The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) says it is disturbed over the proposed move by the Oyo State government to destroy Ogun Forest Reserve in Ibadan, the state capital.
The Director-General, of NCF, Dr. Joseph Onoja, made the troubling revelation at the NCF’s 34th yearly general meeting held at Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC) in Lagos.
Onoja called on the state authorities to halt the plan to destroy the forest reserve.
Governor Seyi Makinde has revealed plans by his administration to destroy the Ogunpa Forest Reserve for a housing project.
Makinde’s plan is already generating a lot of controversy, especially among the environmentalists who accused him of having no regard for the environment.
Onoja elaborated on the grave implication, and called for government intervention to prevent environmental degradation and potential disasters such as flooding and landslides in metropolitan areas.
He stressed the need to preserve essential green spaces for the greater community’s benefit.
“What is happening in Ibadan at the moment where the Ogunpa Forest reserve is being cleared for whatever reason is not justified and because we don’t know the importance of such green space, especially in a metropolitan town like Ibadan.
“So, we are using this opportunity to call on the state government to look at the devastation that is happening,” he said.
In reaction, the Oyo State Government has described as baseless and untrue rumours making rounds that it has allocated Agodi Botanical Gardens for a proposed housing estate.
The Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Williams Funmilayo, said the government values reforestation and afforestation, and as such, would not convert Agodi Gardens into a residential estate.
He added that the large expanse of land to be converted to Baywood Estate does not include the Agodi Botanical Gardens.
The Commissioner also said the state government has plans to upgrade the garden to an international standard, such that it will compete with other botanical gardens across the globe.
However, Akin- Funmilayo re-echoed that the governor did not give any order to his office for the conversion of Agodi Gardens to housing estate.
He admitted that the government is converting Ogunpa forest reserve.
“The reason why the government is intending to convert the forest to housing estate is to make the place more secure, as the place is a death zone and harbours criminal elements, while many lives have been lost”, he said.
Meanwhile, NCF President Izoma Philip Asiodu, said the foundation has achieved sustained environmental impact through consistent implementation of programmes that helped restore and conserve the environment, promoted biodiversity conservation, protected species; provided environmental education for many students and youth all over the country, as well as supported community livelihood.
“We were able to plant and nurture over two million trees across the country under the Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN) programme of the foundation that has an ambitious target of restoring Nigeria’s forest cover to 25 per cent by 2050.
The Chairman, Ede Dafinone, disclosed that in partnership with Anambra State Ministry of Environment, Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Community Resource Management and Conservation Initiative (CRMCI), and with support from ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Limited, a total of 10,812 trees were planted under this partnership.
Besides, NCF embarked on rescue mission to save the likes of African forest elephants, Cross River gorilla, pangolin, vultures, sea turtles, and lions through support from the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, Lagos Free Trade Zone, Paignton Zoo, Leventis Foundation through the BirdLife Africa Secretariat, IUCN SOS among others.