Epe and its environs. When completed, the Park will be the biggest publicly owned effort in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and will feature a mini Zoo, playing area for children, fitness center, multipurpose game court, and many others features.
It is important to emphasise that the Green project has in the last 8 years have greater impacts on other vital sectors of the state. For instance, the greening project aside addressing critical environment needs of the state, has brought about reduction in criminal activities as criminals can no longer use the beatified spaces to carry out their nefarious activities. It has equally led to improvement in the well-being of the citizenry as well as creation of over 97,000 jobs. The job creation aspect of the project is indeed quite fundamental in view of the prevailing unemployment situation in our country. It is in view of the immense benefits of the Green project to the society that the state government, in spite of the high cost of maintaining and sustaining the programme, is more committed than ever to sustain it.

The Lagos state government is willing to partner with the private sector, religious bodies and other well meaning members of the society in order to ensure that the laudable Lagos Green initiative endures. A major error often made by organisations is the placing of greater preference on economic development than environmental protection. Actually, it is only when much emphasis is accorded the development of the environment that economic development and, indeed, other forms of development can be really guaranteed. Therefore, in line with the Millennium Goal 11 Target 11.7, all stakeholders should join hands with the state government to provide universal access to safe, inclusive, accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women, children and older persons with disabilities.

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