Six Years Of Greening Lagos

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jul 21st, 2014

•Fashola, receiving an artistic impression of himself from a youth.

Kazeem Ugbodaga

All over the world, wherever one goes, one will observe that cities and countries are embarking on massive tree planting and greening programmes. It is a serious matter that underpins our survival on this planet because the threat of global warming and climate change is now undebatable. People and governments that are serious must stop pretending and take action.

This is why six years ago, precisely on 14 July, 2014, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State instituted the Tree Planting Campaign across the Lagos metropolis. Since that first tree planting exercise, 14 July of each year has become a day set apart by the government to plant trees across Lagos, southwest Nigeria. On that day, each of the 20 Local Governments and the 37 Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs plant trees simultaneously in order to beautify the environment.

All members of the State Executive Councils, House of Assembly lawmakers, local government chairmen, private bodies and others were mobilised to plant trees on that day. At the initial period, the target was to plant one million trees in the next 10 years, but in the last six years, over five million trees have been planted across the Lagos metropolis. The metropolis is now wearing a new look as the trees planted some years back have enhanced the aesthetics of the environment.

•Fashola, receiving an artistic impression of himself from a youth.

•Fashola, receiving an artistic impression of himself from a youth.

All over the state, wherever you go, you will now see scores of parks, gardens and millions of trees in different stages of development. The policy of tree planting has been institutionalised by the setting up a statutory agency, the Lagos Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK), to maintain and sustain the parks, gardens and trees. After the expiration of the current administration, LASPARK will now be in charge of championing the campaign for tree planting across the metropolis.

An elated Fashola, looking back to six years ago, when he initiated the tree planting campaign, said he was happy to be the head of a government that first took very clear and positive action in Nigeria to protect the environment and create parks, gardens and also plant trees.

At his last tree planting campaign in Eti-Osa East LCDA last week, Fashola, who addressed stakeholders, including members of the State Executive Council, traditional rulers and community leaders as well as environmentalists and citizens of the area, said the annual ceremony speaks eloquently to the consistency of his administration in formulating policies and staying with them.

“This is the 6th consecutive year that we have commemorated this event since I declared in 2008 that July 14 will be our State’s Tree Planting Day,” he said, recalling that the members of the main opposition party in the state, whom he described as “our uninformed and unable opponents” had criticized the initiative at the onset, calling it ‘cosmetic,’ and ‘elitist.’

“They clearly demonstrated their ignorance because the environment is also the new economy,” he said, adding that despite criticism by his opponent, Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Park, which was one of the products of this greening and tree planting initiative, was elitist, the opposition political party held their rally at the Park recently.

“In 2012, when people rallied at that park in Ojota to protest the anti-people policy of subsidy withdrawal by our opponents early in the New Year, they were repelled by heavily armed security personnel. But in a manner of unthinking inconsistency, it was the same park in Ojota that they now chose to hold their party rally last week,” the governor said, adding, “have they forgotten that the park was ‘cosmetic?’ Have they forgotten that the park is ‘elitist’? Or are they the true elites?”

•Fashola, with government officials and a traditional ruler cutting the tree planting cake.

•Fashola, with government officials and a traditional ruler cutting the tree planting cake.

He said the opposition party members have shown themselves up for who they were; “a party unworthy of trust that is lacking in consistency” adding: “They always turn the security personnel against the people they are supposed to protect instead of against those who threaten the people”.

According to Fashola, “Some of you may recall the old beautiful days of green Lagos. Lagos Island, Ikoyi, Ikeja, Apapa and Yaba were adorned with trees and gardens. Then Lagos was a beautiful city. For a while, in the quest for urbanisation, that old Lagos was replaced by buildings and asphalt roads and bridges with no care for how trees could still remain in the landscape. Today, however, the glory of our environment is gradually being restored,” he stated.

The governor added that the transformation and greenery of open spaces, such as Inner and Outer Marina, Falomo and Glover Leaf Park, Eric Moore, among others, provided spaces for recreation and relaxation for Lagosians.

Fashola also expressed happiness that aside the aesthetic beauty it has brought to bear on the environment of the state, the policy had also created numerous jobs for the hitherto teeming unemployed youths. “What they called ‘cosmetic’ and ‘elitist’ has developed our economy. It has created jobs and it has put food on the tables of many people who would otherwise be unemployed.”

On the economic impact of the greening, beautification and Tree Planting programme on the state, the governor said it has created jobs for over 69,000 people across the state who now run small businesses, mainly sole enterprises, adding that in five years of the programme,  28,094 jobs were created from the annual tree planting alone, while between January and June 2014, 3,180 jobs were created.

“These came from maintenance of nurseries, to supply of seedlings, planting the trees, maintaining them daily for which people are paid and the provision of tools, which are supplied to do the works. The programme also provided jobs for tanker drivers who supply water to tree planters. The people involved are ordinary people. For them, this initiative has become a life saver, a source of dignity that helps them say every morning to their families, “I am going to work..

According to him, those who benefitted from the over 69,000 jobs in landscaping, development and maintenance of parks and gardens, included direct labour horticulturists (51), major contractors (10), plumbers (sprinklers, water pumps), (5,000), electricians (Lighting parks, maintaining fittings) (6,256) and gardeners (15,640). Others include bricklayers (12,512), painters (2,496), welders (14,686), labourers (2,500), consultants (3), security men ( 2,176), graphic artists (15) and  sculptors (10), excluding suppliers of trimmers, lawn mowers, blades, uniforms, books and other equipment.

The governor said “I feel vindicated by the result of this far sighted initiative for many reasons. First, it is consistent with goal number 7 of the Millennium Development Goal and our Party’s commitment to sustainable environmental development.

“Secondly, we have turned an environmental challenge into a massive economic opportunity. Thirdly and perhaps very defining, I feel vindicated by our opponent’s flip flop, lies and shameful inconsistency.”

“For the people of Lagos, for our employees, artisans and economic beneficiaries of this policy, this is the last Tree Planting Day that I will address as your Governor. Our government and our party remain committed to continuing it.”

Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello, said the regeneration programme of the government had received international attraction and commendation, which had now placed the state on a global map as a green city and ensuring that the state is regenerated from degradation to an aesthetically appealing environment, saying that government had planted over five million trees and landscaped over 297 sites across the state.

“Sadly, the alarming growing destruction of our forest is of serious concern to us. Our forest cover is rapidly disappearing. The encroachment of forest land is due to the growing population and city expansion. As much as this is expected, we could not accept this trend as enough reasons to indiscriminately fell trees and destroy forests. We must all ensure that each time we cut trees, we quickly replace them with new ones so that the earth, can again, be replenished,” he said.

He re-emphasised that it is an offence in Lagos to fell trees without the permission of LASPARK, stating that government understood that development purposes might warrant felling trees or transplanting of trees, but that the government had arranged for that to be handled by experts.

Founder of Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children, Doyinsola Ogunye said one of the ways to mitigate the effects of climate change was for everyone to preach the message of recycling and reusing to protect trees.

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